Saturday, August 9, 2008

Obama vs McCain: The Movie

An article from the LA Times looks at the two presidential candidates and what each of them represents.

Obama is a star in this sense too. As he reiterates endlessly, Obama brings idealism at a time when many Americans are despairing of making any headway against the problems the nation faces. Drawing on his own personal story of disadvantage that led to Columbia University, Harvard Law School and now to the Democratic nomination, Obama in his every gesture and utterance suggests that "Yes We Can." This idealism isn't inspiring adulation because Obama is already a star. Obama is a star precisely because he is inspiring. He is the anti-Bush, and what he's selling is hope.

It is axiomatic that the more powerful the theme a star embodies, the more powerful his or her stardom. Obama's theme is a potent one. Whether one buys into it or not, he promises to cross divides -- political, ideological, racial, geographic -- and to transcend the old politics of fear and hate that has commandeered recent elections. He believes that America can -- and should -- be the moral beacon for the world by returning to its core values. In analyzing his own appeal, Obama says he has become a symbol -- which, again, is exactly what all stars are. He is providing a really good, uplifting movie.
Of course McCain is a hero in his own right, but his narrative is familiar -- it's a war movie after all -- and his feat is that of having survived, which in a Hollywood film is not the same thing as having led the rescue. He hardly embodies the new-style heroism that Mailer saw in John Kennedy, which allowed the late president to extend the bounds of politics not only into stardom but into imagination as stars do. With Kennedy, anything seemed possible.

I think this is precisely the reason that Obama will win the White House in November. He is tapping into the current American zeitgeist in a powerful way, in a way that raises people's spirits. And those that try to label him as empty rhetoric are ignoring his record, his rising through Chicago politics, and the detailed policy proposals he has put forth. McCain is standing in the path of destiny and he is going to get bowled over.

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