Unable to find fault with his message or issue positions, critics of Barack Obama have resorted to accusing him of being a cult leader. This, in response to the excitement and enthusiasm Obama engenders, particularly in the young. Unfortunately, the legacy of Karl Rove - turning a person’s strength against them - lives on beyond Rove’s tenure, in this attack.The casual use of the term “cult” is also unfortunate, particularly among the supposedly reputable journalists, that are using it. Those who specialize in treating the victims of true cults, are more precise in the definition of a cult. One such organization, Jews for Judaism, has a useful list of what makes a religious group a cult. Included in their definition, are: the central focus on the leader, the use of deception, the use of “mind-control” techniques, making up their own rules and laws, and separating their followers from their families and loved-ones. Organizations such as Jews for Judaism, counsel families whose loved ones have been manipulated by deceptive cult groups, and separated from them. (Of, course, this particular organization focuses on cults that target members of the Jewish faith.)
Obviously, since Obama’s followers are in no way physically separated from the rest of society, other than their attendance at his events, many of these aspects of a cult cannot be applied to the Obama camp. Obama asks nothing from his followers other than their vote; they are not asked to separate from their families, adhere to any special rules, or give up any part of their normal lives. And despite the efforts of his critics to throw mud at him, they haven’t been able to paint him as deceptive. Similarly, “mind-control” techniques, such as hypnosis, don’t apply to Obama, no matter how moving his speeches may be.That leaves the focus on the personhood of the leader. If anything makes Obama stand out against - not only the current field of candidates - but against most candidates of recent memory, is his focus on the voters, rather than on himself. For instance, recently in Wisconsin, Obama said:
"The election is not about me, and it's not about Senator Clinton." Even the refrain that has caused some of the “cult” accusation - “Yes we can!” - is not about him. His speeches are replete with stories he hears on the campaign trail - not unique among politicians, but still indicative of his focus.
Rather than throwing the “cult” accusation around, cynical pundits should look at what the response to Obama really means. Voters in general - and Democrats in particular - have been searching for a politician that resonates with their own experience. In addition, Democrats, of course, are yearning for a winner. Obama comes across as different from other politicians, precisely because he focuses on them, rather than himself.
From the day he was introduced to the national audience at the Democratic National Convention, Obama has carried a message of unity. His considerable skill has been his ability to continue to carry that message, while arguing for the need for change from the last seven years under a Republican president. As The Nation article (linked above) points out, attributing that response to cult trickery is an insult to the American electorate.