Barack Obama and Transformational Leader Movements

Via Ethan in the diaries, USA Today's Susan Page is noticing a trend: Obama supporters are realizing that Obama is, after all, a politician, and subject to the same incentives and problems as all the rest of them...

I think there has been some erosion of the aura of excitement about a different kind of politician that Barack -- they really fueled Barack Obama’s rise. It’s helped him with fundraising, given him these huge crowds at events. I’ve been talking to voters this past week for a story I’m working on, and I’ve had some people, young people who felt that Obama was the candidate of a generation, saying they’re distressed by some of the standard political moves that they’re seeing now.” – USA Today’s Susan Page on MSNBC’s Hardball, 6/2/08

The Great Man Theory of politics is bankrupt.  The problem is not the politicians themselves, but the incentives built into the system (e.g., Public Choice Theory).  No politician is immune to those perverse incentives.

However, there is another fascinating story at play with the Obama campaign: the sociological and psychological dynamics of movements driven by Transformational Leaders

In May, Matt Stoller wrote a fascinating post about the ongoing realignment of the Democratic Party, how Obama is consolidating his own power, and what the Obama consolidation of power is doing to the Progressive, Netroots and Democratic movements.   The post is impressive and worrisome.

The Obama candidacy is a major inflection point for the Democratic Party.  They may ride it to dominance, or it may expose internal divisions and weaknesses.  The dynamics that surround a Transformational or Charismatic Leader movement will be very important to watch, though.  In particular, the Obama movement will be subject to...

  • The difficulty of routinizing/bureaucratizing the leader's charisma
  • The danger of disillusionment among followers
  • The difficulty that necessary political compromise presents to a very idealistic movement
  • Marked distinctions between the idealistic Transformational Leader and the status quo/pragmatic/entrenched bureaucracy he will oversee

 We are already seeing some signs of alienation.  That will continue. 

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Compare and contrast

It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on where we've been over the last 8 years with GWB. His ascendancy and subsequent fall in estimatation by GOP supporters and conservatives would make an interesting comparison to where "progressives" are going with Obama.

What lessons can we take away from 43 that will help us focus on the objectives instead of the man (or woman) next time?

None, that I can see.

Next time is now. After all, the current Republican nominee is Bush squared. It looks like the GOP has decided to double down on it's "compassionate conservative" program.

There is also the old adage at play...

..."He who swiftly gaines power by the Internet, will swiftly lose it by the Internet."

ex animo


I find it amazing....

.....that BHO supporters are shocked, SHOCKED mind you, that a man who made his political career in CHICAGO is turning out to be just another politician. 

We'll See

I still remain convinced that it is impossible to gauge the relative strengths of the parties while Bush is still in office.  Once the Democrats have power, they have to find ways to govern a party consisting of John Barrow and Maxine Waters.  They have to protect Freshmen and Sophomores who overwhelmingly represent conservative districts, and who have conservative voting records.  Again, 15 of the 30 most conservative Democrats are Dems who took over seats from Republicans last time around. 

The Democratic parties biggest strength is that it is a broad-based party that can play in just about any district in the country.  The biggest weakness comes when it tries to govern.

Considering that the Open Left has an agenda to remove at least

30-40 "Bush Dog" Democrats, we may be able to sit back and let Matt Stoller do the work for us.  Here's what Stoller wrote last year:

What is a Bush Dog, in one sentence?

Bush Dog Democrats are Democratic members of Congress who enable the right-wing through their support of Bush's policies on core progressive values at key moments.

What are these core progressive values and these key moments?

Currently, we're using the capitulation vote on Iraq back in May, 2007, and the disgraceful vote to give Bush warrantless wiretapping powers as proxies for Bush Doggedness.  We think that if you voted for both of these, you are an enabler of Bush's policies.

We've made an exception for Brian Baird (WA-03), who voted correctly on FISA.  Upon getting back from Iraq, Baird, in the face of all the evidence, touted the surge's success and explained that opposition to the continuation of the surge was borne of partisanship and a lack of concern for American moral authority.  Using the right-wing media to attack core progressive values is a quick route to becoming a Bush Dog.

I just find it endlessly fascinating and intriguing that while we want to get rid of corrupt, unethical, scandal-prone Republicans, the Left wants to eliminate Democrats simply because they...cooperated with the Bush policies?  The Right and Left really are wired differently.  That's for certain!

Obama Remains True To His Internet Strategy

I have written about Obama's total integration of the Internet into his campaign and commented on his decision to allow opponents of his to mobilize their opposition on his site. As of  today, over 14,000 Obama supporters had formed a group against Obama's decision to support the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Also today, Obama used his web-site to address his opponents on this issue. He stood his ground on the issue and praise his opponents. He is remaining true to Internet strategy that is premised on the crowd, the grassroots is in the key to being successful.

Has he made the right decision by keeping the discontent in the house? Did he issue his defense today to take minds off of his baby step away from his stated Iraq position?

It is interesting to see this play out.