Thursday, November 6, 2008

My Response to "Drinking the Kool-Aid"

The joke, and possibly the actual concern of the day seems to be that too many Obama supporters are just "drinking the Kool-Aid,"* or in other words, we believe too strongly in this one man's ability to bring about change. It's silly, really, and those who will fall prey to this are destined for heartbreak. More importantly, they are missing the message, the point of this whole campaign: it has never been about this one man, no matter what "cult of personality" labels some have tried to pin on him. Yes, Obama has certain attributes that have allowed him an unlikely and ridiculously fast ascension, but many of these can be found in any great leader. Again, what has led him to the presidency is not so much him, as his ability to make the rest of us believe, and further still, to want to do something about what we believe in. The difference, therefore, will come from us, not him. Let there be no mistake, as I told my father over all these months, the man who told me (and with whom I wholeheartedly agreed) on those occasions when my fervor for Obama started boiling, "Obama is no savior," the real work began on November 5.

That being said, here are my two initial responses to people who are joking or are genuinely concerned about succumbing to "Drinking the Kool-Aid":

1) Don't. It simple. Just don't. Don't believe that Obama can do everything all by himself or even with his staff. That--to use a tired expression--is politics as usual. The change that is being called for is not just a change of president. The change is in the citizenry's apathy, in our indifference. Don't be apathetic and don't be indifferent and you won't have drunk anything. Here's one way those of you in St. Paul can get involved: The Lab, a program through the St. Paul Public Schools that offers a small group experience where youth are inspired, encouraged and empowered to discover, understand and share their voices and the truth of their lives, is always looking for volunteers. If you're not in St. Paul, 826 National is another organization always looking for volunteers to work with kids. There are seven 826 chapters across the country, from Seattle to LA to New York. Their goal is to assist students ages six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing.

Volunteering some of your time to your community is one concrete way you can have an impact. These are just two places that need volunteers. The list is endless (if you know of others, please leave suggestions in the "comments" portion of this post). Don't let others decide how things will be different. Change them yourself.

2) I just picked up the book Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency by Robert Kuttner. (Please also leave book recommendations on this topic in the comments portion of the post.) Though I'm only about 20 pages into it, it seems like a book that will show how Obama must stay true to progressive ideas while convincing those on the other side of the aisle to come closer to those (progressive) ideas, rather than the reverse: the president moving toward the center. On page seven, Mr. Kuttner makes it clear that he hasn't drunk anything:

So either Barack Obama will be a transformative president, or the bad economic circumstances that he inherits will sink his promise and America's, and the moment will have been lost. He will be a great president--or a failed one, his presidency grounded "in shallows and miseries."**

Those are scary, but true words. I, for one, don't want this presidency to be a failed one. So, again, if you don't want to "drink the Kool-Aide," then don't. Stay involved. Volunteer. Keep reading about policy issues and decisions (just because David Plouffe doesn't send you an email about it, doesn't mean you can't find the information for yourself). Keep following Obama like you have over the last year (or two). Just don't rely on him to do everything. I'm telling you, you will be heartbroken if you do.

*From Wiki: "Having 'drunk the Kool-Aid' also refers to being a strong or fervent believer in a particular philosophy or mission — wholeheartedly or blindly believing in its virtues."

**Shakespeare, Julius Caesar


Molly said...

Nice. Let's keep our eyes clear and our hearts open, and hopefully, we can all make this work.

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About Me

David Luke Doody is a freelance writer and editor. He is a founding editor of InDigest Magazine (, an online literary magazine and the blog editor for Guernica Magazine ( His writing and interviews have appeared in those magazines as well as in The Huffington Post,, The Minnesota Twins Yearbook, and Intentionally Urban Magazine, among others.

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