Presidential campaigns and rock stars

Man. I was moving so slowly this morning on the road at 5 a.m. that I wasn’t sure if I was walking or running. Good thing I didn’t run the New York City Marathon yesterday. At this morning’s pace I would still be circling the Big Apple’s five boroughs.

But I didn’t run the marathon. And I didn’t head to Cleveland for the late afternoon campaign rally with Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen. I passed on that even though I received a personal invitation Saturday from Barack via e-mail. I hope he isn’t spending too much time writing and reading e-mails these days. Most of us know how much time that can waste — and how easy a diversion the blogosphere is from any important work. I digress.

I didn’t go to the rally for a few reasons. First, I was a little uneasy about the conversion of the now-optimistic Obama fans and the always-bitter Browns fans. Second, I figured I would have to park far enough away from the rally venue that getting there on foot would be the equivalent of completing a marathon.

I’m also not much of a Springsteen fan — and I’m getting plenty of e-mails directly from Barack and Michelle these days. So why make the trip? Now if I would have known that Gretchen Wilson was going to be in Canton with Sarah Palin — well, worth considering.

I guess the alignment of politicians and rock stars and other personalities has always been part of election campaigns. It’s a way to connect with voters on a more personal level than candidates do during debates and stump speeches. Deep in their hearts, don’t politicians want to be liked? They really can’t be as mean as the ads portray them. Can they?

So I think you are going to see more of the candidate-as-friend strategy in future campaigns — waged I’ll bet with more online media and with the traditional news media having less and less control over the messages. Consider how Saturday Night Live has changed campaigns and altered our view of candidates. Here’s a great story and some examples from Eric Deggans the TV/medic critic with the St. Petersburg Times.

So I missed the opportunity to spend time over the weekend with Barack, Bruce, Sarah and Gretchen. But I did go see the Oliver Stone movie, W. Didn’t have to fight any crowds there. Only about 10 of us in total in the theater. I guess people have seen enough of the current president in real time.

So that’s pretty much how I spent the weekend. Oh, yeah. I read the Sunday New York Times, and here’s from Tom Friedman’s column “Vote for ( )”:

So, bottom line: Please do not vote for the candidate you most want to have a beer with (unless it’s to get stone cold drunk so you don’t have to think about this mess we’re in). Vote for the person you’d most like at your side when you ask your bank manager for an extension on your mortgage.

Vote for the candidate you think has the smarts, temperament and inspirational capacity to unify the country and steer our ship through what could be the rockiest shoals our generation has ever known. Your kids will thank you.

For context, go see W.

Then rock on!

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8 responses to “Presidential campaigns and rock stars

  1. First, as a Browns fan, I object to your blanket condemnation of us as bitter! Dejected, yes! Disillusioned, yes! Cynical, yes! Jaded, yes! But NOT bitter!

    I was at the Browns game yesterday, and we took 90 to avoid what we thought would be gridlock on 77 due to the game ending and the Obama rally beginning. We passed Burke-Lakefront Airport and, lo and behold, we saw Obama’s jet with the “Change We Can Believe In” slogan emblazoned on the sides.

    My Browns’ buddy remarked after seeing the plane, “On Wednesday, they’re going to repaint that to “Same Old, Same Old.”

    The point being, for us cynical, jaded and disillusioned voters out there, the only thing we think will change is who has the ball. Washington will not change and the special interests still will have great influence – it’s just that the faces will be different.

    I think the rock star hype and the politician as cool friend strategy has energized people, especially young people. But I fear that if real change isn’t made, they will become disenchanted once they realize that “change” can be just a catchy slogan. When a real friend lets you down, you can forgive him. Not so sure what happens when a virtual friend lets you down.

  2. Ok. I retract the bitter comment. Dejected. Disillusioned. Cynical. Jaded. Those are quite enough emotional burdens for the fans of any single team to carry year, after year, after year 🙂

    And I hope it is not politics as usual after Tuesday, regardless of who wins. I talked last week at the PR Principles class at Kent and I asked how many of the students either already had voted or planned to vote. Out of about 100 students — almost every one had a hand in the air.

    I hope we don’t disappoint this new generation of voters. And for me, I’m tired of being cynical — and bitter.

  3. As a student on Kent’s politically active campus, I am almost offended by Browns’ buddy’s comment. Well, that’s a lie…but I whole-heartedly disagree. 🙂

    I don’t believe that it will ever go back to the “Same Old, Same Old”– this surge of youth vote is the beginning of a new era. Call me naive, or young, but I have the heart and the determination to change the state we are in, and I know I am not alone. We don’t like the direction our nation is heading in, and we won’t stand for it.

    There are many students on our campus who have dedicated most of their time this semester to campaigning. They aren’t doing this for extra credit or money, but out of sheer faith that come January, our nation will finally have a leader we can believe in.

    Whatever happens in the upcoming hours, I have regained a sense of hope our nation. And hope is a beautiful thing.

    Happy Election Day!

  4. I genuinely hope you are right, jyokester. I don’t want to see young people of this generation disillusioned.

    But I have already read about the trial lawyers and the union bosses ready to line up at the tough. As George Stephanopolous said months ago, they’re called entrenched interests for a reason.

    But maybe Obama will prove me wrong.

  5. Jyokester,

    Don’t be too hard on Browns’ buddy. He/she suffers enough just about every Sunday from the end of August until the end of December.

    And I agree with you about not going back to politics as usual. But here’s why. Young people are going to vote today — and then they are going to stay engaged. I really do believe that regardless of who wins (Obama/McCain) we’re seeing a generational shift in campaigns, elections and expectations for government leaders. Good.

  6. Rob and Tim,

    I may have taken it a little rough on the Browns fan, but when you have high hopes of marrying Hines Ward, you become a little biased.

    Otherwise, I’m not trying to make either candidate out to be a saint–we know no one’s perfect and Washington has a lot of explaining to do.

    What I am hoping for is a continued sense of patriotism and pride from not only our generation, but from everyone. Maybe a little more optimism? Certainly couldn’t hurt.

  7. Good points! And maybe I’m too cynical. I think we can take pride in the fact that a major racial barrier has been broken and, to a certain extent, a gender barrier was breached during this election.

  8. Jyokester,

    I really do agree with you. We need a return to civility in politics and government — and we need hope that a president (and other leaders) can unite the country. I wrote about that this morning.

    And I’m optimistic about Obama — and also realistic that he faces some tough problems and challenges. I also believe we witnessed last night another generation shift in politics and government. The first in my lifetime being John Kennedy in 1960.

    By the way, I like you blog. Keep at it.

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