This Obama Thing Is Freaking Me Out
The URL is Barackobamaisyournewbicycle.com. The site is nothing more than a giant, blue sentence. It’ll say something different each time. On my first visit, it read “Barack Obama just emailed your dad and told him how great you are.”
Click the sentence, and you get a new one. “Barack Obama remembered your birthday.” “Barack Obama baked you a pie.” “Barack Obama left a comment on your blog.”
This election is getting weird.
When you compare his voting record and statements to those of Hillary Clinton or John Edwards, Obama is not any further to the left than they are. In fact, it’s been argued he’s more conservative. Universal health care? Nope. Cheaper health care, but it wouldn’t be free. An end to pollution? Sort of – a cap-and-trade system that will let polluters buy and sell the right to do so. An Iraq pullout? Eventually, a little bit at a time.
The policy differences between Barack and Hillary are small. The other differences, not so much.
Ignoring their genitals and relative melanin count, Barack has something I haven’t seen in a political candidate before. First, there was the speech, back at the 2004 Democratic convention, that inspired no fewer than five personal acquaintances to tell me: “That man will be the first black president of the United States.” Then there was the YouTube video of Obama Girl, with rhymes about the Illinois senator that still get stuck in my head (the “Hott 4 Hill” response video just wasn’t as catchy).
There’s also the art. Most design critiques I’ve read agree Obama’s got the best layouts, the best fonts and the cleanest logo (compare to McCain’s white-on-black, Vader-esque stickers). When famed poster designer Shepard Fairey announced his support of Obama, he backed it up with a limited release of the best modern political poster I’ve ever seen – and it sold out that day. Other artists and designers are following suit with their own renditions of the candidate’s campaign message.
I’m very young, but this seems like an odd groundswell of support for a centrist candidate with a real chance of winning.
Hell, a friend in Chicago has started calling him “Rocky.”
Clinton’s campaign has tried to reproduce the phenomenon (“Hey, let’s use her first name on stickers and signs. Like she’s everybody’s friend!”). The results haven’t gone so well. I’ve heard this has created a sense of betrayal among some second-wave feminists, who see Hillary as a hard-won gift to their daughters of the Post-Feminist generation. “We’ve wrapped her up with a bow! Why are you tossing her aside for a man!?” they cry. I imagine the answer is something like “Because we want a candidate we actually like, Mom.”
To be honest, I’m not completely sure why so many are so enthused with the idea of Rocky Obama as President. It’s something that can’t be quantified, and I’m afraid it can’t be transferred. My biggest fear is that it will be reversed – if Clinton steals the nomination with back-room deals to re-seat the Michigan and Florida delegates, all that unprecedented interest and enthusiasm will become a storm of the disenfranchised, incinerating the Democratic Party and ensuring not just a McCain win, but Republican wins for years to come.
It’s a powerful thing, this strange new hope. It could wreck us. Or it could give America it’s first black president, a result that could repair situations long broken and radiate a message to the world not heard for many decades. When pundits criticize Obama, they attack his message of change for lacking specifics. I think they’ve missed the point. His candidacy, his success thus far, his viability – that is the change.