The election of Barack Obama marks not only the triumph of celebrity politics, but also a potentially dangerous return to leadership cults of personality.
Anyone who travelled in Russia in the 20th century would be familiar with cult of personality politics - the stern statues of an exorting Lenin everywhere, his name and those of his peers scrawled across the streetnames in every town like graffiti.
But today, as Putin and Medvedev offer up their own tributes to that old genocidal maniac Stalin, some personality cults are in a resurgence.
In China, even today, the Mao cult remains vibrant beyond words. The days of the cultural revolution when kids would beat their elders to death with Mao's little red book while chanting his name are still in living memory.
But the fact that his odious, insane visage still smirks from the yuan banknote, the postage stamps, the huge tapestry that hangs over the front of the Forbidden City gates at Tiananmen Square indicates that the Mao cult must still be respected and worshipped today in China, even by those overt capitalists currently running the Chinese Communist Party.
But hard times create new leader cults, and we have seen a number in recent years.
Long before Nelson Mandela left Robben Island, a cult of personality had already grown around him. It was inspired by the traditional yearning for and apotheosising of a lost leader, and Mandela's long absence from the public arena created a tabula rasa - a clean slate onto which his supporters could project their own Messianic desires for him.
Mandela, an elderly man with marital problems and released into an unrecognisable world after decades of incarceration, had no option but to lead the rainbow nation as president. For him to choose otherwise would have been unthinkable.
His audience, one might say congregation of worshippers, demanded it of him. The expectations were sky-high. Looking back on that transition period now, over a decade on, it seems that Mandela did extraordinarily well to fulfil so many of those unreasonable expectations. And perhaps he could not have achieved so much without the unwavering support of his true believers.
So, it is possible that leader cults can be beneficial.
But much more often, they are malignant in some form or another, for the very reason that believers follow on faith and fail to examine or challenge the details of their cult leader's decision making until a tipping point is reached when a series of decisions perceived as wrong or flawed by the following turns into an emotional backlash voiced as betrayal.
In this context, one thinks of Tony Blair, or Clinton. Both assumed leadership with a large faith-based support, by which I mean a cohort of the electorate who believed as an article of faith that the new leader espoused exactly the sort of societal changes that they themselves personally desired.
Initially, it is impossible to disappoint such an electorate, since the very existence of such an electorate depends on and grows from visceral opposition to an unpopular regime. For the Clintonites it was Papa Bush; for the Blairites, it was Tory sleaze and Mad Maggie.
But as time goes on, the fallibility of such leaders becomes evident, and this is the dangerous point, as the faith-based electorate feels emotionally betrayed, just as a true believer might feel their world fall in when their guru turns out to have been taking their savings to buy Rolls-Royces and cocaine.
For Clinton, there are still pockets of faith fans around the world, as his $100,000,000 earnings since leaving the White House indicate. But domestically, it turned for Bill when he started bombing African hospitals and cheerleading Israel.
By the time he was caught with his cigar in the intern and was facing impeachment proceedings, the faith-based fanbase in the US had largely evaporated in anger and betrayal. The result was that decent, genuine Democrats like Kerry and Gore failed to get elected.
The Obama moment for Britain came with Blair's epochal 1997 election. A generation out of power, Labour had had to entirely reinvent itself. Then on the eve of power, their leader John Smith died. Blair emerged from the resulting power-tussle as the bright-eyed, smiley, youthful face of hope in British politics.
How strange it is today to think of that Blair in the context of the gormless fool insisting that he was right to ignore the will of his people by sending their troops to die while occupying someone else's country, because his religious faith told him it was right? But when Blair first became Prime Minister, he was the blank slate onto which dreams where projected.
We're in the same position now in relation to Obama, a tabula rasa himself whose employment record is hidden and patchy, whose main achievement is to have written two bestselling autobiographies that ironically reveal little about him.
His high oratory, his tendentious catchphrases and his lack of a political record allow his believers to project onto him whatever their personal desires for the future may be.
Obama created this situation, but in a way has become a victim of it. It is not his fault that the Aboriginals now believe that they will get greater rights in Australia because of his election, or that Hamas believe a two-state solution in Palestine can be achieved under Obama's watch.
These are merely exotic examples of how people outside of America have been infected by the Obamania. Global leaders too have been falling over themselves to position their nations as Obama's new best friend.
The result, as the ever-excellent Matthew Parris points out in today's London Times, is that there is now a dangerous unanimity about Obama which is likely to go extremely sour in a very ugly way. As Parris points out, governance is a lot more about 'No, you can't' than 'Yes, we can'.
Personally, I don't see a Mandela in Obama. The track record isn't there. The bravery isn't there. The inate intelligence isn't there. Obama does have Mandela's charisma and possibly exceeds him in oratorical skills. But that's simply not enough.
We're entering a serious global recession. America is bleeding from two unwinnable wars and the world's approbrium. China has it economically by the privates. Russia is intent on dictating within its own self-defined sphere of influence and seems prepared to roll out the guns if opposed.
It would take a politician of some great genius to extricate themselves from all of those problems, never mind reverse the stratospheric deficit, ensure universal healthcare for Americans and all the other many, many promises Obama made during the Presidential campaign. And that doesn't even account for the unseeable, unknowable problems that await.
As Parris says, no messiah has come among us and miracles are not now possible. Despite this somewhat obvious reality, otherwise intelligent people have abandoned sense and rationality in relation to Obama's election.
Sadly, they will be the ones most disappointed when realpolitik intervenes. They will be the ones who feel viscerally betrayed, and who will round on their hero for not living up to the fantasy in their heads.
And Obama's supporters really now need to start paying close attention to his actions rather than his words.
The appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as Obama's chief of staff is not good news for much of the world. Emmanuel was Bill Clinton's fundraiser, which raises concerns in itself, but is also a hardcore Zionist whose father was a Zionist terrorist against British rule. Add this to Veep Joe Biden, the self-proclaimed 'best friend' of Israel, and you can see quite quickly that the Hamas hopes for a settlement are utterly in vain.
Not many in the West will be sorry for Hamas. But everyone else will follow down the path of disappointment. The Greens will be similarly disheartened if, as seems likely, Obama appoints a movie star who goes to work in a private plane as his Energy Tsar. And so on, and so on.
The key to avoiding crushing disappointment in an Obama presidency is to monitor it closely. That way, in the words of Matthew Parris, 'the crest of expectation might subside smoothly into the gentle swell of history.'
For those who cried ostentatiously on Obama's election because elderly black American people they don't know, who themselves were generations away from slavery, were pleased;
For those who stood out in the cold roaring 'Yes, we can' like some strange combination of self-assertion class and Nuremburg rally;
For those who take any criticism or reticence about the new messiah as a personal slight;
Your dreams will be dashed. Nothing is more certain.
That doesn't mean you can't keep on believing, though.
After all, Stalin and Mao killed tens of millions of their own people and are still adored by many.