The Obama special that aired a few nights ago in the US is designed to make people feel comfortable. If it doesn't work, nothing will. It worked on me. I even imagined myself watching it in West Virginia and it seemed to work. I felt at ease.
It was unmistakably contemporary America, yet there were just enough moons hanging low in the sky and views from freight train windows to give it an artisanal beauty. If there were any more, I might have had a high lonesome feeling to "walk off and look for America", but there weren't and instead I had an incredible urge to go to work with my co-workers and desire that President Obama would visit me at work and maybe work a shift beside me. This was my fantasy for the night.
This was smart, manipulative film-making that is honest about being a populist infomercial and has some meat on its bones as well. I didn't sneer or cringe at anything that was said. I am tired of having to feel embarrassed for candidates and the people who support them when lack of sincerity should be the first tip-off that something is rotten. As much as I like my liberal fake news, the dramatic irony of seeing McCain bomb night after night is draining me.
And I know that no matter how hard McCain or Bush tried, they could never make a movie like this. Not in a million monkeys with a million cameras in a million years. The fact that propaganda like this can be made is a positive argument to me. It's a coherent grounded vision.
Obama himself has immense charisma (well duh). Sometimes I look at him (usually in a frontal shot where he is smiling) and something positively Mandelan about him, a sweet, wizened optimism and humility. At other times he seems like an inveterate Chicago politician, nothing bad in that in itself, emanating toughness and with that slight smoker's huskiness to his voice. The third component is preacher-like righteous thunder.
At the same time, the promises seem really modest. The person I was watching it with asked rhetorically, "Are things really that bad in America?" In a way, I suppose people are unhappy and feel unappreciated. The concerns seemed a bit small and bourgeois, if you can have blue collar bourgeois.
There was little talk of outer space, for example, or of science. Maybe I'm being small-minded myself, but we are in the 21st century and it is time to start acting like it. We need a narrative besides "getting back to a status quo". How long will it be before we will get to the point where we will want to explore things again, not just to keep up with a rival civilization, but because they are interesting? I hope Obama will stimulate people's intellectual curiosity and keep people honest, too.
It seems that an immense amount of capital of every kind is being spent to make this a certainty, and then the only thing we can hope for is an "undo" or "system state restore" to some point in the past. We will get bored there. We don't really want Obama to give us some egalitarian version of the 1920s.
I realize that in 27 minutes, he has to speak to the common denominator and make people feel good. This is tough, despite what he says about there only being one America not a red and a blue. In fact Obama himself arguably spoke two languages in this 30 minutes. Listen to him when he is in front of a white audience and when he is speaking to a largely black gathering.
So the first thing is to banish the fear and distrust, I guess. Must start somewhere.