Although we saw straight through the Obama phenomena when we first met the man four years ago, there are several heartening aspects to his runaway popularity. Even though he hasn’t a Kibbutznik’s chance in Sadr City of winning the nomination, he is undeniably drawing new interest, enthusiasm and participation from quarters customarily quiessent during past political campaigns.
First, he has mesmerized the public largely on the basis of the kind of soaring political retoric which hasn’t been heard in these parts since at least the Presidency of JFK. The succession of mangle-mouthed speachifiers who followed Kennedy has been all the more disappointing given the inspiring history of American political rhetoric.
Since Thomas Jefferson penned the lines “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certainunalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” the bar has been set pretty high on the English eloquence scale. Over the centuries Lincoln, Monroe, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR and Kennedy, to name a few, have contributed to the tradiition of elegant and enduring language. Hell, even Woodrow Wilson said “The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.”
Some will argue that slick speechwriters, focus groups, reaction polling, tele-prompters and speech coaches have emasculated modern political speach, but one need go no further than our friends in Latin America to find that good, old-fashioned barn-burning political rhetoric is alive and well in other parts of the world. We once saw Peruvian President Alan Garcia hold a crowd captivated for over two hours, make them laugh, cry, shout in anger and piss in their pants, followed by four hours of drunken reveling featuring spontaneous copycat speechifying by the audience and semi-nude conga lines of painted native dancers.
Barack hasn’t reached those heights quite yet, but his ability to move people with words holds out hope that inspirational political rhetoric is not a lost art in this country.
Another key element in the early tsunami of support for the Obama candidacy was the shocking realization that after 40 years of chumming around the Democratic Party, Hillary has become just another party hack.
We are sure that in those halcyon days when Hillary was a Wellesley rebel she was convinced that on her quest to become the first female president she was going to change the political system from within. However, in America today, and for the past hundred and fifty years, there are only two roads to the White House – one goes through the Democratic Party and the other goes through the Republican Party.
Now, those roads are lined with the running dogs of party politics, grasping lobbyist hands, thinly veiled temptations, unlimited lines of credit, whispered promises and threats and a thousand varieties of unctious slime which drip and leak and adhere annoyingly to all who travel that path. Hillary has been on this road for an awful long time and we all know that if you lie down long enough with dogs like these, you get up with rabies.
What voters are showing is a rejection of the depressing partisan baggage that comes standard on machine politicians from both parties these days. What they are just starting to realize is that Barack Obama is being rolled out of that same corporate factory, with the same brand allegiances, as his competition. He is just a newer model for a newer generation.
We sat down with Obama when he met with a group of bloggers at the 2004 Democratic Convention, and it was immediately obvious that he didn’t “get it”. We asked him a question about New Media and he thought we were talking about Fox News. He’s just trying to sing a hip-hop version of Sinatra’s “My Way”, and although he’s got a nice voice, the tune is tired.
The public’s visceral rejection of party politics, reflected in the historically low poll numbers garnished by Congress lately, brings tears to our eyes, both because it validates our faith in the instinctual political wisdom of Americans and because it is doomed to be dashed by the eventual exposure of Obama as the same old obsolete product in a slick new package.
Americans are grasping for something new on the political scene like a drowning man grasping for a life preserver. Unfortunately, the life preserver they have embraced is sinking like a stone. Barack Obama is a made-to-order update on the traditional major party politician mold, but he’s not ready for prime time. His campaign has reached its high water mark and is now withering under the unrelenting and unforgiving scrutiny of the all-seeing media eye.
Geraldine Ferraro was only half-way there. Barack Obama not only would not have gotten so far had he not been black, he would not have gotten so far if the cupola of white men running the Democratic Party had not had a firm hand on his throttle and a few kill switches build into the system as well. The unmerciful exposure of his spiritual advisor is but the latest brick in a wall of unelectability being build between Barack and an increasingly disillusioned public. By August he’ll be lucky to get past security in Denver.
Obama has done his job, played his role, and hopefully can be recycled in a form leaving him serviceable for future electoral dramas. After four years of meticulously laid plans, venomous in-fighting, double-crossing, arm twisting, back stabbing subterfuge and cynicism from the heavyweights of the Democratic Party, there is just one candidate left.
It has come down to the last man standing, and that man is – Hillary Clinton!
We couldn’t make this stuff up – but somebody did.