Arujn Appadurai gets at some really interesting stuff regarding the language of Obama’s election, and its revolutionary potential.
Appadurai calls the feeling of November 4th ‘magic.’ While the language people used to describe Obama on election night was nearly religious, it wasn’t exactly devotional – the hype about Obama-as-Jesus was just that, hype – but his election did represent something special, something a little bit transcendent, beyond what has gone before. Magic implies a sense of the unknown, openness, play and potential.
It is precisely this sense of embracing uncertainty and creative potential that now President-Elect Obama has tried to eliminate since his election. Gone is the euphoric devotion to the man-as-symbol that represents radical change, replaced by the calculating Rahm Emanuel, and the mundanity of press conferences. He needs to pre-emptively tone down the sense of radical change that he developed during the campaign as to avoid any more commitments to leaps of faith on the part of his supporters – he needs them to become disciplined, calculating types that embrace him wholeheartedly as the lesser of many evils, and no longer as a transcendent force.
But that sense of magic he fostered for however many months might be precisely the energy that could be harnessed for other types of radical change.