If there's one thing I'd add to this, it's that Klein's frustrations and/or ambivalence with "the brand's" packaging (versus what's inside) are as much about the Democratic Party and our legislative branch's behavior this past year as they are about the White House. But, damn, she sure puts the pieces together better than just about...anyone. And, there's much in her essay which helps us understand what's going on in the Coakley-Brown senate race, today, as well.
"Naomi Klein: How Corporate Branding Took Over the White House"
By Naomi Klein, Fourth Estate. Posted January 18, 2010.
Ten years after the publication of "No Logo", Klein looks at how Obama created a brand that won him the Presidency. Will his failure to live up to his lofty brand cost him?
...many people supported Obama for straightforward strategic reasons: they rightly wanted the Republicans out and he was the best candidate. But what will happen when the throngs of Obama faithful realise that they gave their hearts not to a movement that shared their deepest values but to a devoutly corporatist political party, one that puts the profits of drug companies before the need for affordable health care, and Wall Street's addiction to financial bubbles before the needs of millions of people whose homes and jobs could have been saved with a better bailout?
The risk - and it is real - is that the response will be waves of bitter cynicism, particularly among the young people for whom the Obama campaign was their first taste of politics. Most won't switch parties, they'll just do what young people used to do during elections: stay home, tune out. Another, more hopeful possibility is that Obamamania will end up being what the US president's advisers like to call "a teachable moment". Obama is a gifted politician with a deep intelligence and a greater inclination towards social justice than any leader of his party in recent memory. If he cannot change the system in order to keep his election promises, it's because the system itself is utterly broken...
...What the election and the global embrace of Obama's brand proved decisively is that there is a tremendous appetite for progressive change - that many, many people do not want markets opened at gunpoint, are repelled by torture, believe passionately in civil liberties, want corporations out of politics, see global warming as the fight of our time, and very much want to be part of a political project larger than themselves.
Those kinds of transformative goals are only ever achieved when independent social movements build the numbers and the organizational power to make muscular demands of their elites. Obama won office by capitalizing on our profound nostalgia for those kinds of social movements. But it was only an echo, a memory. The task ahead is to build movements that are - to borrow an old Coke slogan - the real thing. As Studs Terkel, the great oral historian, used to say: "Hope has never trickled down. It has always sprung up."
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My kindred spirit sentiments towards Naomi Klein's thinking continue to grow by leaps and bounds. I could've written this very sentence (from the story linked-to in today's post) about my own career...
"Changing the subject from branding to politics was no great sacrifice because politics was what brought me to marketing in the first place."