Flashback–Paul Krugman: Obama’s Campaign Becoming a Cult of Personality

Barack Obama
AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

In 2008, Paul Krugman suggested the Obama campaign was veering dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. Krugman appears to have forgotten he once said this, since he wrote Tuesday that Democrats don’t create cults of personality around unworthy politicians.

In a February 2008 column titled “Hate Springs Eternal,” Krugman argued that the internal political squabbles within the Democratic Party were disappointing. He seemed particularly disappointed with Obama partisans. “Most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody,” Krugman wrote. He added, “I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality.” The quote was pointed out on Twitter by user @AlanBeatsall.

In a column published Tuesday, Krugman seemed to have forgotten this previous assessment. “Cults of personality built around undeserving politicians seem to be a Republican thing,” he wrote.

Krugman was, if anything, understating the extent to which the Obama would become a full-blown cult of personality complete with propaganda posters, videos of celebrities chanting his name and slogans, and a convention speech given before a faux Greek temple.

As for Krugman’s weasel-word, “undeserving”: cults of personality, like the one that helped elect Obama, came in advance of any specific achievements. As Krugman himself wrote back in 2008, both Obama and Hillary had similar policy positions. Therefore there was no policy basis for Obama’s supporters demanding “their hero or nobody.”


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