Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Morning, or Moaning, Again in America.

"Against the beautiful and the clever and the successful, one can wage a pitiless war, but not against the unattractive." If some regarded Palin as pretty, Biden as smart, and McCain as heroic, than I suppose that leaves, extrapolating from Graham Greene's remark in "The Heart of the Matter," Obama as appealing. Witnessing the minivan bumpers and maternal busts boasting "another mama for Obama," passing the posters with that benevolent two-toned gaze, I recall Orwell's nearly as ubiquitous paternal icon.

He's also our first half-white president. The novelty of this phrase shows how we let the one-drop rule dominate our perceptions. If Obama was not half-white but entirely so, if he was not our first truly African-American leader who by his biracial heritage combined with his deftly managed image rallied away from Hillary the support of many within the black community-- he would not be our president-elect. My wife disagrees with my analysis; see tomorrow's "Race, Post-Race" for some support from black intellectuals, however!

His strategic skills may prove genuine; they overshadowed his brief tenure in the legislature. His rhetoric dazzled many but dulled nearly as many. Those unconvinced will certainly endure countless chances to become persuaded now. Simply put, and perhaps inextricable from Obama's manipulation of his idealistic message, this is his substance: a concoction of novel ingredients and bold marketing. The form ineradicably tinges his narrative; the presentation and not the content alone accounts for his rise to celebrity. This branding assured his victory. Voters chose the new Coke over the classic, but it's still a corporate product we've been sold.

Fundamentally, market research as with any number #1 blockbuster put him on top. We fall for the reliable pick-up lines from our seductive leaders. Even though they disdain our company the first sunrise after they've wooed us. Obama won the chance to perform as the leading man, yet he swoons us not as our predictable matinee idol.

He wants to be worthy of the burden placed on him by those for so long disenfranchised. He seeks too to transcend such limitations, to be his own man. Those eager to claim Obama for their own clan may diminish the care given by his abandoned mother and especially her relatives, but raised without his father-- apart from his Kenyan roots-- Obama's own broken home and his struggle to restructure security provides a sobering lesson. Perhaps indeed as he promised by his example we can begin to repair half a century of moral irresponsibility and emotional damage done so to many children and through so many parents. A universal moral that clashes with so many, whatever their own ancestral origins, who insist on placing Obama so squarely within only the particulars. The stereotype should be subsumed by his ambition as he dominates our national stage.

Whether his talents will achieve applause remains for we, the audience, to award. He does, as more and more of his fellow citizens share his multicultural upbringing, represent a nuanced and challenging definition of who's seen as American. We're native and immigrant, savvy and clueless, slick and bumbling, grunts and stoners, hunters and vegetarians, Ivy League elites and Joe the Plumbers. That's a true rainbow coalition, in all its garish and subdued hues.

I do anticipate that perhaps, if Obama's term overcomes its hype, we can all welcome a government less obsessed by race, ethnicity, and checking one box on the census form. Allow me that moment of idealism. Will Obama's administration worsen or ease such identity politics, favoritism by complexion rather than by intelligence or merit? Given his own experience or lack of-- by this same storyline of ambition and smarts, connections and defiance-- it appears uncertain how Obama's blue-state's donkeys will bray in their triumph over House, Senate, and the White House.

Will we play more into victimization and special pleading? Or, will we begin to move on? Towards an equality based on our own potential rather than that granted by one's alma mater, one's pedigree, one's trust fund? Will the collective nannies tighten control or will we balance social justice with recognition of individual initiative? Can we curb capitalist greed unless the private sector's regulated? How much do we need in taxes? Will we admit that cautious homeowners deserve to be rewarded for frugality rather than fund debacles for their spendthrift neighbors, mortgage finaglers, hedge-fund managers-- or against insurgents in Iraq? Can we reverse the lost opportunity of the past eight years and rescue our failing environment?

Will the Democrats dump billions into woebegone schools that will reverse their decline, or will the cash be pocketed by teacher's unions, nebulous community agencies, and their crony contractors? The schools burst as playgrounds give way to more classrooms to house increased enrollments. Property taxes rise; majorities of urban renters pass measures to fund schools. Rates increase for homeowners, as congestion worsens given higher fertility rates of many newly arrived families.

Will we try to promote family planning again, reduce teen pregnancy, and advocate population reduction rather than celebrate the arrival of millions each year our ecology and our infrastructure cannot afford? What about immigration policy that does not pander to big business or gerrymandered Hispanic voters? Do we have a chance, apropos, of redrawing districts so both parties can have a chance at competing in truly representative elections? Can Republicans realign their party to listen to legitimate concerns of working-class and middle-class voters rather than PACs, multinationals, a rabid right-wing, and our military-industrial complex? And, what about a real third-party alternative? I'm tired of perennial Nader as the only option seemingly by default these past four national elections on my ballot.

