It’s a dopey slogan, for sure, but it struck a tone with millions of people screaming for a movement to join. We can’t not recognize that.
At it’s core, it’s wrong. Barack knows this, of course. It isn’t that the willing masses waited for a movement, a moment, or a sign; it’s that the masses, once congealed, waited for a charismatic leader. More correctly, arrogant as the statement is, Barack’s line should correctly have been, “I am the one you’ve been waiting for.” The movement waits for the leader, not the push. Barack gets this. I think Bill Clinton does also; but his great success was in starting with less than a majority of approval, and then building it into more than a majority by triangulating and picking off constituencies. You can hate the policies, but recognize his political savvy.
Conversely, Barack, for his part, started with a strong majority and counted on keeping the pack congealed. My own thought is that he counts on his magnetism (read: cult of personality) transcending the various national constituencies that tear ANY policy a dozen different ways. One need only read the Federalists to appreciate that the draw of multiple factions will always screw with our Republican system. But I digress 200 years back . . . .
I’m jaded. So, when I see Barack these days (or, in truth, for the last two years) I think of Monty Python’s Life of Brian without all the reluctance of the savior. My favorite, of many favorite parts:
Follower #1: Give us a sign.
Follower #2: He HAS given us a sign. He has brought is to this place.
Brian: I didn’t bring you here, you just followed me.
Follower #1: Ooh, it’s still a good sign by any standards!
In that nearly five-minute clip, there are several howlers when you juxtapose Brian, the reluctant messiah, against Barack, the all-too-willing messiah. The guy who understands the concept of the movement waiting for a leader. ANY sign will do. And, as another digression, since his adult followers seem to be dropping off, he’s apparently reorganizing to bring his leadership to the ultimate of leaderless movements – elementary school children around the country. (As another aside, I do a “mom test” on these sorts of things, and my mom was positively horrified by this one)
History showed us how this works. Nazism moved because the people were frothy and rallied around a charismatic leader who played to their prejudices. Mussolini, likewise, played to nationalism and the cult of personality grew from there. In more contemporary American terms, this country YEARNED for a leader to bring them out of the gray 1970’s. From LBJ. . . . to Nixon and Watergate. . . to the Ford custodial presidency. . . and then WHAM! – Jimmy Carter. The people were begging for a leader to take the gourd or the sandal and lead them. Enter Ronald Reagan – the leader that found the hovering and idling movement. And so, there was this wonderful creation of “Reagan Democrats.” So craving a true leader, they crossed party lines to follow the Reagan gourd.
As I said – Barack gets this.
But here’s the thing, and this is why I felt compelled to bang this thing out on my laptop this evening: there is most definitely an idling movement these days. There are rumbling masses congealing around issues that are important in the American scheme. They have passion. They have issues to motivate them. The one thing they’re lacking is the leader. These are Reagan Democrats without Reagan.
So, in a strange sense, WE are the ones we’ve been waiting for – but that isn’t enough. Republicans have tanked in two National election cycles because they had no motivating interest. It certainly wasn’t John McCain. But we have that congealing political interest now. What we lack is a leader. I’ll tell you my own favorites (*cough* Paul Ryan) but that doesn’t cut it. We can’t have Brians. We need willing and charismatic leaders.
Little held here, guys.
That is all.
P.S. – I so badly want to scold this country much the way Brian’s mother did.