What country is this, anyway?

A sign on a fast-food restaurant in Washington, DC:

Beloved Leader

This sign struck me as inappropriate. Since when do Americans celebrate the person of the President? We honor the office, whose occupant isn’t supposed to be a king.

The Obama personality cult is disturbing, as is the (not unrelated) creeping politicization of ordinary life. If I eat at this restaurant am I endorsing its owner’s political views? I hope not. However, my first reaction on seeing the gushing pro-Obama sign is to make a mental note not to eat there, lest my eating there be misinterpreted as a political statement.

This will not end well. The more politicized life becomes, the worse the eventual backlash and crash will be.

22 thoughts on “What country is this, anyway?”

  1. I am not too worried.

    I think this kind of thing was quite the norm back in the antebellum. Andrew Jackson probably had the greatest personality cult of any man to whom this nation has bestowed the Presidency. Daniel Webster and his cohorts raised many of the same worries you have voiced here when they saw the masses assemble – for the first time – for his inaugural. (A journey to Washington was bigger deal in the world of 1829 than it is today!) The Republic was intensely politicized in those days, and America thrived despite (or perhaps because?) of it.

  2. to T. Greer
    that may be true but the policies of these men of the past really werent that diffrent by today’s standard, we had common beliefs, like socialism evil, captitalism good, christinity – undeniably good, satanism, witchcraft, infidelity, athiesm etc. – bad
    communism – illegal,
    homosexuality – immoral, evil …
    black man – bad, white man – good etc.
    we had moral standards, today there’s a goodly number of people that dont believe at all in any facet of american culture, tradition, custom or history, every year left wingers find new reasons to seperate emselves from their less political brethren, more and more and more, til we got to the point where forget regan or kennedy, bill clinton’s policies of not 15 years back’d be seen as extremist by the current flock
    they’ve found all these reasons to not only disagree wimme but to hate me, and i dont even know em
    if i go in a cave with my current political mindset and come out in 40 years when i’d be 60 i’d likely commit all kinda crimes and such just goin about my daily life, if i spoke of politics i’d likely be locked up for thought crimes…
    see it aint right wing nuttery or regional culture clashes of the past (1820s on northVSsouth) its a wholly new kinda thing, and it aint gon end nicely

  3. When Andrew Jackson was elected, the country righted a wrong committed four years earlier in the corrupt bargain that elected John Quincy Adams, the representative of “the ruling class” of the time. It was the triumph of “the country class”.

    Today we have a similar situation in which a ruling class has appropriated power to itself and abused that power, mostly to enrich itself. The present day Democratic Party is the party of the ruling class, in contrast to the Jackson era. At that time, Jackson and his supporters created the Democratic Party but it was very different from today’s party. The present day Democratic Party is controlled by government employee unions and financiers, neither of which could be found in the Democratic Party of William Jennings Bryan. The modern Democratic Party really began with Woodrow Wilson and World War I with its fascism-like statist Progressives.

  4. By “creeping,” I assume me mean outright declared to be noblest virtue over fifty years ago: “the personal is the political,” “keep your laws off my body,” “they can’t tell me what drugs to put in my body” (unless the drug is soda or tobacco, of course), etc.

  5. It’s not just the *size* of government…it is also the psychological/cultural role of government.

    To a significant number of people, political beliefs/activity are a religion-substitute, and government has a sacral quality with which it (as opposed to the society it is supposed to serve) has not previously in this country been invested.

  6. A capitalist wants to become a crony. This sign is a request for an invitation to the next million dollar ddinner.

  7. Grey Eagle nailed it.

    The New Deal didn’t have to go bad, but it has since Reagan..

    Yes..Reagan was the last of the New Dealers…maybe Papa Bush..

  8. “Yes..Reagan was the last of the New Dealers…maybe Papa Bush..”

    No, Reagan and Goldwater were rebels and were opposed by all right thinking Republicans. Papa Bush and his son did a lot to undo Reagan’s legacy. If Gingrich had not been a typical egomaniac politician, we might have seen real reform in the 90s.

    “Compassionate Conservative” tells you all you need to know. When you start to apologize for your beliefs instead of explain them and convert others, you have lost before you began.

  9. To be honest, anyone who had that kind of sign in my town would soon go out of business. I would not patronize any establishment that praised Obama or other enemies of our Constitution. The personal has to become political out of self-preservation. I know that in the public square, anything I believe in will be attacked by the Left. Why should I put any money into the pockets of those who treat me like a Kulak and openly wish the death of me and mine?

    So there are businesses in my town that I will not patronize, because they are owned by avowed Leftists. All I can do is hope that this coming iteration of the “recovery summer” sees them going bankrupt.

    Subotai Bahadur

    ps. No real time preview showed up while I was typing this.

  10. My first thought is that this is a black owned business or in a black neighborhood, or both.

  11. Googling the name reveals two locations, both on Wisconsin Ave., a busy commercial area. So probably one owner who happens to be an Obama fan. DC is a government town and Obama is popular with people of all ethnic and racial backgrounds, so the sign is not likely to hurt business. But still, why put it up?

  12. So someone exercises their right to free speech/press and you ask “What country is this, anyway?” C’mon, I get that you don’t like his speech. You’re free to disagree & not spend your money at that restaurant, but that guy has a right to express his opinion just as much as the Chick-fil-A dude does.

