An Open Letter To Obama Supporters

There is something of a stir now rising among some members of the media about the cultish nature of Obama supporters and how this could end up being detrimental to the Obama campaign.  Now, I understand that one might expect me to go on defense in a situation like this, but my own past experiences lead me to defend Obama supporters but instead to caution them.

There is nothing wrong with being passionate about your candidate, I remain of the opinion that this would be a much better country if people showed as much passion towards politics as they did about their favorite sports team or television show.  But there is such a thing as taking it too far.

We came accross such political cultism early in our coverage of the presidential primary season when we wrote a few posts about Ron Paul.  Ron Paul, though never a serious contender in the Republican race, had from the beginning enjoyed the benefits of a severely successful internet organization, and virtually any post about the man would be met with a flood of commentors, all of whom saying essentially the same thing.

It was really creepy.  Having a conversation with a Ron Paul supporter was particularly eerie in that you distinctly got the impression that the supporter wasn’t actually listening to what you had to say, instead carrying on his or her own end of the conversation as though reading or typing off of a script.

The problem with all of this was that the vibe from these people was such that even those who weren’t particularly antagonistic to the Paul campaign would eventually develop that antagonism as a result of his supporters.

It was this phenomenon that sparked former Ron Paul supporter and dear friend to this blog, Mark, to write up some guidelines for other Ron Paul supporters on his own excellent blog at Publius Endures.

Don’t:
1. Spamming: If you are posting a bunch of slogans without any substantive, logical arguments, then you are spamming. If you are cutting and pasting the same comment to multiple sites, you are spamming. If the article/post in question is not about Ron Paul and your post does not draw a logical connection to the subject of the article/post, you are spamming. This type of advocacy does not provide people with a logical reason to support Ron Paul, and creates the impression that Ron Paul supporters are automatons unable to make a logical argument of their own. If you don’t agree with this definition of “spamming”, then insert the word “trespassing” for “spamming” – the effect is the same: you are hurting Ron Paul’s image and the image of other supporters.

2. Invective: Calling writers, columnists, bloggers, and commenters names, using terms like “fascist”, “Brownshirt Republic,” or accusing them of having a vendetta against Ron Paul for even the smallest perceived slight does nothing to advance the cause, and is a huge factor in discouraging additional coverage of Rep. Paul. The fact is that reasonable people can disagree with Rep. Paul on just about any issue; additionally, a reasonable person can discuss the nomination race without mentioning Ron Paul in every single article. When someone gets personally attacked for simply disagreeing with Ron Paul or not thinking Ron Paul is likely to be the nominee, they aren’t going to be inclined to mention Ron Paul in a positive light (if at all) in the future.

3. Conspiracy theories: Whenever you make an argument about Ron Paul, you are associating the substance of that argument with Ron Paul- even if it is not his actual position. Worse, conspiracy theories come off as kookiness- if you really believe there is a conspiracy, the burden is on you to prove it, not on everyone else to disprove it. Examples of frequently stated conspiracy theories that are now being associated with Rep. Paul:

a. “9/11 was an inside job”: the use of this theory by some supporters forces Rep. Paul to constantly waste valuable camera and press time on distancing himself from it. I also wish I didn’t have to explain why this is one of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories in history.

b. “the polls are being manipulated to make Ron Paul’s support seem smaller than it is”: at most, there may be some unintentional undersampling. Yes, I’m aware that Rasmussen doesn’t include Ron in its surveys- but no one of importance relies on Rasmussen.

c. “the media is trying to ignore Ron Paul”: the media, like any other business, has finite resources. They will therefore only cover that which they think will be appealing to a large audience, and until Rep. Paul can show by traditional means that he has a deep level of support, the media is being rational by covering him less than others. The Q3 fundraising was a big step in the right direction, and has resulted in a lot of coverage from most outlets (with one obvious and notable exception).

