The myth of The One

posted at 8:35 am on July 31, 2008 by Ed Morrissey

I have to admit, I enjoyed David Montgomery’s riff on Barack Obama, The Matrix, and Star Wars — especially the really bad recent trilogy — in today’s Washington Post.  Taking a cue from staffers on John McCain’s campaign who have taken to calling Obama “The One”, Montgomery gives us a series of flashbacks to these movies to see how well being The One has worked out, as well as in real life:

It’s a smart bit of political jujitsu by the McCainiacs. Try to turn an opponent’s potential strength into a potential weakness. Have they concluded their guy may become the next president, but he’ll never be the One?

There have been so many Ones. The human imagination seems inclined to think in terms of them: King Arthur, Superman, Anakin Skywalker (or Luke, depending on your cosmology), Bobby Kennedy, John Galt, the Who’s Tommy, Frodo, Bob Dylan, Siegfried, Harry Potter, Mighty Mouse, Godot, Joe Gibbs, Storm, Wonder Woman.

The One is the one who has the Answer. He will fix a fallen world. He will bring … change we can believe in.

The One is usually young, and he speaks inspiringly. A second coming is nice but not always advisable. (See Gibbs, Joe.)

Being the One means passing lots of tests, because at first no one believes in you. King Arthur had to pull Excalibur out of the stone to prove he was the One. Being the One means being tempted by your dark side. Anakin Skywalker succumbed — the One can be fallible, if not always human — transmogrified into Darth Vader, and only at the end managed to sort of live up to Obi-Wan’s anguished declaration: “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would … bring balance to the Force!”

Montgomery has this all wrong.  Bill “Tuna” Parcells is The One, not Joe Gibbs.  Oh, sure, Washington thought Gibbs was The One, but that shows how being in the same town with Congress for so long can screw up your judgment.  (They thought Heath Shuler was The One, too, and he’s now in Congress.  It’s almost a Zen thing.)

But Montgomery gets to the heart of Obamania this cycle.  We have a candidate with no executive experience, no military experience, no foreign policy experience, and only three years in the Senate — and yet a major political party passed over several more qualified people to nominate him for the Presidency.  Why?  What long string of legislative accomplishment has lifted him to these heights?  None; in fact, his legislative track record in the Senate is shorter than his tenure, not uncommon for freshmen in the upper chamber.  His track record in Illinois is mostly remarkable for the scores of abstentions he submitted instead of actual positions.  And on the most important decision on the war in the past two years, he got it flat-out wrong — and refuses to admit it.

But that goes along with being The One.  The One cannot admit error.  The One has to remain a perfect vessel for our redemption, and like Keanu Reeves in The Matrix, so flexible that his spinning and twisting can dodge whatever rhetorical bullets get launched at him.

This isn’t really so much about Barack Obama, who likes to flirt with this messianic tone, but about the people who eat that up.  These movies speak to a deep need within many for some kind of Messiah to lead them out of their confusion.  They are popular because they touch that nerve — and Obama does as well.  And in order to really serve that need, The One has to be free of any real history in order to allow his followers to project on him whatever they themselves believe.

It’s escapism, on the political front.  Obama has tapped into a palpable impulse to shed responsibility for tough choices and instead look for a savior who will set the world aright.  As Montgomery notes, though, The One almost always disappoints when it turns out that he’s just a man after all.

Well, except for Bill Parcells.  He usually delivers.


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The One WHAT?

pilamaye on July 31, 2008 at 8:39 AM

“The recent bad trilogy” is not nearly as awful as so many pretend it to be. The Matrix is the perfect example of a good trilogy can completely wrong. As for the One (who has recently taken the form0 of Barack Obama), he’s not merely recently bad or a good first act gone awry in the final two. He’s been a complete joke since the day he stepped into this campaign.

Jockolantern on July 31, 2008 at 8:42 AM

Joe Gibbs. Heh.

Jaibones on July 31, 2008 at 8:42 AM

*”…a good trilogy gone completely wrong,” not “can.” Mine grammar are awful today.

Jockolantern on July 31, 2008 at 8:43 AM

The One WHAT?

pilamaye on July 31, 2008 at 8:39 AM

No, What’s on second.

Shy Guy on July 31, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Oh, sure, Washington thought Gibbs was The One, but that shows how being in the same town with Congress for so long can screw up your judgment. (They thought Heath Shuler was The One, too, and he’s now in Congress. It’s almost a Zen thing.)

Careful there, Captain Ed. Them’s fighting words.

