Michelle Obama recently gave a speech at UCLA in which she said some things which went far beyond normal political rhetoric and ended up sounding like something you’d hear from a Scientology presentation:
Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.
Barack Obama is going to demand that we shed our cynicism? Sorry, Mrs. Obama, but you can pry my cynicism from my cold, dead hands. I don’t want to shed my cynicism, because this government was founded upon a justified skepticism of government. The founding principle of this state was not in holding up one man as National Cult Leader, but recognizing that no matter how high-minded any leader may claim to be, they’re still human, and the only way to control human passions is to systemically limit them.
The more I hear from the Obama campaign—especially Mrs. Obama—the more they start sounding less and less like a political movement and the more they start to sound like a religion. I can understand being inspired by Obama, but the way in which his rhetoric starts becoming almost messianic just makes my skin crawl. There’s something about the cult of personality that’s beginning to rise up around Obama that strikes me as fundamentally worrying.
Not only that, but this sort of thing is going to quickly engender a huge backlash against Obama. It’s one thing to talk about vague platitudes, but when a candidate uses a line like “we’re the ones we’ve been waiting for” without a hint of irony, it starts to sound like Mr. Obama is running not as a politician, but as a savior.
I suspect that Mrs. Obama will quickly be removed from the public stage by the Obama campaign, especially as Obama seems to be all but a lock for the nomination. Another couple of statements like the ones she’s made in the last few weeks and some uncomfortable questions will start getting asked about what kind of worldview the Obamas really have—and the last think that Barack Obama wants is for the American people to know where he really stands.
UPDATE: Over at Bloggingheads, Robert Wright and Mickey Kaus debate who Michelle Obama really is.