Pop Politico: “Poetry and Prose”

It’s been said that a political campaign is run on the poetry of promises, while the task of governing is about the prose of policy. As President-Elect Barack Obama sheds his poetic cloak and has to become a wordsmith of a different sort, there are a myriad of emotions in this post-election/transition time that Americans are certainly feeling. Will Obama be like FDR, Jimmy Carter, or Bill Clinton? It’s too soon to tell, but one thing is certain: Obama won not because of a political crisis like Watergate, or because a third party candidate split up the vote allowing him to squeak in, but because a clear majority voted for his campaign of hope and change. What many Americans hope for is that Obama will be a transformative leader who is able to steer the ship of state in another direction; a direction that will bring greater prosperity, less cynicism, and more cooperation in the culture at large.

It will be an interesting time for Reagan revolutionaries, too. Many conservatives are big admirers of FDR.
They are impressed by his patrician demeanor during a crisis, his ability to explain governmental action to Americans via his “Fireside Chats” (where he would often start his address with “My Friends”– which should sound familiar to those who listened to John McCain’s speeches), the way he and his administration had the political acumen to reshape the Executive Branch, and, above all, the way his policies won the hearts and minds of the majority of Americans. In Reagan, conservatives thought they had their FDR that would realign the political map so conservatives would hold power, much like New Deal Liberals did. It didn’t quite go the way they envisioned. Now that most Americans have clearly rejected the politics of resentment (and “Joe the Plumber” as its poster boy) in favor of a pragmatic activism, it will be interesting to see if the prose of Obama’s leadership proves to be a strong enough tonic to put the politics of resentment into remission.

There’s a loyal opposition, and then there’s opposition that offers very little except resentment, hate, paranoia, and fear. The noise machine operated by the Right has made a lot of money for those who are stars in its cruel theater, but after a decade plus of running 24/7, the show has finally reached the point of diminishing returns. Sure, there will always be people who seek out the most negative and hateful blowhards to confirm their own resentment, but if Obama’s campaign is any indication, he’s very good at avoiding the chum-soaked waters where the sharks circle ready for a feeding frenzy. The Jeremiah Wright controversy was something that could have easily deep-sixed his campaign, but he was able to turn a politically embarrassing moment into a very personal speech about race in America that not only softened the rage at his (former) spiritual adviser’s remarks about “God damning America,” but created an opportunity for channels of discussion about our multi-ethnic and multicultural heritage. People seem to forget that Obama is bi-racial, and that hybridity is very much what American culture is about — but it’s also a source of insecurity.

We’re at a transition moment in our history; a transition borne out of crisis, but one where our insecurities about money, status, security, power, and the like are not going to be sated by conservative calls to “going back” to a more fragmented, disconnected, and suspicious culture — or at least, not yet. Obama knows the window of opportunity for his agenda is short, but as the presidential bubble forms around him and his day-to-day is taken up with the prose of meeting after meeting, as President he must take great care not to forget his poet’s heart displayed on the campaign.

“Hope,” Rush (Download)




  • JonCummings

    Nicely done!

    This campaign was unusual in so many ways–not the least of which was the gnawing sense that it wasn't only Obama who had to prove himself to the electorate, but the electorate which had to prove itself capable of overcoming wedge issues both longstanding (race) and trumped-up (Muslim rumors, patriotism questions, socialism nonsense) in order to elect the candidate whose policies were backed by a solid majority.

    For eight years (at least), Democrats have bemoaned the gap between their advantage in “generic” polls and actual election results–a gap generally (if not always accurately) attributed to the Republican attack machine and its success at playing on voters' fears and biases. This year we once again held tight through the roller-coaster ride of GOP attacks, but this year, somehow, the wheels never left the tracks.

    Though the election is won, the work isn't completely finished–particularly in the South, as this New York Times piece makes crystal clear: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/11/us/politics/1

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I think views on race, religion, and political orientation are going to be prevalent in circles the go beyond the South. In my own circle of family and friends the views of Obama expressed above are pretty strong among some — and I stress some.

    Yesterday, I was talking to my brother and he was saying that in news stories that he reads (where people can comment), he's noticed the amount a racist invective directed against Obama is amazingly high. Now, I know that comments are not reflective of what most people think (just look at the election results to see what the majority of Americans who voted think of Obama) but it is interesting to see how unbridled people are in forums where you wouldn't normally see such racist and hateful talk.

  • JonCummings

    Anonymity has its perks.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Very true, and one of the reasons I was sweating bullets until the election was finally called. I've heard the racism firsthand. It's not pretty, especially when it comes from people you would otherwise respect.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I remember you were talking/writing about that. BTW, who was the guy that said the “Bradley Effect” was going to throw the election to McCain? He wanted us to “bookmark” his comment because he was certain he would be proven right in his prediction.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Steve? Was it Steve? It might've been Steve.

  • JonCummings

    I think it was. Oh, Stee-eeve…come out, come out, wherever you are…you got some 'splainin' to do….

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    In Steve's defense, the media was really going after the Bradley Effect toward the end. If you are around people who might have a racist bent and also get bombarded with political commentary about such an opinion-to-vote schism, it's very easy to see how someone could take away the concept as valid.

    Heck, for a while I did too. I am very glad to be wrong. The idealism of the youth vote was not tainted by the crap dripping off the Porta-John of historical precedent.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Steve? Was it Steve? It might've been Steve.

  • JonCummings

    I think it was. Oh, Stee-eeve…come out, come out, wherever you are…you got some 'splainin' to do….

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    In Steve's defense, the media was really going after the Bradley Effect toward the end. If you are around people who might have a racist bent and also get bombarded with political commentary about such an opinion-to-vote schism, it's very easy to see how someone could take away the concept as valid.

    Heck, for a while I did too. I am very glad to be wrong. The idealism of the youth vote was not tainted by the crap dripping off the Porta-John of historical precedent.

  • JonCummings

    Anonymity has its perks.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Very true, and one of the reasons I was sweating bullets until the election was finally called. I've heard the racism firsthand. It's not pretty, especially when it comes from people you would otherwise respect.

  • http://www.popdose.com Ted

    I remember you were talking/writing about that. BTW, who was the guy that said the “Bradley Effect” was going to throw the election to McCain? He wanted us to “bookmark” his comment because he was certain he would be proven right in his prediction.

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    Steve? Was it Steve? It might've been Steve.

  • JonCummings

    I think it was. Oh, Stee-eeve…come out, come out, wherever you are…you got some 'splainin' to do….

  • http://www.popdose.com DwDunphy

    In Steve's defense, the media was really going after the Bradley Effect toward the end. If you are around people who might have a racist bent and also get bombarded with political commentary about such an opinion-to-vote schism, it's very easy to see how someone could take away the concept as valid.

    Heck, for a while I did too. I am very glad to be wrong. The idealism of the youth vote was not tainted by the crap dripping off the Porta-John of historical precedent.

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