Monday, May 12, 2008

Joe Klein on Barack Obama the 'Game changer'

For the second week in a row Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein touches on presentation in politics, this time with a more confessional tone. I've commented before on how Barack Obama is running a symbolic candidacy ironically by shunning symbolic political rituals (flag lapel pins, pandering), something Klein described previously as 'low information signaling'.

Its been accepted over the years that its fair game for a Presidential candidate to be judged on peripheral and otherwise trivial character traits. In 2004 John Kerry was deemed not presidential because he "seemed French", went windsurfing and only pretended to be a war hero. On the other hand George W Bush was seen as a macho warrior and someone you could have a beer with.

john kerry windsurfing george bush pilot hero

In wrestling, wrestlers are not judged by their arsenal of moves but on how they captivate the audience with their charisma. In politics, policy issues are secondary in the presentation of a candidate. Campaigns and debates are carnival like affairs that woo voters, powered by the candidates' charisma and the advancing of a person's narrative.

In the May 19, 2008 edition of Time Magazine Joe Klein writes on Obama's "game changing" strategy that asks voters and the media to rethink how they view and digest political theatre.
The Game Changer.
Barack Obama has refused to play by the old political rules. He's about to be rewarded for it...

Joe Klein continues confessionally
In retrospect, it was easy to see that Clinton was desperate, willing to say almost anything to get over. At the time, she just seemed strong, certainly stronger than Obama on Meet the Press ... at least she did to me and many members of my chattering tribe. And our knee-jerk reactions — our prejudice toward performance values over policy — could infect the campaign to come between Obama and John McCain, just as it has the primaries...

Klein concedes that politics may always be about 'show'
Politics will always be propelled by grease, hot air and showmanship, but in the astonishing prosperity of the late 20th century, we allowed our public life to drift toward too much show biz, too little substance. Yes, the low-information signals — the bowling and tamale-eating — are crucial; politicians have to show that they are in touch with the lives of average folks. But a balance needs to be struck between carnival populism and the higher demands of democracy, and as a nation, we haven't been very good lately with the serious part of the program...

Read Joe Klein's piece on "Obama - (The) Game Changer"
Read Joe Klein's previous piece on 'low information signaling'
Read my previous post "Obama - A 'no symbol' symbolic candidacy"
Go to Joe Klein's bio

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