Some would say that the marketing of persona is pretty standard fare for today’s political climate, irrespective of political party.
When Rudy Giuliani’s chances for the Republican presidential nomination are discussed, for example, it is almost a given that his valiant leadership following the Sept. 11 attacks advantageously casts him as a patriot with knowledge of what to do in an emergency. More importantly for Giuliani, such an image may help to soften reports of his bad blood with firefighters.
And, as reported in U.S. News & World Report, Hilary Clinton’s campaign has been working to desperately revamp her stern, and, at times, even vitriolic image, as it can resound negatively in polls.
Unsurprisingly, Clinton’s heated demands that Obama return a campaign nomination from someone she had once considered a pocketed crony didn’t help her anti-corporate, anti-wealth senator-during-the-week, mother-who-likes-to-politely-bake-cookies-on-the-weekend image.
Such image peddling can become excessive. Sure, it’s understandable that politicians will try to be most things to most people, but the line is crossed when constituents treat image and crude rhetoric with more importance than policy making.
Consider Obama’s recent rally in the courtyard of the Cuban Club in Ybor City, for example. Since announcing his presidential run, the talk surrounding Obama has been almost exclusively about how he moves a crowd.
As reported in the Tampa Tribune, he’s got that special charismatic “something” that reminds people of Bobby Kennedy.
This charisma worked in Ybor as follows: Obama alluded to weather in such a way as to make it seem like there’s some greater purpose or sanction to his campaign. The fact that the storm lifted and thus didn’t spoil the shindig was treated with an eye-roll inducing hyperbole: “The sun is shining on me,” he said. He kept on about the weather. Later in his speech, he spoke about how his candidacy reflected not only “winds of change,” but a “breeze.”
The problem with wind and breezes is that it’s easy to get blown into the type of hype that allows for ridiculous – but nevertheless crowd-pleasing – remarks to pass by without scrutiny.
As explained in the Tribune, Obama thinks people react to politics with cynicism because private health insurance providers set prices for health care and oil companies set prices for energy. Although both statements contain troubling omissions – that non-payers drive up health care costs, that oil prices fluctuate due to geopolitics and OPEC – I don’t understand why such a reasonable set-up would push Americans into the depths of bitterness and apathy. Providers of goods and services should continue to have a hand in the prices of the goods and services they sell to voluntary consumers.
Obama is also adamant about community obligation and common purpose extending beyond personal responsibility: “We are responsible not just for ourselves but for the well-being of others. That’s what built this country,” he said.
Of course, this notion comes complete with a desire to impose such an obligation with legally sanctioned force. More of my money, presumably, will be withheld in taxes because being an American now obligates me to take care of others’ health needs and pay for research for green energy.
I wonder where the forceful, obligation-based idea of citizenship is found in the Constitution – it reads to me like the document is more concerned with the idea of protection from government abuses. Though Obama may compare America to a book, it is important to remember that any book that’s supposed to be written by America as a whole is likely to suffer the same fate as a group project given to students by a teacher. Whatever capital is required to make “change” to write that new chapter – “change” meaning what is needed to pay for social spending – is produced in the same way that group project is. And just like that group project, it will eventually and inevitably be completed with just a few shouldering the burden of the whole.
Victoria Bekiempis is a sophomore majoring in history and French.