Sunday, March 2, 2008

Obama's Music Vidoes; Idealistic Rhetoric

In case people haven’t seen them, here are the two Obama music videos that Will.I.Am produced.

The first, "Yes We Can," and the second, "We Are the Ones."

They’re both extremely cheesy, what with their black and white production and over-sincere characters, but it’s hard not to be affected by them. In that sense, at least, they’re perfect for the Obama campaign. How many times have you seen or heard Obama speak and thought to yourself, “This is totally ridiculous,” only to realize that you (a) don’t want to change the channel, (b) are smiling, and (c) find yourself yelling at people in the room to shut up so you can listen to that idealistic sludge.

The attacks on Obama’s idealistic rhetoric are at times truly laughable, although not entirely without merit. If people want to attack it, they should stick to the fact that his policies on international issues, campaign funding, and abortion (just to name a few) are not yet fully fleshed out.

But the laughable criticisms keep coming. Here’s one you’ll hear a lot of from generally young (think 18-30) Hillary supporters:

“I’ve been following politics for years. I’ve seen the way Hillary has worked in the Senate and have chosen my allegiance through careful research. All these young Obama supporters who have never followed politics and are just jumping on the bandwagon like NY Giants fans are truly pathetic. They don’t know anything and are being manipulated.”

Maybe you’ve heard something like that.

What someone with this criticism is really saying, in part, is that they know more than the young voters who are new to politics. These political noobs are uninformed and incorrect. Being careful not to distort the criticism, I would even say that there’s an underlying familiarity and comfort with the way the political system is currently run that the above Hillary supporter might feel Obama fundamentally threatens.

In any case, rhetoric—ESPECIALLY idealistic rhetoric—and what the Hillary supporter might call “manipulation” are basic, fundamental aspects of politics. They always have been. Let’s talk about the galvanizing speeches of Madison and the founding fathers; let’s talk about Lincoln talking straight out of his a**hole regarding the equality of blacks and whites; let’s talk about the turn of the century urban machines holding parades and barbecues to show the Irish that they like drinking too; let’s talk about FDR and his fireside chats; let’s talk about JFK and RFK and how much they really wanted to end Vietnam; etc. etc. etc.

You see, rhetoric is the art of influencing an audience. And most of politics involves just that—it is about winning the vote of the majority of people. Seriously! All you have to do is have more people like you than the other people, and you win! So you try and influence them any way possible.

The fact is that we shouldn’t be bitter. We should be rejoicing. The fact that young voters are being enthused by Obama and his idealistic rhetoric means that more young people are reading newspapers, watching the news, really caring about the government. And in the end, if the enthusiasm continues, it will make our generation more involved with our government, which will make the government more effective.

So no matter how many times you roll your eyes when watching those Obama vids, at least recognize that they’re contributing to the transformation of much of a generation; a generation that will be marked forever by the deep impressions of idealistic rhetoric.

[For more YouTube political viewing pleasure, here's a hilarious spoof on a John McCain "Yes We Can" video.]