Brainstorm: Barackology 101--Toward a New Kind of Political Theater - Chronicle.com
Barackology 101--Toward a New Kind of Political Theater
I am spending the week in Michigan, which means that I’m just about completely caught up on the **** surrounding Detroit’s Kwame Kilpatrick, the so-called “hip-hop mayor,” who faces the prospect of being ousted as early as next week during a “removal hearing” ordered by Michigan’s governor, Jennifer Granholm.
Of course, Michigan was one of the two states trapped in the middle of the Clinton-Obama vote tabulation dispute this primary season, so it is also interesting to see local coverage of the Democratic Convention. The message doesn’t seem too differently pitched than the one offered up by national media outlets (although every other TV commercial seems to be that McCain ad linking Ayers to Obama).
But where do we all stand now? Well, we have already heard the Clintons offer their two-pronged support of the ticket, and Joe Biden unveiled his critique of John McCain’s judgement last night. But all eyes are on tonight’s overdetermined acceptance speech, and Republicans are arguing that Obama has a herculean (read: impossible) task ahead of him tonight if he wants to satisfy his critics.
But what does 0bama really need to say? And can he say anything to convince his most adamant detractors?
For my two cents, I’d want to hear that Obama is willing to lose this election. Really. Especially if it means losing it on principle. (And I want to hear the same thing from McCain.)
One Faustian-like pact that politicians often make is the one that seems to put the end (election victory) too far above the means used to get there. Everyone appears willing to tweak their message and their image in whatever big or small way might produce strategic advantage.
But I want to know more about what Obama won’t compromise on—about how he thinks about the difference between real issues and the mereness of political spin. I know it is naïve (and even maybe political **** in the current mediascape), but I want to hear him tell us some things that are brutally honest, even unpleasant. He shouldn’t just give us party talking points; he should operationalize that “hope” he’s been talking about, bring it to life in ways that are unexpected and tangible.
I know these kinds of events are just political theater, and that he has already been criticized for making this year’s version more spectacular than usual. And maybe I’m simply calling for a different kind of theater. But I care less about that FoxNews-maligned “Barack-opolis” backdrop behind him and more about the extent to which he will feel comfortable pushing us all to transform our hopes about new tomorrows into self-critical, self-sacrificial, and wonderfully courageous actions today. Give us the first substantive lesson on what it means to make hope a sociopolitical reality.
Posted at 01:40:58 PM on August 28, 2008 | All postings by John L. Jackson Jr.