18
Feb
09

The Rise of Captain Hopeandchange

There is a movie you probably haven’t seen called “Idiocracy” that you really don’t need to see, because I’m about to tell you all about it.  The premise of the movie is that a completely average guy from 2005 is cryogenically frozen, and wakes up 500 years later to discover that American society has become so dumbed down that he is the smartest man alive— by a long shot.  While the movie isn’t necessarily laugh-out-loud hilarious, it features incredibly biting satire, and is probably the kind of movie I’d write, if I were the kind of guy who wrote movies.

In the future that “Idiocracy” sees, the secretary of state is “brought to you by Carl’s Jr.”, you can get your college degree at Costco, and the most popular thing on television is a channel devoted to looped clips of men getting hit in the crotch.  And in this future, the president of the United States is a former professional wrestler named Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho, who makes most of his public appearances at monster truck rallies.

You might expect from having read previous posts on this site that I’m now about to go into some long discussion on how we as a society are closer to this being truth than we think, and we need to blah blah blah before our brains turn into whatever, which doesn’t matter because you stopped caring three sentences ago.  That’s not what I’m getting at.  While I think the movie is witty, I don’t think society is on its way towards anything close to resembling that future.  That being said, I do think the character of President Camacho requires further examination.

In the film, Americans love professional wrestling, and Americans are stupid, so Americans vote a vastly unqualified professional wrestler to be their president, just because they can.  In real life, anyone who saw this on a t-shirt last October knows that while it’s obviously tongue-in-cheek, voting someone into political office on account of their celebrity isn’t so much of an outrageous thought these days.

And that brings us to this, this, and this.  Yes, our current president, whether he intended to or not (and I tend to think he didn’t), has blurred the lines between politician and celebrity even moreso than Ronald Reagan, who need I remind you was an actual celebrity.

(A wee disclaimer: the remainder of this post will be about everyone’s favorite new president, Captain Hopeandchange.  However, this will be a discussion on Obama the celebrity, not Obama the politician.  There’s a difference.  Keep that in mind should you decide to comment.)

I’m not about to suggest that President Obama and President Camacho have all that much in common.  The character of Camacho is, obviously, the extreme.  What I’ve been pondering is whether or not Obama is a step towards that extreme, and a lot of that, I believe, is up to the man himself and how he deals with the fame that has been thrust upon him.

Most people will point to his keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as the moment when his fame began to rise, and I wouldn’t argue that point.  In order for him to become president, 2004 Obama needed to tenderly cultivate that fame, fertilizing it with equal dashes of political opinion, general handsomeness, and yes— hope, until he had grown into the massive cultural icon (and oh yeah, president) he is today.

And whether or not you choose to believe it, at least a handful of the people who voted for our president did so not because of his ideology, but because of the massive cultural icon he became.  In simpler terms, he was the cool kid in the student council contest.  Many voters (especially those in my generation) may have convinced themselves they were voting Obama instead of McCain, but what they were really voting for was Dr. Pepper instead of Mr. Thunder.  They were choosing a brand, not a president, and quite frankly, anyone who worked on Obama’s campaign is totally okay with that (Don’t worry, though… I’m not talking about you.  You voted for him for the right reasons).

There’s a reason many pundits called Obama’s campaign the greatest in the history of politics, and there’s a reason voter turnout was at its highest in 40 years, and while not all of it has to do with Obama being a celebrity, a lot of it has to do with Obama being a celebrity.  In a perfect world, every four years we’d vote into office the person whose views best aligned with the majority of Americans regardless of what they look like or the quality of their jump shot, and while that certainly is the intention of the electoral process, it has, in today’s culture, become a far too idealistic thought.  Last year, 148.3 million people watched the Super Bowl and we spent north of $530 million dollars on tickets to a movie about Batman, and while that sort of thing shouldn’t have anything to do with our choice for president, it certainly says a lot about what we think is important.  Obama realized what captures America’s attention, and he became just that, or rather, he allowed himself to become that.

That’s an important point to note— Obama didn’t necessarily seek out the fame he has; rather it seemed to be thrust upon him, and he just rode it all the way to the Oval Office.  Now, though, I would argue that if he knows what’s good for him, Obama needs to prune that fame back a bit.  To be a successful candidate, you need to be the first person everyone thinks of when they think “president.”  And now that he has attained that title, he needs to switch gears from gaining popularity to properly representing those that gave him his popularity.

In the most basic terms, I’d say for the first hundred days (at least) of his presidency, he needs to do just one thing: his job.  That means get busy workin’– no appearances on The Colbert Report, no surprise visits to high school basketball practices, just sign bills and do all the things that go with acting presidenty.  Let us see your hard work, not your crossover dribble.

So far, he hasn’t done half bad, and whether you agree or disagree with the work he’s done, you can’t deny he’s been working.  And that’s a good thing.  His road to the presidency, as successful as it was, will most assuredly be emulated in the coming elections.  He’s now set the new standard for campaigning, let’s just hope he also sets the new standard for funneling campaign success into effective governing, rather than just continued celebrity.  Just like Kennedy was the first “television” president, Obama will be known as the first “Facebook” president and the first “YouTube” president, and the last thing he needs is for that exposure to affect his actual presidency.

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1 Response to “The Rise of Captain Hopeandchange”


  1. February 18, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Nice post. I did not vote for Obama. I have no idea who he really is. I wish I did. I am extremely interested in how the first “facebook” or “blackberry” President handles the massive pressures he will be under. I think he is up to the task. I’ll keep reading.


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