(Cue Merle Haggard music)

For, if you’re busting on my Redskins, man
You’re walking on the fighting side of me!

If you want to break up the conservative coalition, and potentially flip Virginia and West Virginia to Obama, start making fun of the Washington Redskins.

smagar on July 31, 2008 at 8:45 AM

Parcells would have to have won something, ANYTHING, in Dallas to be called the One.

Chas Noll, The Emperor, is The One. End of Story.

You know all that weird racial stuff in The Matrix is also a component of Barrymania, the Marxian diallectic taught in Universities has an Afrocentric racial component, that movie tried to portray that garbage. Barry is the continuation of that philosophy (if you can call it that), that’s why he is the candidate.

But since the weirdoes who made that movie started with garbage, they ended with garbage.

benrand on July 31, 2008 at 8:52 AM

“I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message, for radio stations in Virginia, West Virginia and eastern North Carolina.”

“Hello. My name is Mudcat Saunders. I’m a proud Southern Democrat. Like many of you, I’ve followed the Washington Redskins and NASCAR with pride my whole life.”

“Recently, conservative commentator Ed Morrissey, a John McCain supporter, mocked Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins.”

“Let me say that again. John McCain’s supporters are mocking Joe Gibbs and the Washington Redskins.”

“Don’t get mad—get even. I’ll see y’all on Election Day.”

(Voices change)

“Hi, I’m Governor Tim Kaine.”

“And I’m Governor Mark Warner.”

“Mark and I are proud of the Joe Gibbs legacy, and of our Washington Redskins. We know you are, too.”

(Voices change)

“Paid for by ObamaTheOne2008.”

Man, Captain Ed, you’re playing with fire here. You’re playing into Mudcat’s hands here…

smagar on July 31, 2008 at 8:55 AM

These movies speak to a deep need within many for some kind of Messiah to lead them out of their confusion.

When you have no Messiah, you’ll accept any Messiah

The One has to be free of any real history in order to allow his followers to project on him whatever they themselves believe.

So true.

It’s escapism, on the political front. Obama has tapped into a palpable impulse to shed responsibility for tough choices and instead look for a savior who will set the world aright.

What an astute observation. That’s certainly a large part of what’s going on. That’s why when his followers are challenged about why they support him they answer is usually a form of, “just becuase.”

The One almost always disappoints when it turns out that he’s just a man after all

Merovingian: You see, he’s just a man.

Merovingian: Damn it, woman, you will be the end of me. Mark my words, boy, and mark them well. I have survived your predecessors, and I will survive you!

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 8:56 AM

Do people on the right actually believe Obama supporters view him as a messianic figure? At first I thought it was just a joke but I see some conservative talking head bring it up every day, I’m starting to think they’re serious about it.

Newsflash: There are heavy-handed supporters of every cause or individual you can think of. Hoisting up extreme anecdotes isn’t proof of what the larger whole is like.

Typhonsentra on July 31, 2008 at 8:57 AM

It’s escapism, on the political front. Obama has tapped into a palpable impulse to shed responsibility for tough choices and instead look for a savior who will set the world aright.

And that’s exactly what people are looking for. They don’t want the country to have to make “tough” decisions. They want a world where they can obsess over the every tiny little detail of Brad Pitt or Britney Spears’ life. They want everything to fit into the “easy fix” that Oprah Winfrey touts.

“Give Peace a Chance” and “War is Never Ever an Option” are lovely slogans if you live your life pretending that no one hates/despises you and your beliefs. But the fact of the matter is we don’t live in a world where if everyone hugs, apologizes for what they’ve done, and sings Kumbaya, the world will live in peace. That’s never going to happen.

Barack Obama is the “Oprah Winfrey” candidate – the belief that the world will suddenly change just because he graces us with his presence. The belief that all people are just looking for a way to make peace with those around them. All this stems from the Oprahization of America. And it’s going to destroy so much.

mjk on July 31, 2008 at 9:02 AM

Typhonsentra on July 31, 2008 at 8:57 AM

Ahem, not “us” but “you all”

The Obama Messiah WatchIntroducing a periodic feature considering evidence that Obama is the son of God.

Obama as Jesus

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:03 AM

Do people on the right actually believe Obama supporters view him as a messianic figure? At first I thought it was just a joke but I see some conservative talking head bring it up every day, I’m starting to think they’re serious about it.

Obama!!! Obama!!! Obama!!!! Obama!!! The blind acceptance of his statements, even the ones that contradict the other ones. The belief that he can do no wrong. The orgasmic excitement of meeting him. The treatment of his “world tour” like he’s Jesus Christ, John Lennon, and The Easter Bunny all mixed into one. The fainting, the crying, the screaming.

