Obama - Master of Political Stagecraft

Discussion in 'Congress' started by The BKP, Nov 18, 2008.

  1. The BKP
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    The BKP Grand Inquistor

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    One of the areas that the Obama campaign clearly dominated its’ Republican counterpart was in the realm of political stagecraft.

    As the old saying goes, perception is reality. Masters of political stagecraft understand it is a powerful element in the creation of perceptions and thereby political realities.

    As early as June, I gave the stagecraft advantage to the Obama camp. This was due in part, to their mastery of the “shot”.

    Keenly aware that television is the medium of preference in modern politics, the Obama campaign was ever mindful of the “shot”. The “shot” is the image - both video and still - that frames the candidate.

    It is the subliminal message and subtext to the moment. It conveys strength, enthusiasm, stability, energy, experience or momentum with images, music, people and placards.

    As an illustration of the Obama camp’s mastery of political stagecraft and their ability to stage a “shot”, one need look no further than the candidate rallies on the historic night Obama seized the Democratic nomination.

    While McCain spoke to a few hundred supporters in a low-ceilinged room in Kenner, Louisiana, Obama played to a standing room only audience of thousands at the very same arena where the Republicans would hold their national convention at the end of summer. Not only did he make history, he made an impression and a statement all in one fell swoop.

    Speaking before Obama, McCain’s green stage backdrop appeared to be a section of Fenway Park’s legendary “Big Green Monster”. Staid and uninspired, while it may have been an attempt to subliminally reinforce McCain’s environmentally friendly image, the result conjured up images of Jimmy Carter’s trademark green campaign material.

    Call me silly, but I seriously doubt the Carter years and the naive peanut farmer-cum-President are images any thoughtful Republican would want to be associated with.

    In sharp contrast to McCain's ham-handed efforts, understanding that coverage of each of his primary victory speeches – and even those rare nights when his remarks where concessionary – were free nationwide primetime commercials, the Obama campaign carefully crafted the tableaus in which the Senator appeared.

    That historic night in June was no exception.

    Speaking in St. Paul, Minnesota, Obama held a rally that fed into the perception of the campaign being as much a rock star tour as a march to the White House. Adoring and cheering throngs set a distinct contrast to the candidate’s own sublime emotional state on the historic night. While the electricity of victory energized the crowd, the victorious Obama appeared humbled by the weight of history.

    Clearly the Senator’s staff understood that a picture tells a thousand words and each rally is a montage of a thousand images.

    Having been labeled all style and no substance, the Obama camp embraced stagecraft with an almost religious-like fervor. They pressed their candidate's energy and charm to the forefront. His image and message were managed with Madison Avenue precision.

    From the night of his acceptance of the Democratic presidential nomination beneath a star-lit Rocky Mountain sky, the campaign fashioned an air of inevitability around Obama and his candidacy as it soldiered on to November 4th.

    Stumbling briefly in the wake of Senator McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate and the resulting post-election Republican bounce, the Obama campaign quickly recovered and refocused on two of the three critical elements to his eventual victory – the Senator himself and his image.

    Nodding once again to the axiom that perception is reality, the campaign diligently labored to make Obama look “presidential”.

    What exactly is “presidential”, you ask?

    Much like pornography, a uniformly acceptable standard is elusive. Yet – again like pornography – it is easy enough to recognize when one sees it.

    When the campaign built a columned stage for Obama’s acceptance speech in Denver, they were openly using architectural elements common to governmental buildings. Though many Conservatives condemned it as a hubristic and egomaniacal “temple” in which the Senator would receive the anointing of the Democratic Party’s nomination, it gave the Obama campaign the “shot” and tableau they were looking for.

    A historic night was framed by the architecture of history and the images were broadcast across the nation and the world. Obama appeared “presidential”. Therefore, the perception successfully underscored the reality the campaign sought to create.

    Following the simple formulae that the “shot” was the key element of perception, the campaign repeatedly staged one event after another that alternately created the reality of enthusiasm, inevitability and presidential stature and finally victory.

    One might think that having labored so long and hard, ever mindful of every camera angle, the position of each flag and banner, the color of a neck tie and the entrance and exit music that the Obama camp would look forward to letting down their hair and relishing the moment of ultimate victory on Election Night. If so, they would be wrong.

    In the mind of the Obama campaign, his remarks in the wake of his victory were the first images – the first “shot” if you will – of the Obama presidency.

    Acknowledging the history of the moment and returning to the success of his primaries’ strategy, Obama opted to use his victory remarks as a platform to address the nation. In essence, it was Obama's first presidential address. In doing so, not only did he appear presidential, he was presidential.

    Underscoring the seriousness with which the President-elect and his staff approaches his image and the ephemeral “presidential aura”, in contrast to the giddy pop-psychobabble of Fleetwood Mac’s “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” that wafted across Little Rock the night Bill Clinton won the presidency, grandiose symphonic overtures swept over the gathered multitudes in Chicago as Obama stepped into history as the first biracial President-elect of the United States.

    The evocative note was clear. Though he could not be heralded with "Hail to the Chief" that night, he would nonetheless receive pomp and flourishes worthy of his new station.

    From the campaign’s launch in the shadow of where Lincoln debated to the historic moment of victory, President-elect Obama and his staff have repeatedly demonstrated an almost Zen-like mastery of the art of political stagecraft. While this will certainly be an invaluable asset they carry with them to the White House, images can only go so far when the task is governing and not merely campaigning.

    Every picture tells a story, don’t it, faithful readers?

    Stay tuned for further updates as events warrant and the weight of reality distorts and refocuses its perceptions.
     
  2. dilloduck
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    dilloduck Diamond Member

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    Still won't give up on the idea that perception is reality I see :lol:
     
  3. editec
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    editec Mr. Forgot-it-All

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    I agree that the Obama campaign was well staged.

    Since the Bush administration did the backdrops for him, making Obama look good was damned easy, too.
     
  4. rayboyusmc
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    rayboyusmc Senior Member

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    And McCain screwed up his own campaign. Wow, he would have really done well as the president.
     

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