Liam Julian had an interesting article in The National Review today discussing the Obama administration-to-be’s “startled” reaction to the orgasmic euphoria that has swept over much of the nation in the wake of his electoral victory. The thrust of Julian’s article is that Obama is rightly trying to manage irrational expectations on the part of his supporters before they find themselves crestfallen. And well he should. Can you imagine 50 million Peggy Josephs marching on Washington, brandishing mortgage and gas bills or signs asking why President Obama hasn’t withdrawn from Iraq yet? I’m sure he can, which is why he’s making the effort to disillusion them now rather than later. Nevertheless, he will inevitably bitterly disappoint many who see him as Barack the Savior rather than Barack the Politician. He will sell out one liberal interest group or another and go back on promises, real or imagined. He cannot live up to the persona that he himself has created and encouraged us all to believe in. Such is the fate of all demagogues and political grandstanders, and such is the fate of all the half-wits who put their full faith and trust in a politician.

I’ve often railed against the bizarre cult following that Barack Obama amassed during his campaign. But he isn’t the only golden calf that’s been hoisted up by the unwashed masses, just the most recent. Both Democrats and Republicans have practiced their fair share of idolatry. Before Obama, there was JFK and, the granddaddy of all Democrats, FDR. The Republicans, monotheists that they are, kneel at the altar of only one god: Ronald Reagan. Yet for all the grandiose acclamations both parties heap upon these American Idols, it is undeniable that all of them had their faults, both personal and political. John Kennedy had the bungled Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, the inception of what would become the Vietnam War, and of course his personal peccadilloes. FDR’s failings are too numerous to cite here, but include the internment of Japanese Americans, an attempt to pack the Supreme Court with political sympathizers, and economic policies that are now known to have prolonged the Great Depression. Even my beloved Reagan fell short, with his ill-conceived insertion of American troops into Lebanon and subsequent weak response to the bombing of the Marine barracks, and of course the Immigration Reform and Control Act, which granted amnesty to 3 million illegal aliens and set the stage for the illegal immigration mess we find ourselves in today. While I love Reagan and what he represented, I can and must admit these things. There are many political partisans, however, who would rather drink the Kool Aid and gloss over the unpleasantness.

As we forge a new future for conservatism, it is easy for us to let our thirst for leadership turn into the same sort of fawning, sycophantic "Sanjaya Girl" fanatacism that characterizes a large, soon to be dejected segment of Obama’s supporters. We’re better than that. Our way forward has to be about ideology rather than any one individual. “But Ben,” you may protest (or perhaps I only arrogantly assume you care what I have to say at all), “haven’t you been writing recently that our success going forward depends upon who leads the party?” Why yes, I have, and thanks for following my writing closely enough to have noticed! But that matters only insofar as the leadership accurately reflects our ideology and demonstrates sound judgment. Conservatism should not be a reflection of any one person, as it became under George W Bush, but rather that person should reflect our good conservatism. He or she will not be perfect; they will not represent our views in their entire. But so long as they remain devoted to the core principles that define us (small government, checks and balances, low taxes, a strong national defense, and a merciless protection of personal liberty and free enterprise), and not just one or two, they should enjoy our conditional support. Yes, I used that word conditional, didn’t I? We conservatives must reserve the right to voice our dissent when these leaders of ours deviate and start supporting government intervention into the private sector (Bailout), massive spending increases or infringements on our privacy. If we do not, we’ll enable our supposed leaders to engage in the same sort of bankrupt behavior that the Republicans showcased from 2001 to 2006.

So please, no retro-iconographic posters of Sarah Palin with the word “MAVERICK” emblazoned across them. No Gingrich signs with the G transformed into some sort of clever emblem. And let’s certainly retain a healthy bit of skepticism and distrust of the future leaders of conservatism. Because for God’s sake, they’re still politicians.

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