Prove to me that they don’t think he’s the Messiah.

mjk on July 31, 2008 at 9:04 AM

Newsflash: There are heavy-handed supporters of every cause or individual you can think of. Hoisting up extreme anecdotes isn’t proof of what the larger whole is like.

You’re right, some people just want to Believe Again.

ninjapirate on July 31, 2008 at 9:05 AM

Who then is Obama’s Bellicheck then, that will leave him as merely a legend and a has been after they part ways?

Spider79 on July 31, 2008 at 9:09 AM

Typhonsentra on July 31, 2008 at 8:57 AM

I like this one too:

Sculpture of Obama as Jesus causes stir

“All of this is a response to what I’ve been witnessing and hearing, this idea that Barack is sort of a potential savior that might come and absolve the country of all its sins,” Cordero said.

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Somehow, I don’t think if The One loses his battle, many of his acolytes are going to take things as calmly as Luke eventually did at the end of Episode V.

Parcells would have to have won something, ANYTHING, in Dallas to be called the One.

benrand on July 31, 2008 at 8:52 AM

You’ve got to remember, when he was in Dallas, The One had to deal with the meddlesome Emperor Palpatine, who has now assembled the NFL equivalent of the Mos Eisley spaceport (“You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious.”) in Oxnard this summer while he completes construction of his Death Star in Arlington (the ticket, parking and concession prices will annihilate fans’ wallets next season).

Also, does Gibbs’ NASCAR success count towards his anointment?

jon1979 on July 31, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Ok, who got a link to all the MSM photos of Obama with the halos? Remember those?

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:12 AM

For, if you’re busting on my Redskins, man
You’re walking on the fighting side of me!

Go ahead, bust the Redskins. (Lifelong Giants fan here. I even remember Fran Tarkenton.)

King Arthur, Superman, Anakin Skywalker (or Luke, depending on your cosmology), Bobby Kennedy, John Galt, the Who’s Tommy, Frodo, Bob Dylan, Siegfried, Harry Potter, Mighty Mouse, Godot, Joe Gibbs, Storm, Wonder Woman.

Of all these, I like to liken BHO to Tommy.

Obama calls:
See me, feeeeeel me, touch me, heal me.

His followers respond:
Listening to you, I hear the music
Gaing at you, I get heat
Following you, I climb the mountain
I get excitement at your feet
Right behind you, I see the millions
On you, I see the glory
From you, I get opinions
From you, I get the story

Bigfoot on July 31, 2008 at 9:17 AM

…and yet a major political party passed over several more qualified people to nominate him for the Presidency.

- Ed Morrissey

Eh…several, Ed? Like who?

fossten on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Oops, that should be “Gazing at you…”

Coffee hasn’t quite kicked in yet.

Bigfoot on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

He a zero trying to be The One. In his case, 0+1=0.

Akzed on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

For, if you’re busting on my Redskins, man
You’re walking on the fighting side of me!

No, no, no. He’s just making fun of Redskins FANS. That’s completely different. After one win by Gibbs, they’d start planning Superbowl parties.

MamaAJ on July 31, 2008 at 9:19 AM

Ok, who got a link to all the MSM photos of Obama with the halos? Remember those?

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:12 AM

Phooey on those, I think this one is more accurate: RageBO!

RushBaby on July 31, 2008 at 9:21 AM

Eh…several, Ed? Like who?

fossten on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

It is hard to find a dem Senator or Governor less qualified than Obama.

JiangxiDad on July 31, 2008 at 9:24 AM

Cue Orleans…

You’re still the one — who can scratch my itch
Still the one — and I wouldn’t switch
We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one
You are still the one — that makes me shout
Still the one — that I dream about
We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one
You’re still the one, yeah still the one
We’re still having fun, and you’re still the one

swami on July 31, 2008 at 9:27 AM

When you have no Messiah, you’ll accept any Messiah.

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 8:56 AM

That was sloppy. You could be understood as implying that the Roman subjects of the first century had no messiah and took whatever they could find.

Kralizec on July 31, 2008 at 9:27 AM

That was sloppy. You could be understood as implying that the Roman subjects of the first century had no messiah and took whatever they could find.

Kralizec on July 31, 2008 at 9:27 AM

That would be a stretch since it endured for over 2,000 years. Besides, the Romans had their Gods at the time.

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:32 AM

I hate science fiction, so I guess that explains why I don’t believe in Obama.

