The Significance of Insignificance (aka what is most surprising about Barack Obama’s nomination)

I have been stunned by the events of the last eight years, beginning with George W. Bush’s first election coupe in Florida. Many of the things that have happened feel like a ridiculous science fiction novel and are quite distressing (e.g. Florida election, 9/11, Iraq lies, Iraq war, global revulsion of USA, Patriot Act, rise of the extreme Christians, faith-based decision making, extreme partisanism, oil crisis 2.0, global warming and the denial thereof, etc.).

And, the nomination of Barack Obama–as well as Hillary Clinton’s close second place–is right up there. Obviously, the fact that a (half) African American can be nominated is an unexpected, historical, and significant event. And, considering the regressive, fear-incited slide that America began in 2000 and 2001, the truly remarkable event is how insignificant Barack Obama’s race was during the campaign. Obviously, his race played a part in many people’s minds, as measured in the black and hispanic vote, but somehow it was not the main issue. This represents a major turning point for America and the rest of the world.

So, how did this happen?

Clearly, Barack Obama deserves most of the credit. He is a gifted orator and inspiring leader, and he presents a refreshing bi-partisan, reasonable, and fair character. But, I believe that there are other factors that made this significant event mostly insignificant.

First, George W. Bush and friends were able to regressively transform our country in a matter of eight years because of the fear created by 9/11. See Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine for the recipe. Now that many are seeing the results and waking up, the pendulum has swung the other way (i.e. we want change). I believe that the majority of people while looking for the obvious fixes to Everything That’s Broken (e.g. foreign policy, economy, environment, health care), they are really looking for a new type of leadership and someone they can trust. And, Barack is feels like exactly the right guy at the right time. This is based on my theory that when choosing leaders the most important factor is the current conditions and how each candidates matches up, and less about who’s the best candidate in the absolute sense. When in crisis, go with something different. Hllary feels too much like the same. So, in summary, the current crisis conditions laid the ground work for Americans to nominate an African American. If he ran in a different time, I believe he would not have a chance.

My other wingnut theory as to why America was suddenly ready to vote for an African American is due to the TV show 24 in which the president, David Palmer, played by actor Dennis Haysbert, was African American. This may seem silly or even insulting to some, but this was the first time I have seen the president portrayed as a black man on national TV. And the key was that he appeared to be a remarkable president and leader. This TV role modeling showed many–albeit in a silly TV show–that it is possible:

"David_Palmer/ president_official_portrait_lores

Summary: The truly significant aspect of Barack Obama’s victory in the DNC presidential nomination is the insignificance of his skin color. I think there were three major factors that made this possible: 1) America is in crisis and wants a change, 2) Barack Obama is an amazing orator and leader, and fits #1 perfectly, and 3) the TV show 24 showed America that an African American can be great president.


2 thoughts on “The Significance of Insignificance (aka what is most surprising about Barack Obama’s nomination)

  1. Back in the dark ages, oh when I was in school in the way early nineties. I was taking a film appreciation class (part of that one year of social studies). It was taught by a truly amazing professor who _really_ loved the subject (one of my top 5 professors in school). One of his parting thoughts, which has stuck with me over the years is to pay close attention to the roles that African Americans are playing in media. In the ’90s it was starting to be more professional roles, lawyers, business people etc. Makes sense that the culmination of those roles is president. Thus making the last twenty years of cinema (and TV) the ground work for the candidacy.

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