Even while hounded by doubts and insecurities, I was excited. For the first time in my life, I felt different about politics. I could hear die hard left-wing revolutionaries shaking their heads at my naiveté; I know that this president elect is not much more than a carefully crafted puppet, designed to ease America’s pain and rage, but like everyone else, I need something to believe in. The last eight years have turned me bitter.
Even as I felt my enthusiasm grow, I couldn’t help but think back to Naomi Klein’s book No Logo, in which talks about how Wall Street hijacked youth culture in the nineties to sell their products, transforming the very concept of alterative into mainstream commerce. By branding counter-culture values like environmentalism, personal freedom, and youth culture, corporate American suddenly made consumerism cool. This was a major factor in the rise of globalization and the way multi-national corporations do business. One can’t help but see the parallels in this campaign.
Klein says of branding,
If they were going to turn lackluster products into transcendent meaning machines- as the dictates of branding demanded- they would need to remake themselves in the image of nineties cool: it’s music, styles, and politics.This is what I feel the Democratic Party has done with Obama; they have created a brand based on our collective need for change. He is perfect in every way. The market research crew over at the DNC has done their job. They have created a brand that is hard to refuse.
Wikipedia says this about brands,
Some marketers distinguish the psychological aspect of a brand from the experiential aspect. The experiential aspect consists of the sum of all points of contact with the brand and is known as the brand experience. The psychological aspect, sometimes referred to as the brand image, is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service.If we substitute Barack Obama with a product, I hope we can see that we are in the midst of a multi-million dollar brand experience. This symbolic construct has been created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with change.
I am not, however, writing this post to rehash my doubts. I am writing this post because despite my reservations, I want to admit that even I was swept up by the fact something in the air today feels different. Even if his promises of change and hope are a carefully crafted ruse, then at least this campaign and this president is moving our conversations to the left. This shift is no small feat, and deserves applause. The DNC is talking a gamble, by giving us what we clearly want, and it is up to us to make sure we collect.
A majority of people in America have at least awoken to the fact there is a political system in place, and it would behoove us to pay attention to what it is doing. I hope that now that these conversations have begun, we do not shelve the momentum until the next election.
I like to think of myself as an open-minded person, who is willing to concede when the need arises. My wife and people who know me well would argue that I am an obstinate stubborn, bully, but I am here to say that I have been listening to what people have been saying.
I read the comments from my last post:
whatever you think about obama- americans are changing. i hope that his words are backed with action- but at the very least, i know in my heart that a large number of americans believe in change. the change at the top matters less than the change at the bottom and for whatever reason- obama personifies that change for many, many people. i have hope- not that obama will save america- but that americans will save America
He's promising something that he *can't* provide. I know that sounds like splitting hairs, but the distinction is important to me because it subtly shifts responsibility. If Obama is choosing not to make change, then I could spend all my time standing around pointing fingers. But if he *can't*, then I'm forced to ask who can. And it turns out that the answer is "I can" and I don't have time for standing around pointing fingers, I've got some gardens to tend and some neighbors to bullshit with.
Obama HAS ALREADY BROUGHT MASSIVE, EARTH-SHAKING CHANGE just by being the first black president.
Actually, take a minute to picture President Nader, and what he'd accomplish. NOTHING. That guy'd get nothing done. Everyone would hate him. No one would follow him. He'd be the worst president in history. POLITICS IS ABOUT COMPROMISE.
It is that last line that really put me over the edge. I can appreciate that America is nowhere near ready for the truly progressive society I envision. The values that I cherish are still years away from entering mainstream conversations in American politics. I know that the battles I want to fight must be fought on a daily basis through: conversations, grassroots work, volunteering, work in our classrooms, and in every aspect of our lives. No candidate for any office will ever bring about true change. We as a nation must search our souls and slowly work together to move closer true change. We must not only examine our political leaders. We must re-evaluate our very culture and our economic systems.
This collective national transformation has nothing to do the whims and power of our two-party system. It has to do with the intensity with which we move forward at this time in our nation’s history. If anything Barack Obama, whether intentionally or not, has initiated this shift.
It is important to state the fact that, even if it is only surface-level, this change in the collective American consciousness is historic. The least I can say is that we are no longer focused on the ignorant ramblings of neo-conservatives and the religious right. At least for the moment they have been made irrelevant.
Rob Kall does a great job of putting things in perceptive when he says,
The religious right was put in its place yesterday. If the Republican party learned anything, it is that America is sick and tired of right wing extremism. I expect to see a strong rise in progressive and centrist religious leaders.While they may roam the halls of power for years to come, on the surface, out in the open, we are finally allowed steer the conversations and demand more from our leaders. Whether they deliver or not is still up for debate, but at least on this day as the world is swept up by brand-Obama I want to let down my guard and say I am hopeful.
The journey to a truly just world will not come through the Democratic Party and Barack Obama, but without his opening of the door, the journey would have taken much longer to begin.
If the opening of this door is the only significant event of this election, then we have already made huge gains. If Bush claimed his 2004 was a mandate for the Republican Party, then this landslide is a mandate for progressive politics. Whether or not the Democratic Party will live up to these expectations will be determined in the next four years. I for one must be cynical, it is in my nature, and think they will wait for the momentum to dissipate and continue with business a usual, but that will be a huge mistake. For now, I too will wait and see.
If all of these people in the streets of America are truly ready for change, the maybe we are closer to a revolution than the DNC thinks. If the Democrats let us down, again, hopefully they will have something substantial to reckon with.
I am not sure if I have come out and said it, it is hard for me to make concrete statements but I am sure I have friends that will be overjoyed to hear me say:
Thank you Barack Obama for opening the door to a new era in American politics. I hope you can work your way out from under the weight of a system that has grown out of control and lead us to a more just and peaceful future. The hopes of a generation are on your back. Don’t let us down.