Happy Spokesmodel Selection Day to one and all. I am certainly not the first to comment on the commodification of American politics in general and this race specifically, but a little more can be said before we’re on the next distraction tomorrow. This election has been primarily a contest between the values of experience and progress. The neo-cons after preaching an End of History/Everything is Different Now doctrine since 9/11 to justify their security policies, were forced to run on a platform of Experience when the Democrats offered a candidate with a truly novel image. This was, of course, an unwinnable position for the neo-cons. You cannot claim that all bets are off, our prior understanding is invalid and the world of the 21st Century requires a radical new understanding, and then claim that the old white man with experience fighting Communists is the only safe bet.
The Democrats were able to snatch the mantle of newness from the neo-cons by running a candidate that the Republicans simply couldn’t. Nothing could be more unique, more new, and therefore more suited to the End of History word view than a black man with a very global-sounding name. It was a brilliant coup for the Democrats. Obama ran under the banner of “Change” the very essence of a Marxian or post-modern understanding of reality. He was an empty, charismatic vessel that could be filled with everyone’s hopes and dreams. Sure, his actual policy positions were not novel (drilling for oil in the US, war on Terror in Afghanistan, staunch support for Israel), his voting record wasn’t radical (support for the bailout bill), and he got tons of funding from Wall Street, but he looked different and kept saying, “Change” and so it was possible to believe he was simply saying what was needed to get elected, and once in office he’ll reveal his Superman tights and make everything alright. He ran, in effect, as the perfect product, the magic solution to all your problems. And the public, high on hope ( a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen, a person or thing that may help or save) did much of the advertising for the campaign, filling in all the blanks with exciting, impossible dreams.
Thanks to You Tube and hip celebrity initiative, Obama was not just a presidential candidate, we was part of Will.i.am’s posse, he was sang about by hot chicks on the internet, and we was the subject of a super cool/patriotic (but not the old fuddy duddy patriotic, the new fashionable patriotic) Shepard Fairey poster. Obey. Vote Obama. Never before has a politician’s mug been emblazoned on more baby tees, baby bibs, and urban-chic stickers. You could be radical, fight the system, and be part of the greatest wave of youthful idealism to break on the shores of the US since the hippies. Without having to really do that much. Ah, and this is the challenge for people who want change beyond just a new member of the two-party establishment every 8 years.
Real change requires people to alter how they live, not just what buttons they wear, and what levers they pull twice a decade. How to make people swoon over local produce, bike to work, and become tax resistors is an entirely more difficult proposition. But one that’s infinitely more important than which candidate to Obey Giant.
Obey Giant Vote for Change
(embeddable videos of celebrity endorsements)