The Magazine

Keep Despair Alive

Matt Labash, Obamamaniac.

Mar 3, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 24 • By MATT LABASH
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Some people think cults are creepy. But as a child in the seventies, I rather enjoyed them. Whether Jonestowners, the Children of God, or the Symbionese Liberation Army, I always waited for the inevitable plot twist, when whatever had attracted the crazy cultists to each other in the first place--the organic vegetables, the neo-Maoist teaching, the group sex--would devolve into the inevitable Kool-Aid suicide/abduction/bank heist debacle. I came to consider these welcome entertainments. Back then, we didn't have cable.

Many are now charging that there is a new creepy cult leader on the loose, Barack Obama. On the strength of what? Well, a lot actually. Perhaps it's that he refers to his supporters--Obamabots, Baracktards, Obamaphiliacs, whatever we're supposed to call them--as "believers." Perhaps it's that other creepy cult leaders, like Oprah Winfrey, have taken up their crosses and followed him.

His legions of moonie-eyed idolaters do have a knack for embarrassing themselves, and the rest of us. They wait in line for hours to pack agriplexes in the Midwest, acting like squealing tweens whose parents have dropped them off at a Hannah Montana concert. They clap when he blows his nose. They shoot celebrity-studded music videos, whose lyrics are direct lifts from Obama speeches. They sing his gauzy nostrums--Yes we can!--as though the words carried the weight of scripture, when they really sound less like a coherent political philosophy than something Jenny Craig affinity-groupers would chant before the weekly weigh-in.

Obama inspires people to say embarrassing things, such as actress Halle Berry's statement, "I'll do whatever he says to do. I'll collect paper cups off the ground to make his pathway clear." He causes video vixens, like Obama Girl, to writhe around in Obama panties, cooing lyrics like You're into border security / Let's break this border between you and me. Sometimes, the sex isn't even subtext, as when MSNBC's Chris Matthews said after hearing an Obama speech, "My, I felt this thrill going up my leg. I mean I don't have that too often."

Obama's name has now achieved such ubiquity, it has caused the online magazine Slate to start its own Encyclopedia Baracktannica, minting new Barackisms like "Barackturne" ("a sleepy, elegant song consisting of Barack Obama's voice accompanied by strings") and "Baracklea" ("a spiral-shaped cavity in the internal ear that registers only Barack Obama's voice"). Personally, I'm now suffering from Obamaversion (avoiding people who endlessly make cutesy plays off Obama's name).

As if the Barackcess (think excess) hadn't gone far enough, now comes "Barackula"--a 10-minute vampire musical in which a young Harvard Law School-attending Obama routs the undead, pulling off snappy dance numbers while singing lines like will be fine I'll be back to normal / keep runnin' cause those suckers won't make me immortal. I believe the vampires are supposed to represent the special interests, politics as usual, and the Clintons. I'm no Pauline Kael, but I get symbolism.

While the inevitable Baracklash (think backlash) is now in full effect, even among fickle media supporters, I'd like to be among the first to fuel the backlash against the backlash. I'm no Baracktard, though I do like the guy. He has excellent posture, a Colgate smile, and in his trim black suits always looks like he's off to some place cooler than a political rally, like to sit in with Cannonball Adderley.

I don't carry Chris Matthews-like reservoirs of affection. If Obama and I were at the drive-in, I'd probably stop him short of second base, letting him snap my bra through my poodle sweater before I pushed him away so as not to ruin our friendship. But I wouldn't make him pay for my popcorn. We'd go Dutch. I'm a tease, not a monster.

I've always regarded Obama as a bit slight for the hype, a garnish in search of an entrée, a moment in search of momentousness. But attacking him for the slavish support his charisma inspires seems a bit unfair. It would be like faulting Hillary Clinton for her best qualities--like her rapier wit, slender ankles, and personal warmth.

Plus, I do support Obama on the issue. Not issues, mind you. I'm against almost everything he stands for, including hope and change (I'm for despair and preserving the status quo). But he's for standing over the rotting carcass of Hillary's political ambitions, and so am I! Some might call it venal small-mindedness. But Obama and I call it "post-partisanship." For Hillary is the one we've been waiting for. To go away.

MATT LABASH