And that he’s completely unqualified for the job he’s seeking.

NoDonkey on July 31, 2008 at 9:38 AM

Ed, you’re too young to know but Sandy Koufax is The One.

snaggletoothie on July 31, 2008 at 9:44 AM

Kralizec on July 31, 2008 at 9:27 AM

On second thought, you’re right. It was sloppy. I was trying to be witty but it could be interpreted in ways I had not intended.

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:45 AM

Just don’t call him the Obama Rageboy. They’ll call you a racist.

thekingtut on July 31, 2008 at 9:45 AM

Eh…several [qualified democrat contenders], Ed? Like who?

fossten on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

Oh come on, love them or hate them, Joe Biden (D), Chris Dodd (D), and even John Edwards (D) were fully qualified to be the nominee when Obama The Vacuous was picked.

jeff_from_mpls on July 31, 2008 at 9:49 AM

Typhonsentra on July 31, 2008 at 8:57 AM

Q: How many Obamas does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: That’s not funny.

When a presidential candidate declares that upon his election the earth will start to heal, he is due for some good old fashioned mocking.

More proof that the left has no sense of humor, only vitriol for those who disagree with them.

rbj on July 31, 2008 at 9:57 AM

…and yet a major political party passed over several more qualified people to nominate him for the Presidency.

- Ed Morrissey
Eh…several, Ed? Like who?

fossten on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

The point fossten misses here is the word “QUALIFIED”. More than half the nations democratic political leaders are more qualified than the empty suit they nominated. While Obama may appeal to the masses spirited by an adoring media, the level of experience qualifys him to be considered for a position as a state representative—-not the leader of the free world. Sooner than later the costume has to come off and reality has to set in—like any football fan who returns to work on Monday morning.

Rovin on July 31, 2008 at 10:05 AM

Achilles was also seen as a ‘the One’ figure, but now his name is synomonous with ‘the one weakness’ that took him down.

Someday, future voters will mock messianic politicians by saying ‘he pulled an Obama’.

Tony737 on July 31, 2008 at 10:10 AM

Ed, you’re too young to know but Sandy Koufax is The One.

snaggletoothie on July 31, 2008 at 9:44 AM

And Juan Marichal was his nemesis…

Rovin on July 31, 2008 at 10:14 AM

He a zero trying to be The One. In his case, 0+1=0.

Akzed on July 31, 2008 at 9:18 AM

That’s why I say: Vote the HERO not the ZERO!

max1 on July 31, 2008 at 10:16 AM

Fossten,

Not that I’d endorse any of these, but in terms of qualifications, they far surpass Obama:

Bill Richardson
Joe Biden
Chris Dodd
Mark Warner
Tom Vilsack
Al Gore

Just off the top of my head, of course; I think there were more who either announced or hinted at running in early 2007 that we could add. Even Hillary, who gets outqualified by this same list, has more qualifications than Obama does.

Ed Morrissey on July 31, 2008 at 10:17 AM

OK, OK, Koufax was The One, I’ll concede that (as a life-long Dodger fan). Juan Marichal was the Merovingian.

Ed Morrissey on July 31, 2008 at 10:18 AM

Yes … The candidate that many claimed didn’t offer any fodder for humor is the biggest joke ever, from just about every angle. I wonder if Obama really knows how stupid he is going to look in future history books? He’s going to be a joke that people are laughing at for many, many years. I don’t think he’s even nearly smart enough to understand this. If he were, he never would have gone on that embarassing “world tour”.

B Hussein is running intellectually amok in public and he’s loving every minute of it. That is really all anyone needs to know about this fool. I feel empathetic embarassment every time he shows up saying something even dumber than the last dumbest thing he said, which has gotten to be an almost daily event.

progressoverpeace on July 31, 2008 at 10:20 AM

The One WHAT?

pilamaye on July 31, 2008 at 8:39 AM

The son of perdition.

abcurtis on July 31, 2008 at 10:20 AM

TheBigOldDog on July 31, 2008 at 9:11 AM

Hey I really enjoy your posts and I do think yer witty!

David Cordero, 24, made the sculpture

..but does it strike you as ironic that that Statue was made by a guy whose last name is “Cordero”? hee hee! in spanish it means “Lamb” just thought I’d point that out.

-Wasteland Man.

