Alex Massie

America’s Largest Cult

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The Cult of the Presidency

Newsweek

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Michelle Obama says, "Barack will never let you go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed." Leaving aside the insult—her opinion that we are uninvolved and uninformed—do we really elect politicians to yank us out of our usual lives? Americans are said to be cynical about politics. Actually, they are presidential romantics. Which is why they suffer serial disappointments.

Immediately after Nov. 4, the media will foster feverish speculation about how the president-elect will satisfy the now normal expectations for a hyperkinetic "100 days." That phrase entered America's political lexicon with Franklin Roosevelt's flurry of activism following his 1933 Inaugural Address. In it, FDR, adopting the war paradigm so favored by presidents even in peacetime, urged Americans to "move as a trained and loyal army," submitting their "lives and property" to "a common discipline" with "a unity of duty hitherto evoked only in time of armed strife."

The original phrase "100 days" was about real war—the days after Napoleon's escape from Elba. They ended at Waterloo, which the president-elect should remember, but won't.

The down side to this, of course, is that a candidate who promised nothing more than masterly inaction would stand no chance of winning election.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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