Friday, March 14, 2008

They're shitting me, right? (UPDATED)

I just happened to be over at where it would appear that there is an online panel of experts actually discussing the following question: Where is our Barack Obama?

And as if that wasn't enough, there's this unbelievable exchange:

Pauline [Couture]: I think all the parties are operating from a rational, objective perspective right now: Their priorities are whatever will protect their immediate electoral interests.

The interests of the rest of us are simply being ignored, hence the widespread cynicism. That's exactly why the American electorate and media are responding to Barack Obama so strongly.

He has found a way to rise above the sniping pettiness that passes for public discourse in both countries at this time. Can we do that? I don't see any sign of it right now, but wouldn't it be nice to hear it here: Yes we can!

Sarah [Albertson]: Yes we can!

Well, I certainly hope we can. I don't see this happening here yet. All of the major politicians seem very tired to me.

They don't have the energy or the fearlessness required to do more than respond to what is immediately in front of them [...]

Nik [Nanos]: I think we are moving towards a watershed — away from divisive negative politics to aspirational ones.

In the old paradigm, pioneered under the Republicans, voters were divided and "hot button/wedge issues" were crafted to influence voting behaviour. This added to the negativism in our political discourse.

I think we are approaching a tipping point on the negativity front and that there is an opportunity for more positive "unification politics."


I would hazard to say that the federal leader who could pull together a positive, aspirational message about the future will have the upper hand in the next election.
Jesus Christ! What a bunch of milksops!

And never mind this hysterical idea that Barack Obama's entire campaign doesn't depend on divisive politics of the most basic sort, what about the verbiage coming out of this Nanos character? I mean: a watershed, a paradigm, pioneering, a wedge issue, a tipping point? Divisive negative politics, aspirational ones, negativism, a negativity front, positive unification politics, and positive, aspirational messages?

In four bloody sentences?!

Yes, indeed. It's such a shame that our politicians haven't risen to the level of pure political wind that Mr. Obama and our own positive, paradigmatic, watershed-aspirational classes have.


ADDENDUM (March 15th)

Mapmaster writes to add:
I'm resigned to the unctuous platitudes that form the trite and vapid analyses in any discussion at the CBC, but this flip historical revision managed to steam my blood. Never minding that the contemporary meaning of "divisiveness" is inscrutable to begin with, of which he takes full advantage, this Nik character really ought to read a little twentieth-century American history to discover that the calculated strategy of pitting various interests against each other both in the manufacture of popular sentiments and in electoral contests was, if not precisely discovered, refined and exploited to an unheralded potential under FDR's Democratic administration, accounting for much of its success. But that might introduce just a little qualm before tossing off such glib fabrications. Gah! The CBC needs to have some drywall in place before it puts up the panelling.

ADDENDUM 2 (March 16th)

Mapmaster digs further and discovers this treasure of a takedown of Barack Obama's much lauded and audaciously hopeful message:
... No one who's wandered through an Obama rally and heard the war whoops and seen the cheerful, vacant gazes would come away thinking, "These are the smartest people ever." I'm sorry, they just aren't. What is unmistakable is the creepy kind of solipsism and the air of self-congratulation that clings to his campaign. "There is something happening," he says in stump speeches. And what's happening? "Change is happening." How so? "The reason our campaign has been different is about what you, the people who love this country, can do to change it." And the way to change it is to join the campaign, which, once you join it, will change America. Because this is our moment. The time is now. Now is the time. Yes, we can. We bring change to the campaign because the campaign is about change. We are the ones we've been waiting for. Obama and his followers are perfecting postmodern reflexivity. It's a campaign that's about itself. The point of the campaign is the campaign.

They don't put it this way, of course, which just confirms a suspicion that's been creeping up on some of us for months: As a speech-giver, a man who has wowed the nation with the power of his language, Barack Obama is getting away with murder. Rhetorically, he is a master of le baloney.

It's not clear that Obama himself is even aware of this. His sincerity is self-evident and is one of the qualities that draw people to him, along with those eloquent hands, the grin, that voice as smooth and rich as molasses. His speeches are theatrical events, not intellectual excursions. On his website the videos of his most acclaimed speeches have proved much more popular than the transcripts. As a candidate he fits a public that prefers the sensation of words to the words themselves. His speeches are meant to be succumbed to rather than thought about.

But what if you do think about them?

Highly recommended reading.