WastelandMan on July 31, 2008 at 10:21 AM

You forgot Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. There can be only ONE!

john1schn on July 31, 2008 at 10:31 AM

This all goes back to the Baby Boomers’ infatuation with JFK, Camelot, and all that hoo-ha. They have been longing for the New JFK since they were kids watching the real one’s funeral. I told my Democrat husband over a year ago that I thought Barack Obama would be the Democratic nominee because he has shrewdly tapped into that longing of Democrats for a return to their idyllic childhood years before JFK was killed. Hillary Clinton could never be The One to these people. All the young people flocking to Obama are the cildren of these Boomers who were raised on the Great Myth of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. That’s one reason why the endorsement of Obama by Ted and Caroline and Maria was so important, though it hardly seemd so to us on the Right. To Democrats it was literally the torch being passed.

This is also why the Berlin speech was so important for the Obama campaign. Their entire campaign has been overloaded with the JFK imagery and this is no accident. Michelle is the new Jackie with her flip hairdo and pearls and demure suits and dresses.

This stuff works like magic with Democrats. I still don’t think it sells with Republicans and independents though. But the Obamans think that they can increase Democratic turnout and especially black turnout enough to eke out a win.

rockmom on July 31, 2008 at 10:35 AM

At the end of days there will be The One. Having established the Universal Death Benefit for all, needed as the population starved even after the ratification of Universal Social Security (the government confiscates all wealth and income and provides each citizen with a flat rate allowance).

For those lucky ones who still have electricity since the closure of all coal, gas and nuclear generators The One appears on TV to boast of the glorious successes of his 12 year reign. The polar bears are roaming the streets of Chicago proving that the war against global warming has indeed succeeded. Spotted owls are now so far off the endangered species list that they are eaten on Thanksgiving.

The air is pure now that all those ugly Interstates have been changed into bicycle paths and jogging trails. Teams of runners transport food to the cities for the vanishing few who rest as the population control program moves into its final phase and everyone moves to the collectives. (See master plan copied from some historical character called Pol Pot.)

So all is good as The One and Mother Gaia lead America to its glorious sunset.

Annar on July 31, 2008 at 10:36 AM

Typhonsentra on July 31, 2008 at 8:57 AM

Hey, he’s the one who started the stuff about stopping the rise of the oceans and healing the planet. You’ve got blogs on his freakin’ campaign website that say stuff like,

The deficit could accelerate the downfall of the USA. Pollution could end of the world.
Barack will do his best save us all. He gives us hope.

(emphasis in original). People like Mark Morford may take it to extremes, but you don’t have to look hard to find the meme.

Quisp on July 31, 2008 at 10:47 AM

I understand the attempt to tie Obama to “The One” complex but most of The One’s listed earned those “One” legacies.

Superman didn’t run around rustling up “The One” confabs all around the country before he did anything. The sppeding trains, tall buildings, bullets metaphor grew because, d’oh, he actually did those things. Same for many of the others listed, including Neo, who had only a couple of devout believers before he proved himself and gathered his following, d’oh, as he accomplished things. The nice thing about Neo is that even he even had to see himself do things first to believe it himself, which is at the other end of the field from where Obama is playing.

Obama is like the just-graduated, ‘wet behind the ears’ stock trading advisor cold-calling me to fast talk me into betting my hard earned cash on an IPO, the prospectus for which will be printed next week.

Obama’s a hack job, empty suit teasing me to play his three card charlie. “Come on, just a buck for which card is ‘stop the rising oceans’”.

Dusty on July 31, 2008 at 11:13 AM

Sandy Koufax is The One

Finally, a truth I can believe in! Go Dodger Blue!

JonPrichard on July 31, 2008 at 11:56 AM

Well, except for Bill Parcells. He usually delivers.

Yeah, like all those Superbowls he brought to Dallas. Should I go ahead and put $1000 on the Dolphins to win the Superbowl this year?

I R A Darth Aggie on July 31, 2008 at 12:26 PM

The Democratic Party didn’t choose Obama, (mostly) Democratic voters did. He reflects the left-leaning philosophy they share to a greater degree than Clinton, without appearing like an open nutcase like some of the other options offered them.

JDPerren on July 31, 2008 at 12:26 PM

I think Ed forgot to link to the story.

hkenshin on July 31, 2008 at 12:31 PM

They forgot Hitler, Mussolini and Chairman Mao.

easy on July 31, 2008 at 12:34 PM

You forgot Connor MacLeod of the clan MacLeod. There can be only ONE!

john1schn on July 31, 2008 at 10:31 AM

Nae, laddie – there can only be one t’ousand!

Rosmerta on July 31, 2008 at 5:40 PM

Who screwed up the public housing in Chicago?

Obama was the one!

landlines on July 31, 2008 at 8:31 PM