The real story this summer, the one that the scholars will be pondering for decades to come, concerns the absolute collapse of the American messiah.
It looks as if Rush can rest easy -- the Big O has failed, and failed completely. You couldn't say the same about an ordinary president at this stage of his first term. At eight months after inauguration, the run-of-the-mill chief exec is still gearing up, getting a feel for things, beginning to put his plans into motion. But Obama, as we have been told time and again, is in no way ordinary. He is a man spoken of in religious terms -- the One, the Messiah, the Lightbringer. On the stage of history, we do not create our roles. We fill them as they have been previously established through repeated human activity across the millennia. Obama's role is one familiar to anyone versed in the history of the ancient world: he is the god-emperor. Obama was elected to do more than was possible for any ordinary president, and to do it more quickly than is possible for the merely human. His apotheosis was to be like nothing else in history, a redemption of promises so deeply pledged as to have become axiomatic. The age of Obama was to be a time of sweeping, an epoch of transformation. When he strode across our horizon, nothing would remain unchanged.
Now, unless I've been paying too much attention the New York Dolls reunion to notice, nothing of the sort has occurred. It's been a dull summer on the messiah front. In fact, Obama's performance so far has been dramatically below average even for the sorry run of mortal presidents. We have, in the past few months, witnessed one of the great anticlimaxes of political history. The god-emperor has failed, and no one can deny it.
To cap the redeemer's woes, we have a world-class case of buyer's remorse on the part of the voters, with presidential approval ratings dropping to 50% across the board. Rasmussen has Obama at 46%, a drop of some 30% in little more than six months. Zogby, among the most dependable of pollsters, reveals that Obama is losing support even among his core constituency.
So there it is -- a political agenda in ruins. Massive ruins, awe-inspiring ruins, ruins unprecedented in their size and majesty. For an epitaph we can turn to Shelley:
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
So what does he do now? Deliverers cannot simply fail. Jesus cannot shrug and become a Jerusalem rabbi. Moses cannot return to Egypt and open a travel agency for Sinai tours. A fallen messiah does not become half a messiah or a third of a messiah, his original power and influence shrinking to match. He becomes a joke.
Obama will not tolerate becoming a joke. Not with his personality, smug, self-involved, and egotistical as it is. Particularly after being exposed to adulation given to no man since the heyday of Rome (not even Louis XIVth, the Sun King, who embodied the divine right of monarchy, was ever hailed as a "god"). So what are his alternatives?
Obama could easily prevail by setting aside his status as god-emperor, dropping the effort to leave his imprint on the age and ignoring the cries of his more fanatical followers. In other words, by acting as a president. But this is unlikely on any number of cultural, political, and personal grounds. He is on the descending escalator, and is doomed to take it all the way to the bottom. It is our business to see that he doesn't drag the country down with him. Fortunately, his failures have a flip side. The past few months have shown us that Obama is extremely vulnerable to public pressure, as clearly shown by the town halls. We will have plenty of opportunity to put those tactics into effect in the months and years to come. When would-be imperators appear, the people have to step in. But that's why they call it democracy.
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
"The Lone And Level Sands Stretch Far Away"