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Politics and Pop Culture
Posted by: Jon Henke on Friday, February 15, 2008

Isaac Chotiner says the Hillary Clinton campaign is "just unlucky in having to face a unique political talent (surrounded by a very deft team) at his precise political moment." Ezra Klein concurs, adding, "Clinton's problems were [voting for the Iraq War and] running against a staggeringly talented insurgent who combined the traditional "wine track" strengths with overwhelming support among African-Americans and huge media power."

Here's a simpler explanation: A great political machine is still no match against the power of pop culture.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Like this guys seems to say, the Clintons are a bunch of whiners.

Is this the kind of POTUS we want for our country ?
Written By: Neo
URL: http://
I don’t like Hillary either, but I trust Obama even less. You don’t make pop stars president. You just don’t. I thought everyone knew that.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Obamamania is "pop culture," all right, but that’s not as in "popular culture," but rather "populist culture" and it’s messianic populist culture, at that.

It’s starting to come into focus for some, here and here (first item), for instance.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Edwards was just a populist as Obama and Hillary isn’t that far away. I believe the difference is a celebrity factor that media created around Obama. I’m leaning towards popular culture over populist culture.

In fact I suspect the former is making the latter easier to swallow in Obama’s case.
Written By: jpm100
URL: http://
I watched the "Yes We Can" video and was quite disturbed. It’s popular and populist. I feel like we are back in the Thirties and people are going with a demagogue that makes them feel good.

But the weird thing is that life is good in the US for the overwhelming majority. We aren’t in the midst of The Great Depression, though Obama paints America with that brush. Americans currently enjoy the most prosperous standard of living in human history. And, sure, it is really tough for some people, mostly those with serious mental or substance abuse problems, but otherwise compared to other places and other times, Americans are about as fortunate as humans get.

Some of those flocking to Obama, the upper middle-class whites, are responding to that most terrible of deprivations — not liking George Bush or the Iraq War.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
Well, the Democratic Party is a populist party, i.e., take for us from others, take more for us, because we are good and they are not and we need more. (Mencken: giving the people what they want, good and hard.)

The other day I described Edwards as an ambulance-chasing populist or a Nader-plus populist, Hillary as a technocratic populist, and Obama as a messianic populist.

What we call popular culture feeds right into all that (remember that among Bill’s nicknames was "Elvis" but it’s apparently tougher to sell Evita than it is Elvis), but populist politics, especially messianic populist politics should be familiar to all students of the 20th Century.

Obama is not a rock star, that’s a metaphor for the way his crowds are treating him. Obama is a man running for a job where he controls 10,000 nuclear weapons.

I think McCain would be a terrible president, that Hillary will go a step beyond that and be a horrible president, deadly to the very concept of America, but Obama will be a catastrophic president. He would make Hillary look like Clare Boothe Luce.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
A great political machine is still no match against the power of pop culture.
You’ve got that right. Pop culture worked for George "the guy you want to have a beer with" W. Bush in 2000.
Written By: Retief
URL: http://
All presidential candidates try to work some folksy magic on the masses. I remember Gore in 2000 said he would roll up his sleeves and fight. I imagine Bush did better on the pop front than Gore, but not all that much better.

Barack Obama has some real genius on this front. I think you have to go back to JFK to find this level of swooning for a politician. OTOH here’s an old Doonesbury strip from 1992 of three journalists talking about Clinton.

Roland: Hey, men! Take in Slick Willie’s speech this morning?
Mark: No. How was he?

Roland: The usual...All things to all men, women, and children, regardless of race, faith or party affiliation. I’m thinking of doing a tough take on him tonight!

Roland: I don’t care how good his organization is or how well he speaks or how much he inspires people or...or...

Roland: Oh, hell, let’s just go work for him.
Mark: We already have.
Rick: I wonder if we should unionize.
Written By: huxley
URL: http://
I recently returned from living in Australia for two years. A friend of mine there told me he was glad they had a parliamentary system for choosing a prime minister rather than a direct election of a president like the US. He was sure that people would vote in some footballer, or actor, or other pop figure with no business being president. I laughed and told him I had more confidence that people weren’t quite that dumb.

Obama is showing me just how right he may have been.
Written By: mprell
URL: http://

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