I spent a wonderful weekend in the Windy City, but as always I’m glad to be home. On stark display in Chicago was Obamamania.
Obama was EVERYWHERE. Splashed in a loud, hip kind of way throughout the city’s inner loop was Pepsi‘s ad campaign not so subtly linking Obama and the soda brand. On taxi cabs, bus stops and other spots, the original Pepsi logo and Obama symbol merged, embedded in words playing on attitudinal and emotional themes evoked by the candidate’s campaign and surrounding media hype.
At every gift shop, drug store or kiosk was Obama knick knacks. Every news and entertainment magazine seemed to boast a flattering picture of the incoming president on its cover. Media broadcasts knew of nothing else but the coming inauguration and presidency. At the bookstore, in addition to the wall of Obama-related books (Abraham Lincoln books were also being marketed heavily, no doubt attempting to create/capitalize on the running commentary endeavoring to compare the two figures) was a Chicago Bulls jersey bearing the name and number (44) of the president-elect and a book of paper pop-up dolls. Magnets, stickers, buttons and t-shirts, of course, were also on display.
As a patriotic dissenter (ha!) from the incoming Obama administration, all this became quite nauseating. Or should I say, my nausea reached new heights this weekend, and gave rise to my thoughts and questions of how long all of this will last.
One the one hand, surely some of the glow will wear off. Right? Presidents deal with reality where as candidates deal only in rhetoric. Eventually and inevitably, the public realizes it has elected not only a human being – but a politician! Neither tends to maintain auras of perfection over time, under scrutiny. Thus the infatuation at least tempers to something more akin to mere admiration, support or favored status.
On the other hand, Obama hasn’t even become president yet. Which means he is not even at full power, at least in real terms. He will command the attention of the nation: at large if nothing else by his newness; but for his partisans, by the intensity of their devotion. Could the public give him a pass, at least in the near and medium term future of his first term (say, up to two years), out of simple good will and a recognition that even the president should not be expected to be able to fully and quickly lead an economic recovery? These factors, aided irreplaceably by mainstream media support, could mean Obamamania might not be over any time soon.