Our President Obama seems most unique to me in the manner in which he conducts his office. Most American presidents have struck me as guys living and working in the White House, appearing once in a while to go to Camp David or maybe to visit a personal ranch to cut brush as Ronald Reagan was reported doing. Some, like Eisenhower, played golf. Every four years, they became visible for a short time, campaigning. Between campaigns, we didn’t see them a lot though of course, their names were regularly in the news. Or as with some of President Kennedy’s activities, regularly not in the news. Barack Obama is very different. He is the news.
He’s the Presidential pioneer, seems to me, of a U.S. model of governance by permanent campaigning to the masses, a campaign model that relies heavily upon propaganda disseminated via all the news, mass and social media available. And he is the first in a very long time to have a majority of the purveyors of public news heavily committed to him and to his programs. He’s accused of failing to lead; that’s hard to understand when he’s on camera yelling: “Charge!” or demonizing the GOP or selling some new spending at what seems like every time one turns on a TV or sees a news video. It’s amazing that one human being can appear so often, in so many places; one wonders if perhaps, he is actually several men who look alike; that would explain the need for his many teleprompters as well as his extraordinary mobility.
His governance model’s heavy reliance on propaganda and personal appearances channels a historical precedent; it developed first along with the availability of radio, telegraph, telephone and news services. Combining all into a tool of political management was a notable accomplishment of another political leader and the brilliant PhD. who managed the program. You may see their history-making story here: Nazi Propaganda will show you what occurred in 1930’s Germany and is now in use in 21st century America, bigger and better than ever.
This use of an expanded older communication model in a new time and place does not say that the President hates Jews, uses stormtroopers to execute his enemies (we know he prefers drones for that) or is planning to disarm the citizens to ease transition to a police state. What he intends is probably, just marketing his programs in the modern manner. But as so often with things involving our governors, some consequences may not be intended but occur anyway, too often to our detriment. And there seems to me, one such consequence in President Obama’s gigantic omnipresence.
Our Founders’ democracy relied upon knowledgeable citizens engaged in public discourse and debate; they protected that with the Constitution. That process is weakened and can be drowned in a flood of Obama news, Obama headlines and Obama appearances, a flood that never ends and in our era of fifteen-second sound bites, leaves little room for other, ‘less important’ information. An omnipresent governor can build momentum that swamps too much else. There is of course, a risk in this; people can tire of faces they see too often. To date, the President has appeared to manage that successfully by linking many of his appearances with important events that seem to justify them. He has increased his power and so far, seems able to push Congress into playing defense.
Where it goes from here, we will have to see; there is now talk of a third term. That will require a Constitutional amendment of course, or as some on the Left now advocate, abandonment of the Constitution. For now, neither seems likely. But the government is using too much of our communications to manipulate the masses for my comfort, and the Presidential face is too much seen, reminding of the faces of Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler that were plastered everywhere. We need the return of a more humble, democratic model of governors who realize they are human-sized and only men, just like the rest of us. With that, we might see the return of mannered public debate instead of having to rely on The Prez plus people shouting at each other in short sound bites on TV. You may decide for yourself; I’d like to see that.