Obama win a triumph of style over substance
The re-election of Barack Obama means, in effect, no change in political terms. In cultural terms, it may mark a significant staging post. It hardly seemed possible that an empty vessel like Obama could have succeeded in duping the electorate for another four years, but, absent an alternative, his re-election became inevitable.
Obama, essentially an actor, conveys the impression of incorporating in his personality the idea of 1960s optimism forged with whatever leftist ideas survived the collapse of Soviet communism. However, he does so only in the most superficial sense conceivable, in the way a showroom dummy wears a suit of clothes.
As president, untested by any significant crisis or event, he managed to convey the impression of the elasticity of these ideas in the modern world, whereas the evidence all around is of their terminal failure.
Mitt Romney is another actor, seeming to derive from the other end of the ideological spectrum but really just making slightly different noises to seduce the mainstream with similar ambiguities and insinuations.
America is the home and heartland of this bogus politics – which has dominated the West for half a century – under which the false categories of “left” and “right” pursue the same swinging quark of public volatility, jettisoning conviction in the process of perpetually recycling an increasingly distilled idea of what an “approved” position might sound like. But Obama is actually quite a good actor, whereas Romney is barely village panto-competent.
To speak of this election in terms of policies or political consequences is to miss the point. Events – perhaps cataclysmic events – will unfold during Obama’s second term, but they will have little or nothing to do with the incumbent president.
They will be dealt with on the basis of policies and strategies long in place, and varying only marginally with any change of guard in the White House. If Iran is nuked, it will be because the industrial-military complex has so decided. If something happens to place at risk the Irish corporate taxation regime, it will not be because of Obama, but because the US has finally decided to put its interests before indulgence.
Politics, in our lifetimes, has merely provided a gracing aspect to the relentless heave of money and vested interests, operating largely beneath the surface and the radar of media descriptions. At the core of this culture is television, which enabled an unprecedented breed of political actor to manipulate public emotions and replace content with sentiment.
The great totem of the process is the autocue, by which politicians read their speeches while pretending not to. As time passed everyone became alert to the fact that they were reading their words, but everyone pretended not to notice, even as the alertness burrowed into every soul.