Whether or not four years from now Obama will return for a second term with as much acclaim by the masses will prove, as the Chinese fortune tells us, that we may live indeed in "interesting times."

A "pitiless war" waged, and lost again, by McCain, his second defeat for a ambitious but mismanaged cause he believed in more than most of his nation. The results may not have been as immediately forgone as Uncle Joe's victories at the Soviet ballot box, but for me, the outcome remained no less in doubt. My wife and sons rushed to the television, Comedy Central at my suggestion, to watch along with the ecstatic majority, both on the streets as shown and by those journalists showing such scenes of history in the making being made.

What's less assured: the propositions. As for these, I'll avoid total "Dewey Defeats Truman" hubris, although Garry Trudeau's cartoon had been drawn well in advance of the ascension of Obama to the Van Allen Belt, so high have popular and journalistic expectations for his millennial reign soared. For all I know, the 2012 Mayan calendar aligns with Barack's rule over a gratefully cowed proleteriat as monitored by a compliantly reported world order.

What I'm curious about is how many of the ornery blogs that I skimmed last weekend and referred to as intelligent and entertaining commentary on the foibles of the nascent Democratic hegemony (I refer to these as anti-GOP sites remained-- at least until this morning-- legion and echoed through the morning paper or CNN, NPR and the BBC) will regroup after their relegation to instant irrelevance? For me, the excitement of the new regime remains not so much in its own spin control as opposed to the Cheney-Rove duo of evil, but how those now comprising His Majesty's Loyal Opposition will deploy the Net for a guerrilla campaign.

How will disenchanted feminists for Sarah, or gays for Hillary, or Latino vets for McCain track the emperor's march down Pennsylvania Avenue, in his new clothes? You Tube, viral rumors, cartoons and quips: whatever your own bias, you must admit it's part of the fun of our Natty Bumppo- deTocquevillean mob-misrule to satirize whomever's living large in D.C. At least we're rid of SNL's reprise of smarmy Tina Fey.

See what a $604,000,000 campaign, thanks to the winner's disregard for funding limits, buys us? Not to mention only the start of more stuffed-shirt bailouts by a party afraid of being labelled as socialists. So, for this largess from my paycheck and property taxes in lieu of/as wealth redistribution, I reckon I've earned the media spectacle. I anticipate low-intensity psy-ops waged beneath the networks and Net tycoons-- as I watch a man my age try to run this country. Not, we gamble, plummeting sharper than a Dow Jones graph, but ascending into an idyll of hope, change, and harmony. I'll be entertained by wooden Barry and doddering Joe more than by the departing administration's two dismal terms of torpor, terror, twilight.

Unless you're like (at least and probably not only) one Berkeley stereotype, cited in the New York Times I suppose as rare proof of diligent investigation into its demographic's own blinkered perspective. This woman last week drove all the way to Monterey, a Navy veteran's resort redoubt, about 150 miles south. Only there did she see her first McCain bumper sticker.

Although I wrote these preceding paragraphs at noon on Election Day, was I right?

P.S. I liked, in the few seconds I watched last night of Comedy Central's coverage, the footage from "Bambi" back-projected as the reporter weighed in from "Obama Headquarters" in corrupt Chicago. "It's always looking like this whenever he's in the Windy City!" Even before Colbert & Stewart went on the air with their show, the polls showed over 200 to 80 or so electoral votes for Obama, although the popular vote was only 300,000 apart; still open, of course, were such states as mine, liberal bastions. I went upstairs to read my novel, while my wife sat with laptop keyed in on results as she watched the Democratic total inexorably climb.

P.P.S. Image: The day after, Prop. 8 that limits marriage as defined in California to those of the opposite sex appears to mirror in reverse the 52%-47% margin of Obama's victory. I assume that-- as rumored-- many minority voters backing Obama also veered towards a more traditional reaction towards the legalization of same-sex marriages. As this issue's been bounced about in courts the past few years, the battle's not over. Meanwhile, is this one of the most confusing ads ever? Our friends, who had beat the deadline and got hitched up North last month, sent us this. They wondered about their own choice, as from this banner ad it's truly a narrow decision for Prop. 8 voters. A pair of strange bedfellows, ebony and ivory, hawk and dove, contemplating their nuptial options?

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