4. Emotional responses to accusations. When someone actually does make a personal attack on Ron Paul, responding with a personal attack of your own does no one any good. Ron Paul is supposed to be the “peace candidate”- I don’t see how you can advocate for peace while adopting a militant mentality; the two are a little contradictory. Emotional responses do nothing to persuade people. Think about it this way: if the original accusation against Ron Paul just made you angry and more passionate about Ron Paul, then what makes you think that a similar accusation by you will have a different effect? As for the argument personal attacks are justified as a response to personal attacks, and are really just self-defense: this is the same type of logic the President uses to justify torture- in other words, we’re allowed to torture them because they have no qualms about torturing us. The problem with this logic, of course, is that it undermines your claim of moral superiority- you can’t claim to be more morally just than your opponent while also claiming that your moral justness entitles you to act in the same way as your morally unjust opponent. This is what you would call doublethink.

Do:

1. Relevance: If you wish to talk about Ron Paul, then keep your comments relevant to the topic at hand. If the discussion only has to do with policy, then keep your comments limited to the policy at issue.

2. Grammar: If you want respect for your comments, then write in grammatically correct English. Writing in some bastardized pidgeon English with no capitals, no punctuation, and misspellings all over the place doesn’t exactly give the impression you are worth listening to. If you have never learned proper writing skills due to the dumbing down of the English language through informal e-mail and text messaging…..then get a book on grammar.

3. Logic: If you want to write persuasively, then you must make a logical connection between your solution and the problem. For instance, simply shouting “Abolish the Fed, Restore the Republic, Vote 4 Ron Paul!” gives the reader no reason to vote for Ron Paul, and gives no explanation as to why the Fed should be abolished, why freedom must be restored, or how Ron Paul will accomplish either end. If you cannot fully explain the connection between the problem and the solution, then don’t bother entering the discussion- you will just sound like an idiot. As a minimum baseline for commenting on policy questions generally, I would strongly recommend you take the American Civic Literacy Test. If you cannot score above 70% (and I’m being generous here), then you should not be discussing Constitutional issues or the free market economy with anyone- believe me, you will sound like an idiot if you do. For the record, I scored a 97%, so I’m not being remotely hypocritical here.

4. Calmness: Address arguments, not people. This makes what you have to say relevant to a much wider audience than just getting into a war of words with one or two people. It has the added benefit of making you sound like a rational human being.

Sage advice indeed.  Now, I can’t say that Ron Paul’s presidential run would have been more successful had his supporters followed this advice, but I can say that not quite as many people would be so vehemently turned off.

It would seem that some Obama supporters could use to heed some of this advice as well.  Now, I’m not sure if Obama supporters are prone to conspiracy theories or grossly poor grammar, but the other points are solid advice for anyone.

Further, I ask you this.  Take the time to get to understand Obama’s platform and his record.  I personally endorsed Obama so early based on not just his ability to inspire, but also based upon his political philosophy, the approach he takes to problem solving, and because I think he has a decently progressive platform (though I will admit that right now there are quite a few lefties who are choking over this last bit).

The thing to remember is that his mere presence doesn’t erase cynicism, and not everyone is going to be convinced based on his ability to deliver a good speech.  Further, people are skeptical of political movements that border on religious zealotry, and perhaps this is all for the better.

The key is to promote the man for his policies, his philosophy, and to a degree, yes, his ability to inspire.  It is not, to promote the man as though he is a messianic figure.  No one can know if he is a political Jesus until he actually inhabits the White House, and in all likelihood he won’t be.  He is after all human.

One thing that is true is that Obama, unlike any other politician in the race, does have that awesome ability to fill a room with hope.  But he is the best at selling that aspect of him, we can not help him any more by reminding people of it.  If you really want to help him, volunteer for his campaigns organization in your area.  Learn his policies, and learn how to argue his merits in a logical and sane manner.

Do not become the equivalent of a creepy Ron Paul supporter.

And to be honest this is sound advice to be had for supporters of any candidate.  Taylor Marsh, in a supreme fit of irony and hypocisy, is a perfect example; adding her own pot shots to this story when it only takes a few minutes on her blog to learn that she’s just as guilty of Hillary worship as any Obama supporter is of Obama worship.