    Jonathan says: “But still, why put it up?”
    Because he wants to. And in America you can do that if you want to. He doesn’t have to justify himself to you. As you said, he’s not going to lose business and so he can express his political views freely. The real question is “Who cares?” Since when do conservatives think it is inappropriate for citizens to express their political views?

    Around the time of the inauguration, signs like these were all over the city. The Canadian Embassy had a sign congratulating Obama on reelection. Are you going to boycott Canada?

  13. Oh my. You would have been happy to see a “Congratulations to President Bush” sign almost anywhere just a little while ago.

    Talking about Obama being the new ruling class right after Bush 2 and with perhaps Bush 3 in the wings is approaching ludicrous.

  14. PB, nobody is objecting to the sign. It is only a question of why a store owner would wish to alienate half his potential customers. Seeing that the store is in DC, the question is answered.

    PenGun does not deserve an answer.

  15. Pen Gun “You would have been happy…”

    Do you have evidence for this? I ask this knowing that it is impossible for you to provide any, as it would involve mind-reading.

    Let me press that point harder. You feel comfortable making an assertion that you have no evidence for, beyond your imagining that “that’s just how my opponents are. They would do the same thing, and I know this because, well, I just know it. So there.”

    Have whatever opinion of your opposition that you want, but understand why this is unlikely to persuade anyone.

    As to the poster, eh, it’s hard to make a living, and he is likely reflecting the culture rather than driving it. It is a bit discouraging that Americans would respond like Latin Americans, but we have our tribalisms as well, as Michael Kennedy notes.

    @ Michael Kennedy, BTW. If you haven’t read David Hackett Fischer’s Albion’s Seed you need to drop everything and order it immediately. You will find it an immensely gratifying read.

  16. Michael: I think your portrayal of pre-civil war politics is too present oriented. Neither JQ Adams, nor his father was a representative of the “elite” as we now understand that term. There was no national elite in that pre-railroad pre-telegraph – pre-industrial era. The Adams were part of the new England elite no doubt, but they were regional specimens only.

    The important thing to understand about politics in the US during the era from 1789 to 1865, what I call the Planter’s Republic, is that the country was run by the owners of slave labor operated plantations. In that Jackson was one of the species, nor did he differ much in policy from the Virginians.

    During its first 40 years, the presidency was held by such men for 32 years. The two Adams intervals were hardly significant. By the end of Jackson’s administration it was 40 out of 48 years.

    The trend did not break until 1850, when Filmore took office after Taylor’s death. During the Republic’s first 61 years, the Presidency was held by slave owners for 50 of them. By that time, the course that would lead to the Civil War was laid.

  17. I remain unconvinced.

    There has been some talk of the Democrats being true representatives of the ruling class, whilst Republicans represent the rest of us. Hogwash. We are at the tail end of multi-generational decline in political and civic participation.[1] Power abhors a vacuum and this abdication of civic responsibility is no different. The ruling class has only been too glad to take the reins from the citizenry’s apathetic hands. Displays of vapid partisanship should not distract us from the thoroughly bipartisan effort to ransack the American economy and deny American citizens of their liberties.

    So I cheer the shop owner who puts political signs up on his shop front. Is it distasteful? Yes. Would I ever eat there? No. I am no more in favor of making pro-Obama political statements than Jonathan is. But my heavens, at this point anything other than political apathy from ordinary people is a good thing. Even if it is for the other side.

    [1] See Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, pp. 31-65.

  18. Robert, I disagree about the elites of the time. Jackson was supported by backwoodsmen and people who horrified the combined planter aristocracy and the New England merchants. His election was a real revolution for the time. I don’t think he was a very good president. His antipathy to the Bank of the US was more emotional than practical but it was seen as another device of the elites by him. Remember, a “national” party included only the eastern states.


  19. Michael: What you are saying may very well be what you read in histories written by partisan hacks like Arthur Schlesinger Jr. But, it is not true.

    I wrote my master’s thesis on the elections of 1824, 1828, & 1832. It was based on primary contemporary records such as census data and election results. There was very little doubt that election was determined by regional interests and that it was southern and rural vs. northern and commercial/industrial.

    Once again there was no national elite, only regional elites. They could make deals such as the Compromises of 1820 and 1830. They could also fight as in the Bank of the US.

    Further they were not divided by simple lines of North and South. New York City was never just a Northern city. Its commercial interests were deeply intertwined with the South. In In 1862, the British counsel in NY could report that there had been 17o slave trading expeditions to Cuba in the late 1850s and of those, 74 had sailed from New York.

    The Jacksonian opposition to the bank of the US was not merely emotional, it reflected a deep interest in the free expansion of credit on the frontier, which the Bank had tried to stymie. This was an issue that boiled throughout the 19th century. The so-called cross of gold speech was just such an appeal.

    As for political parties, it was for and under Jackson that the Democrat party was first organized as a permanent national institution.

  20. Does the sign honor the office of the President, or the person who is President? “Big Brother” Bob Emery spent four decades as the host of children-oriented radio and TV shows in the Boston area. On his TV show,”Big Brother” had a segment where “Hail to the Chief” was played while showing a photograph of the current President. As he honored both Republican Eisenhower and Democrat Kennedy, Emery was honoring the office of the President, not the person who was President.

    My yellow-dog Democrat sister-in-law was on record as saying that we should support the President, -President Obama- a statement she would NEVER make about a President of the Republican Party.

    Bob Emery was known as “Big Brother” decades before George Orwell wrote 1984.

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