The Obama Aesthetic

Barack Obama's campaign has been all about image. The well-dressed, impeccably groomed, and elegantly articulate speaker was able to speak of hope, change, and unity, and for awhile the public bought it. Capitalizing on the huge store of guilt, compassion, and hope for better racial relations among the vast majority of Americans of all races, Obama posed as the man who might heal the wounds of the past.

The bonhomie lasted for months, as the press corps, no strangers to tObama's haloheir own guilt and hope and leftist inclinations, averted its eyes from those elements of his politics and life story that were discordant with a unifier's mission, and portayed him as almost supernaturally virtuous. Obama long ago learned how to disarm strangers who might find him an unusual or perhaps threatening figure, and as long as the scrutiny didn't get too detailed, the game worked splendidly.

But that was before Hillary Clinton's campaign took him seriously. Before the Clinton war room wizards, past masters of planting stories and themes in friendly media hands, got to work on him. American Thinker and other conservative websites long have been pointing to his Alinskyite past, noting his Senate voting record and his propensity to associate with left wing extremists like Bill Ayers. But until very recently, the major media were content to allow his chosen narrative of centrism and unity to prevail. No messy qualms about actual policies disturbed the aesthetic of hope and optimism and unity.

The press collaboration with Obama's PR became so sickeningly obvious that Saturday Night Live was able to mock it savagely, and receive kudos for puncturing the bubble.  With the impetus of scornful laughter haunting them, mainstream journalists began to pay more attention to Obama's dubious associations. Video of Pastor Wright hit ABC, and from there the rest of the mainstream media began to pay attention to discordant notes in his rhetoric of reassurance to middle Amercia.

The ABC News-sponsored debate Wednesday night featured unprecedentedly tough questioning (at least for a liberal) by George Stephanopoulos and Charlie Gibson. Obama stumbled in his responses, comparing admitted terror bomber Bill Ayers to United States Senator Tom Coburn, a physician who has delivered thousands of babies. Even more astonishingly, when reminded that capital gains tax increases actually decrease tax revenue while cap gains tax cuts increase them, he actually retreated to the realm of class warfare, insisting that regardless of the consequences, he wants to punish the owners of capital in the name of "fairness."

Welcome the new aesthetic of Barack Obama, the left wing ideologue. The signs have long been there, for those with the eyes to see them.Obama HQ Che poster

It is no accident that Obama has become the candidate of the Democrats' left wing fringe, typified by the Daily Kos crowd, despite his continuing efforts to sound a centrist note. The kind of people who are comfortable working with a poster of Che Guevara 
looking over their shoulders have been attracted to Obama because they read the little signals belying his centrist pose.

Of course, it may be unfair to hold a candidate responsible for all the actions of any of his supporters, but when a campaign itself indulges in the aesthetic of leftism, it may actually mean something. Take the striking posters of the candidate created by left wing artist Shepard FairObama change posterey, some sold by the online Obama store run by his campaign. The entire run of the Fairey posters has sold out, so popular are they among the leftist cognoscenti whose aesthetic tastes run to nostalgic socialist realism.

Of the Fairey posters, the "Progress" poster is the most interesting. "Progressive" is, of course, the favorite euphemism for the hard left today.

Take a close look at the Obama campaign emblem placed on the "progress" poster. It is placed almost as if it were a medal worn on his lapel. And in place of the ordinary Obama campaign "O" seen on the "Change" poster, the "Progress" poster features a five pointed star in the middle. Look at it close up:

Obama symbol star

The symbol is almost reminiscent of the Soviet medal the Order of the Red Star [hat tip to reader Mark Roth]:

This is not to suggest that Obama is some Manchurian Candidate controlled by a conspiracy from the vanished USOrder of the Re StarSR, but rather that his campaign is choosing to cultivate a hard left constituency via semiotic means.

There is in America a substantial faction of the hard left which waxes nostalgic for the good old days of Soviet art and culture, and members of this group have been cultivated by the Obama campaign.

Madison commie nostalgia
(source: Jay Nordlinger, National Review Online)

Of course, the smug in-group nostalgia for an evil and murderous ideology is not only repellant to most Americans, it is easily mocked.

leftist recycling
Image by Daniel Montrose

Barack Obama has been able to preach racial harmony while attending and donating to Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for two decades. He has been able to masquerade as a centrist while hobnobbing with the radical chic activists and unrepentant terrorists of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.  He has been able to pose as a centrist while believing in the necessity of punishing owners of capital. But with Hillary Clinton and her minions aggressively pursuing him, and an awakened press chagrinned at giving him a pass for so long, those days may be numbered.

Thomas Lifson is editor and publisher of American Thinker.
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