And yes, I am even guilty of it from time to time.  But as passionate followers of politics, we would all do well to remember these are just people and not deities.  Not only will that help us not scare off potential supporters during the rigors of the campaign, but it will also help soften the blow for at least the supporters of the winner when we find out on January 20th of next year that they are, indeed, humans.

15 Responses to “An Open Letter To Obama Supporters”

  1. Don Drennon says:

    Well…point taken. I’d like to think you might be using too broad a brush when comparing us to Ron Paul voters.

    Truth is, we’re a passionate lot, and sometimes our zeal to advance our candidate causes us to ignore the better angels of our nature.

    And demonize those who disagree. But, just as Obama supporters do not own the franchise on passion, when it comes to painting our opposition as devil-spawned we’re minor-league.

    However–zeal for our guy is one thing, inventing conspiracies and calling Hillary a monster is another thing entirely. Maybe if we all took a few deep breaths before hitting “submit comment”…

    cheers,

    DD

  2. Well said Don. And to be honest, and I know I didn’t really clarify on this in the post, I don’t think Obama supporters are as bad as Ron Paul supporters, and I think it is a little unfair to pin this solely on Obama. Both Big Tent Democrat and Taylor Marsh are shameless in their zealotry for Hillary to the same point, and in both of their cases, it’s not really that either have a whole lot of good to say about Hillary as much as a whole lot of bad to say about Obama and anyone who criticizes their chosen candidate.

    But my big concern is that we don’t allow ourselves to turn into that kind of supporter. The best way to be an Obama supporter is to get active in the campaign, maybe get involved with a blog, donate some money, and get well versed in Obama’s platform, and be able to hold intelligent conversations with folks about the candidate.

    That’s all.

  3. T. Paine says:

    It’s true some Ron Paul revolutionaries are overzealous and tend to descend on the media like a swarm of bees, but it was the only way to bring attention to him and put him on the political map. The GOP tried to exclude him from every event early on, and the majority of the media was marginalizing and/or denigrating him at every turn.

    Glenn Beck and David Horowitz were calling Ron Paul supporters potential “home-grown terrorists” and “in bed with Islamofascists” (which was probably a felony given the consequences of being falsely accused of consorting with terrorists, post-9/11). Then the “left” establishment media launched a pathetic smear campaign calling him a racist, and claiming he received funding from hate groups (one guy). This really sickened me, seeing the “left-wing” blogs and newspapers slander a candidate who’s foreign policy and civil liberties positions are more progressive than any candidate but Kucinich.

    So his supporters went on the attack. Can you blame them? It wasn’t planned or organized. It just happened. They blitzed the party establishment and media with emails, letters and phone calls. And it worked. They forced the GOP to include him in debates and public meetings, and several national news-people were shocked into “fairness” by the outcry. Beck brought Ron Paul on his show for a full hour of ass-kissing.

    I think your characterization of Ron Paul supporters is focused on the nutter fringe, many of whom are too young to vote. If you’d like to learn more about his economic positions, his monetary policy, and why he wants to abolish the Fed Reserve, I’d be glad to share what I’ve learned. Actually they stem from Nobel economists Milton Friedman and Ludwig von Mises, not Ron Paul, and they’re not trivial. It took me (a post-grad biostatistician) a couple weeks to digest them–with help from an econ professor friend.

    Essentially Dr Paul is talking about the greatest fraud in history that continues to this day. Trillions are transferred from the poor and middle classes to the ultrawealthy. The dollar is falling like a rock and the Fed keeps issuing more cash/credit to the wealthy by keeping interest rates artificially low. These are critically important issues that need to be built into the lexicon of all parties.

    [getting long, sorry]. Just fyi, I’m actually a Kucinich supporter with an appreciation for Ron Paul. With these two out, I’m supporting Obama…unless they don’t want creepy RP supporters in the tent.

