I haven’t read No Logo yet, but like Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy, it’s going on my list of interlibrary loan requests.
I found this a couple of days ago, and in light of the forthcoming State of the Union, toward which I wish I was feeling less jaded, it’s an interesting take on what’s been frustrating some of us on the progressive side of the political spectrum. Enough with the task forces, and the pronouncements, and all of that. Just DO Something. Like ram health care through. I was thinking last night while driving down valley that we need an LBJ right now, someone not afraid to bust heads, and it occurred to me that perhaps that person was Hillary Clinton? Just a passing thought, and actually, I think she’s a fabulous Secretary of State … but I had a moment. Did I back the wrong candidate?
This preference for symbols over substance, and this unwillingness to stick to a morally clear if unpopular course, is where Obama decisively parts ways with the transformative political movements from which he has borrowed so much (the pop-art posters from Che, his cadence from King, his “Yes We Can!” slogan from the migrant farmworkers – si se puede). These movements made unequivocal demands of existing power structures: for land distribution, higher wages, ambitious social programmes. Because of those high-cost demands, these movements had not only committed followers but serious enemies. Obama, in sharp contrast not just to social movements but to transformative presidents such as FDR, follows the logic of marketing: create an appealing canvas on which all are invited to project their deepest desires but stay vague enough not to lose anyone but the committed wing nuts (which, granted, constitute a not inconsequential demographic in the United States). Advertising Age had it right when it gushed that the Obama brand is “big enough to be anything to anyone yet had an intimate enough feel to inspire advocacy”. And then their highest compliment: “Mr Obama somehow managed to be both Coke and Honest Tea, both the megabrand with the global awareness and distribution network and the dark-horse, upstart niche player.”