Whatever one may think about Barack Obama as a candidate, what is clear to me is that he is the first Post-Modern Presidential Candidate.
Viewing it both objectively and with full understanding of how politics actually works, his career is an advertisement for style over substance, for narrative over facts, for the sheer cynicism of his candidacy, which looks to me like it was conceived a long time ago by the the various con artists and activists — but I repeat myself — that he has long been drawn to. In other words, it may be closer to the truth to picture Obama as a pawn being used by the Racist Preacher and the Marxist Guy in the Neighborhood than to picture him as a leader who used them to advance his career. Or, maybe they all used each other equally.
In any case, this is very curious: how has Obama’s past, full of multiple embarrassing associations with fringe characters like Ayers, and Wright, and crooks like Rezko — that would normally disqualify a candidate in the minds of a majority of voters — been carefully pushed into the background, with the not-quite-comforting assurance that “it was a long time ago” or “he was just a guy in the neighborhood”. Was the late 90’s and early 2000’s really all that long ago? And if we look at Presidents in past history, are their records full of embarrassing associations with hate-monger racists and unrepentant terrorists? Well, no, of course not. But the press, with their refusal to cover any of these stories with any degree of tenacity, implies that there couldn’t possibly be anything to worry about there.
That is a pretty outlandish claim to make. It requires believing one or more of these things: (1) That politicians always hang with one crowd on the way up, only to dismiss them and acquire an entirely new crowd when they get elected. Or (2), that Ayers, Wright, Rezko, and the like aren’t really all that bad. Or (3), that Obama has such strong moral and ethical leadership qualities that he is unaffected by his associations with them.
The first is ridiculous, not to mention untrue. The second tells me everything I need to know about the moral center of the press, and it isn’t good. And the third is a fantasy with no evidence to support it.
Outright advocacy on the part of the press has been hinted at before, but with this campaign it has moved to a whole new level. At one time in the past, of course, the American people wouldn’t have tolerated this sort of behavior, but even that is beside the point: the press itself did a better job of internal monitoring, because it was filled with qualified journalists (mostly) who rose up through the ranks, reporting the local cop beat, city hall and all the usual ways they used to learn how to report using facts instead of feelings.
Today’s media, though, has completely adopted the post-modern view of the importance of narrative and feelings over facts and history, and so, just like Bill Ayers and other 60s radicals were hoping, we’ve now arrived at a time and place where the election itself is just a formalized recognition of an outcome that is ostensibly desired by all. And therefore, jammed down our throats, and we’ll like it.
Despite the fact that his main qualifications are still in question; despite a long and questionable association with multiple radical types, which some say would be enough to deny him a security clearance; despite rising up quickly through the ranks of a corrupt political machine in Chicago, Cook County, and Springfield; despite a record of supporting some pretty extreme policies.
All of which brings up the obvious question, to whom does he now owe favors? This is what politics is all about, right? Brokering power and money? So common sense tells us that if Obama has been running with a certain crowd over the last 20+ years — let’s calll them, oh … loons, crooks, and scam artists — then a President Obama is going to be passing out appointments to those same loons, crooks, and scam artists, like candy at a parade.
And as somebody who lived through Watergate, and the role the press played in uncovering the dirty tricks, and who was pulling the strings, and how it was all funded by campaign money, and the coverup that ensued, and how it led all the way up to Nixon and his inner circle, well, that was journalism. Even though Woodward and Bernstein weren’t the saints they’re now made out to be, and even though they relied on an anonymous source (who we now know to be Mark Felt from DOJ) to tell their story, which brings up obvious ethical questions, the fact remains that they dug up LOTS of information about how Washington works. They pursued that story like attack dogs, for better or worse.
If you were Woodward or Bernstein, or any of the other reporters and editors who worked on that story — even Ben Bradlee, the publisher, was intimately involved, which means the absolute highest authority at The Washington Post at the time — wouldn’t you be more than a little bit embarrassed at the refusal of today’s press to even cover all these current allegations about Obama and his supporters? The voter fraud with ACORN. The credit card fraud on Obama’s website. The numerous radical fringe nutcases in his past (and present). The meteoric rise through the swamp that is Illinois politics. The lack of accomplishment or leadership. Etc.
Maybe the media isn’t familiar with Google, and YouTube, and all the other ways that regular people like you and me now have, to review factual history, if only we are willing to dig into it? It really isn’t that hard, especially when you combine the power of lots of smart people who are motivated and who share information via blogs. Damn those fact-based cretins!
Nope, the press has no time for any of that, yet it does have time to dig into the background of some guy named Joe who is a plumber in Ohio and who had the incredible gall to ask Obama a simple, direct question in front of the press. Oh, boy, you don’t know what you just did, Joe!
And hey, did you hear Sarah Palin spends $150k on clothes? What is that about? Fer sure. Obviously, a loser and a bad VP candidate.
And the people dutifully nod along, either content with the situation, or unaware of it and not interested enough to dig any deeper. A cyncial person might say that too many folks are swayed by his speeches that defy his actual votes and policies, and overly impressed by his appearance, smile, and voice. This is the very definition of style over substance.
So this just confirms for me something that I’ve thought for a few years now: we as a people are at a turning point, and are in danger of bestowing legitimacy on post-modernism by electing the first post-modern President.
A world where it’s really more about post-modern concepts like narrative than facts, history, or asking reasonable questions of those who those who seek the favor of your vote. And if you dare to question The One, you get attacked by his true believers, his PR wing, the press, just like Joe the Plumber.
Based on Obama’s poll numbers, it seems to me that 45-50% of our country has bought into post-modernist thought. I suppose there might be some Obama supporters who don’t buy into this narrative business, but probably not many, I’m guessing: if they didn’t buy into narratives, they’d have trouble supporting a man whose entire career is narrative. And the press has been busy, for the last 30+ years, making us dumber by feeding us narratives on a daily basis.
And if that’s true, that 50% of our country has bought into post-modernism, then we may be in some degree of trouble. At the very least, no matter who wins next week, we’ve got some type of low-grade culture war on our hands, between the post-modernists and the … you know … sane people.
So, this election is about more than Obama; it’s also a referendum on post-modernism in politics, journalism, and even society at large. It’s a referendum on the joke that our media has become, a referendum on the joke that our politics has become, and a referendum on narrative over facts.
It’s not about a “moment in history”, because it isn’t flattering to a candidate, or to the electorate, to elevate somebody with so many unanswered questions about their past, the ideas they stand for, and who they really are, just so we can all pat ourselves on the back for being tolerant enough to elect a black man.
The real moment in history will be when we let go of the guilt that we, as a society, continue to bathe ourselves in, and recognize that only by electing qualified candidates of any color, race, or sex are we fulfulling the American dream.