23 August 2008

Generating Excitement

After a week of waiting – some would say an annoying week of waiting – Senator Obama has chosen one of his colleagues for his running mate. Senator Biden, we are finally told, will be the man. Thankfully, that episode is over.

I’m thankful that it’s over because it seems quite obvious that the whole purpose of Sen. Obama’s “decision” timeline has been to generate excitement. News outlets have been complicit; they are in the business of generating excitement and need coat-tails to ride on. The “waiting for the text message” manufactured pseudo-drama seems custom made for 24-hour news machines.

But all of this excitement does something important; it masks critical thought and discussion about policy and positions with empty wondering about a text message and the name of a person. Sen. Obama’s campaign has skillfully and successfully burned a week of the campaign using a non-story. It was an important week to burn, as well. Not only was it the last week before the Democrat convention, where empty news space might have been filled with an analysis of Sen. Obama’s (and the Democrat’s) political platform – a particularly worrisome point when considering moderate voters who probably don’t like the reality of socialist policies – but also one that saw polls with Sen. McCain closing or even beating Sen. Obama nationally. Manufactured excitement, and the news media’s eager propagation of such, has served Sen. Obama’s purpose.

Next comes the excitement of the Democrat convention. Much swooning and such will be done, especially at the mass rally at Denver’s Invesco Field, which seats 75,000. The only downside for the Democrat nominee is that he and his party will have to actually give speeches during the convention; speeches which can be pulled apart, examined, and reflected upon.

My guess is that two things will be found in those speeches. There will probably be a number of socialist programs masked with populist language. It is, after all, all about the little guy and what the government can do to “help” him in an active, invasive manner. Nailing those down to specifics will require skill, though, as empty rhetoric will fill and spill over the empty spaces in between programs. We’ve heard this already, and endlessly. “Hope” and “unity” are, as they have been used by Sen. Obama in the context of this election, empty. They are empty words that fill the empty spaces of the candidate’s message, of which there are many.

And all of this will be camouflaged by the transitory, uncritical air of excitement. Excitement is the big tent Sen. Obama’s campaign uses shielded itself from the everyday voter’s attempt to view it critically (because, in all honesty, I don’t think that most folks think about this election and its machinations as much as I do…or those who may read this blog do, for that matter). But like the Wizard in Oz, the flashes and smoke and explosions – exciting distractions all – will sooner or later fail to convince some, or most, that what is behind the curtain is anything more than run-of-the-mill. Or worse.

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