The Spectacle Blog

The Once And Future King Of Obamerica

By on 7.2.08 | 4:49PM

Lord, is Sam Anderson's recent New York magazine spread on Barack Obama's ability to talk real pretty-like a piece of work!

Like America itself, [Obama is] addicted to origin myths. He's built his political success on the back of compulsive autobiography, the brilliant telling and retelling, and then retelling some more, of his divinely unorthodox life story: the great sweeping legend of Obamerica, the fusion of man and nation, whose manifest destiny extends all the way to the White House.


This, apparently, explains why his legislative record is pretty thin gruel: It must be difficult to moonlight as a senator when you're day job is going through the no doubt painful process of fusing yourself to the nation formerly known as the United States. (Welcome to Obamerica, please enjoy the complimentary compulsive autobiography.) Also, since the term "manifest destiny" is back in vogue, I'm happy to hear the Canadians are so jazzed on Obama. NAFTA will have to be renegotiated when you're absorbed in Greater Obamerica, friends. More:

It's significant that he used his first appearance in the national spotlight, the keynote speech at Kerry's DNC, to meta-sketch the inspirational origin of that very keynote speech: "Let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely," he said, and then unleashed, in about 60 seconds, a pithy intergenerational family saga spanning three continents and all the major events of mid-twentieth-century America (Depression, Pearl Harbor, postwar boom)--complete with such unlikely details as goat herding, a tin-roof shack, oil rigs, and Patton's army marching across Europe. It was like a brilliant movie trailer designed to promote the incalculably awesome feature attraction of his future political career. To deny his candidacy, after that, would be to deny a very powerful narrative logic--the goats, the tin-roof shack, Patton, all of it.

This sounds like the rantings of an overbearing salesman: If you want the goats and Patton, you're going to have to take the Obama--and trust me: You want the goats and Patton. They really tie the room of the national tin-roof shack together. And later:


My relationship to Obama has been a complex cycle of enthusiasm canceled immediately by self-correcting cynical objections, canceled by self-correcting enthusiasm, canceled again by the cynicism, canceled by the enthusiasm.


I guess I'm starting to see why people faint at Obama rallies. Hope...make...brain...huuuurt.

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