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Monday, February 04, 2008

The writing is on the wall

Despite my appreciation for the merits of both candidates for the Dems, my sense is that Obama will win, and win handily, tomorrow and later in November. Here's why. Rick, how can McCain, who admittedly is the best Republican the Dems could hope for in a non-cynical world, compete against this dynamism?

Posted by Administrators on February 4, 2008 at 11:39 AM in Deliberation and voices | Permalink


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I don't suppose it's fruitful to debate the aesthetic appeal of "viral politics" (not, to me, a phrase with decidedly aesthetic, let alone inspirational, overtones). The shots of (predominantly non-A-list) celebrities (you don't consider Scarlet Johansen and Kareem Abdul Jabar celebrities? What about the woman from Gray's Anatomy?) dreamingly cooing and looking heavenward don't do it for me, but I can see how they speak to people who like their politics with a great big helping of spiritual yearning. Dan may be right to lump me in with Justice Stevens and the dinosaur set, unmoved by the impressive powers of modern video. All that impressiveness seems to have carried the day in Scott v. Harris. But all of this is preposterous, in the technical sense. No one would be giddily gushing about Obama's inspiring technical savoir faire, viral or otherwise, were it not for their support for his political positions. Or do you mean, Tommy Crocker, that people will be moved to vote for him even if they wouldn't otherwise (or wouldn't have thought to otherwise), just *because* of the viral politics and rhetorical panache (I'm not trying to be cute -- I really don't get it)? If that's it, then again, why should one be excited about that?

Posted by: md | Feb 4, 2008 10:19:23 PM

What is different about the Will.I.Am video is that it sets to music Obama's own lyrics. This video is not Stipe or Merchant singing pop songs. Nor does this video simply rely on "celebrity." Instead it relies on a stark setting for each of the singers (not all of whom would qualify as "celebrities" anyway), on relatively simple music, and on Obama's speech itself. I can't imagine a McCain or HRC speech proving so lyrical. Certainly, they are not so inspiring (which I think matters).

I take Dan's point not simply to be one about the attraction of the video, which he thinks speaks for itself (I like it alot too), but also about the way the video circulates as a kind of "viral politics." The video, along with its political message, has taken on a life of its own, independent from the official Obama campaign, circulating widely, and therefore circulating widely Obama's message in his own words (with the help of music). I have been emailed the link multiple times. I don't know how many votes this translates into (which, of course, is no different than our knowledge of how many votes a debate performance or a television spot translates into), but it certainly opens up new prospects to reach additional audiences who will perhaps be motivated to support, and show up to the polls to vote for, Obama.

Posted by: Tommy Crocker | Feb 4, 2008 7:57:19 PM

My response here is res ipsa loquitor. But as with the video in Scott v. Harris, I can see that there will be Justice Stevens-types who disagree...

I should add that it's probably a statement of how out of touch I am with pop culture that I don't see the video I linked to as a celebrity love-fest because I only recognized a very small number of people. (I confess: I have a little crush on Scar-Jo.)

Last, it's not at all clear to me that Obama's got better judgment or proposed policies than HRC. But I haven't seen any other form of HRC (or other candidate's) propaganda that is comparable in effectiveness. And I can't see McCain, who I don't suspect as a moderate but respect nonetheless, able to compete in the absence of some large-scale terrorist attack. FWIW, the "experience thing" was weak for GWB when he ran in 2000 as the politically weak governor with no relevant foreign policy experience. Obama, at least, has a prodigious intellect and some exposure to such matters in the Senate. Hillary's got the same thing going for her, but without the charisma "wow" factor.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Feb 4, 2008 3:34:02 PM

Dan -- one person's "dynamism" might be another person's gauziness, I suppose. But, I take your point. I think Obama is, in many respects, inspiring (as is McCain, I think) -- the ad is great -- and also that his election would, in some respects, be for the good. But, at the end of the day, and despite all the "unity" talk, he lacks experience and is a down-the-line left-liberal (more to the left of center than, say, Bill Clinton was.) And, my sense is that most Americans -- however tired they might be of the President -- are not. We'll see!

For a great McCain musical ad, search YouTube for his rendition of Barbara Streisand songs, on SNL a few years ago.

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Feb 4, 2008 2:16:35 PM

For myself, I find this kind of schmaltzy, pseudo-cool "politics of hope" and uplift rhetoric, suffused with the overwheming odor of celebrity posturing and self-righteousness, empty, hypocritical, and ininspiring. De gustibus and all that, I suppose (and here I agree with both of the comments above -- one either agrees or not with Obama's political views, and one either likes him and his rhetoric viscerally or not).

But more than that, I don't understand why anyone should want to be inspired by politics. I don't want to be inspired. I don't want anyone with vision (we've got that now). I want someone who will tend the affairs of state effectively and quietly, in accord with what (at least I think) are my relatively centrist views, and let other people (celebrities?, holy men?) do the inspiring. The appeal of McCain (and Clinton, for that matter) is precisely that he is an uninspiring, serious politician who doesn't have 'visions,' or if he does, he keeps quiet about them. Machiavelli wasn't a cynic, notwithstanding the associations he conjures in this country; he was just describing effective government. Maybe it's because of the religiousness of our politics -- that is, the faith that they should be something more than what they inevitably are -- that we continue to yearn for a politics that can give us a sense of self-transendence. But politics isn't well equipped to do that. Poetry is better.

Posted by: md | Feb 4, 2008 2:02:23 PM


My personal preferences run with your gut feeling of what will happen. But I am curious why you think this video is so emblematic of that. It is inspring, I guess, but I already agree with their message. Why do you think this overcomes the media noise machine, the tag that this is just the work of a bunch of entertainment liberals, and the perception (pitched to independents) that McCain is a moderate?

Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Feb 4, 2008 12:18:00 PM

I support Obama for a variety of reasons, not least of which is his potential to elicit and channel a good deal of productive, New Frontier-like optimisim and energy. But let me differ with you just a little bit, Dan. Does anyone remember how annoying the celebrity worship that ensued upon the election of Clinton 42 was? Does anyone remember in particular Michael Stipe and Natalie Merchant performing "To Sir With Love" on MTV? Or, for that matter, Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow? I hope Obama is the voice of a new generation -- but I hope that voice consists of something other than a celebrity lovefest.

Posted by: Paul Horwitz | Feb 4, 2008 12:13:08 PM

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