  4. T. Paine. No, I’m not lumping them all together, believe me. Mark’s one of the bestest buddies of this blog and he used to be a Ron Paul supporter, and even when he was, he was not of the nutter fringe.

    And of course we’ll take creepy RP supporters… so long as they stay quiet… (twas a joke)

  5. Angellight says:

    When an old soul such as Obama, speaks unity, inclusiveness and oneness, the Heart hears and Remembers!

    When someone, such as Obama, offers Hope and points the way to a better, brighter future, spoken from the innermost point of Truth or Soul,… the Heart Hears and Believes!

    When Obama calls each of us to action and participation to Duty, we are reminded of our Responsibility to our common destiny.

    As Obama states so poignantly, “We are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For!

  6. *cough*

    That’s kinda what I’m talking about.

    Specially here, Angel… I am an Obama supporter.

    Can someone please give me a sarcasm check on this comment?

  7. terry says:

    I didn’t see the sarcasm tag 🙂

    I think you make a very valid point because as a supporter, you don’t want to be so over the top that you turn people off.

    But I also think sagereader over at ThinkOnTheseThings has a really good post about why some of us do get a little emotional:
    Why Barack Obama Makes Me Emotional: The Case of the “Yes We Can” Video

  8. T. Paine says:

    Thx Kyle. I’ll try to keep my irrational exuberance and creepiness in check…but you are all wrong and the Fed is evil and 9/11 WAS AN INSIDE JOB AND THE WORLD IS CONTROLLED BY THE ILLUMINATI AND…. Shit, sorry.

  9. GODDAMN IT PEOPLE! I CANT DETECT SARCASM ONLINE!!!!!

  10. Mark says:

    Ahh….a trip down memory lane to the post that launched my relationship with CFLF! Good times, good times! Just don’t tell me that I have to re-fight those intra-group battles now that I’m pretty much in the Obama camp!

  11. It’s very possible, Mark. Very possible.

    Damn it, you and I should just go and support someone who is totally uninspiring in any way shape or form… Ah, but that would just make us Hillary supporters.

  12. Mark says:

    …Maybe we can start working on Romney 2012?

  13. I’ll buy the hair goop!

  14. Les Beal says:

    Excellent post. We all need to volunteer to help Obama get elected so we can finally turn the United States into a socialist mecca like Cuba.

    Here are the key points to argue on behalf of Obama:

    It’s time we ended racism and elect Obama because of the color of his skin.

    It’s time we quit worrying about illegal immigration, instead, it’s time to learn spanish.

    We need to raise taxes through the roof. You may have earned that money through your hard work, but it’s the government’s money. If us democrats can’t create a society who depends on government, how will we keep getting elected to office?

    Keep pretending that Obama is really just a humble farm boy from rural Kansas. If people are dumb enough to buy that one…they’ll vote for him. Deny that his dad was a muslim and that his mom was a radical leftist. Much better if the masses think she was a simple farm wife who sat around sewing and baking pies and such.

    Tell people that the solution to the oil problem is to quit driving. If we all lived in communes and let the government deliver the bread and soup to us, we wouldn’t have to waste fuel driving to stores.

    We need socialized medicine. It’s much better for the government to decide who should get treated than doctors. We need a system like Canada’s. Sure…the government run hospitals shut down occassionally – never more than 2 or 3 months a year – and if you’re over 65 you will probably be denied things that would prolong your life by 20 years, but so what.

    Now for the key…when we do become a socialist state, I want to be one of the ruling elite, not one of the masses. So who do I call? It’s OK for the rest of you to be in that soup line, but people like me and Babs Streisand are too good for that.

  15. Lee says:

    Obama supporters still don’t get it. Insulting remarks, constant accusations of racism, and statements like ‘just get over it’, simply antagonize those of us who voted for Clinton. It’s the same tactics you over zealous Obama supporters used from day one. I also think Obama was selected, rather than elected, and the bias media has acted shamefully. I also don’t think Obama is qualified to be President, and like millions of other Clinton supporters, I will not vote for Obama.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Connect with Facebook