I was impressed with his willingness to look at the issues that France faces in a new ways, not bound by tradition and dogmas.
Of course, the main reason to hate Obama is the worry that, in a certain depressing sense, he’s right. Like Sarkozy, Obama positions himself by invoking in order to reject a particuar idea of the 60s. One of the main ways in which he claims to be “new,” to represent “change,” is that, unlike the boomer Clintons, he is a “post-60s” candidate. And maybe he’s right; maybe this is all that the post-60s political landscape has left us with. I’ve been reading Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72, and the difference between McGovern (an actual anti-war candidate) and Obama (an anti-war, anti-doing-anything-to-stop-the-war, candidate) is depressingly clear. Thompson describes the 1972 election as a failed attempt to continue the political change of the 60s by dismantling the Democrats, which failed because the 60s were already falling apart:
“I’m happy when I’m with him, because he makes me like myself.”
Jesus, I thought. We’ve raised a generation of stone desparate cripples…. The importance of Liking Yourself is a notion that fell heavily out of favor during the coptic, anti-ego frency of the Acid Era—but nobody guessed, back then, that the experiment might churn up this kind of hangover: a whole subculture of frightened illiterates with no faith in anything…. These are not the kind of people who really need to get hung up in depressing political trips.
These are Obama’s base. Obama’s message of unity (which, as the satirical Sarkozy poster above, or shag’s typically great analysis, points out, requires an “except,” someone outside the unity) is a message for those terrified of the divisions required by politics. Obama’s invocation of the 60s, though, is more sophisticated than Sarkozy. Where Sarkozy takes the typical right-wing position of attacking the “imorality” of the 60s, Obama’s position is, as it were, more in sorrow than in anger. While Obama agrees with Sarkozy that the 60s are responsible for a moral crisis, this is not so much a crisis of imorality as one of amorality; Obama’s relationship to the 60s is one of regret, in which the post-60s period is defined as being a period of a loss of hope. This is partly descriptive, because it allows Obama to connect a supposed failure of the 60s with a past and future failure of the Clintons. But it’s also rhetorical: Obama needs to produce this feeling of a loss of hope, needs to construct an image of melancholia in the minds of his audience so that he can make his claim to move beyond the 60s on an emotional, not a policy, level. Obama invokes the 60s to invoke a despair to which he can present himself as the solution: as the candidate for those who are, in his wierd and creepy slogan, “ready to believe again.”