Lately the thing I've enjoyed the least about Barack Obama are his supporters.
I'll be more specific since many of my close friends happen to be members of this group: it's not Obama supporters in general, it's the faction of them who have been wielding their support like a bludgeon. Often times in places like my Facebook newsfeed, or my email box or, say, in the comments section of a blog post.
Here's the thing. I like Barack Obama. If he gets the nomination - and this certainly seems likely - I will be happy to support him. As I've said before Hollywood could not have dreamed up a more magical, inspiring, and unlikely response to eight demoralizing years of George W. Bush. What I'm increasingly liking less, however, is the evangelical nature with which his supporters are trying to convert me to the cause. Lately it's begun to feel a tad abusive and on more than one occasion I've felt like some sort of atheist at a Pentecostal service, or a meat-eater at table of vegetarians.
Much of the time it feels like the vitriol has been less about whether I find Obama lacking than it is about my defense of Hillary as a viable candidate. Apparently, this will not do. Recently it's been my experience that it's not enough to say that I like Obama, the sense I get is that I must LOVE him. I must fully and completely believe that he is the biggest and greatest gift to American political life ever. There are no shades of grey where Obama is concerned. And not only is there no room for Hillary, but any mention of her is greeted with the sort of response that might lead one to believe I was in fact speaking of some evil Eastern European dictator.
Obviously this behavior is not true of every Obama supporter, or even most, but there is a contingent to his movement that has taken the candidacy from encouraging and hopeful to slightly messianic and devoid of conversation. And this is the contingent I seem to be hearing from most these days. I routinely open my email box to headlines like this: "Clinton and Cluster Bombs" or "Clinton and the Politics of Fear." Or my facebook page to wall posts such as this: "Not sure if it was Hillary's whining and crying or Bill's desperate lying about Obama's record that put the Slick Ones over the top... but congratulations. The hope for America to regress back into the Clinton era is still alive! A Bush-enabling, status-quo embodying, corporate Repug-lite can still be president!"
The comments section from a recent liveblog was riddled with accusations of bias and even racism (I suggested that Obama "doesn't wear cocky well. He comes off as ungracious."). It is hard to imagine anyone responding with such force and acrimony had I said that Hillary was cocky (actually, I said she sometimes comes across as a disapproving mother or school teacher). And this is from people who purport to be members of the Democratic Party.
Since when has it been a crime to talk about a candidate's strengths and weaknesses?
I fear we are about to find ourselves treading in dangerous waters. Obama is not infallible, and people are doing him a great disservice by requiring him to be such. If he gets this nomination he is not only going to have a tough ride to the White House, he is going to have a tough time once he gets in there.
What has been the most magical thing about Barack Obama, even beyond his soaring rhetoric, is his ability to be rational and cross party lines; it is a terrible shame when this is not reflected in his followers.