Be Like Barack

By:  Rachel Marsden

Who cares about substance when you have a great marketing slogan?  That seems to be the mentality of politicians trying to latch onto the Obamamessiah’s halo.  What do they have in common?  Less than appealing agendas.  Who are they appealing to?  People who will pretty much buy any piece of garbage they see in an advertisement – especially if the neighbor has one, too.

Barack Obama’s came to power on a simple slogan of “Yes, we can,”, and the fact that John McCain left zero daylight between himself and Obama on the one issue that really appeared to matter to voters:  the taxpayer funded economic bailouts.  If voters were going to elect someone for a spending spree, apparently they preferred that he be upbeat about it, and be unencumbered by friends who may guilt him into buyer’s remorse or make him pay attention to the price tags.  Voters knew Obama was at least going to spend their money with contagious enthusiasm and verve!  “Yes we can…blow out the treasury!”

Did anyone really know what, “Yes, we can!” meant?  No, not really.  And who really cared anyway.  We now live in a culture where words don’t mean much to a great many people.  Even as a business professional, I receive “xoxo’s”, “love”, and “kisses”, in business correspondence, from people I barely know.  Text messages are accompanied by symbols that take a millisecond to produce, and require about as much thought.  This is why, unlike ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics, none of this e-trash is going to end up in museums, or analyzed for any sort of deep meaning 3,000 years from now.  It represents more of a fleeing urge, an emotional belch devoid of substance.  Humans have always had these, they just never felt compelled to share them – partly because it took some effort to produce.  We can no longer assume that when someone uses a word, it has any sort of true emotion or substance behind it.  So when someone asks, “What exactly does it mean when he says, ‘Yes, We Can”?” the onus isn’t on them – or Obama – to explain it, but rather on you for explaining why you’re being such a killjoy in asking that words actually be defined and assigned some sort of substance. 

But if you’re a shallow sort with unappealing ideas, then “Yes, we can!” is the perfect catch-all.  This linguistic muumuu will hide all your political flaws, and make you look appealing to any fools who can’t be bothered peeking underneath.  That is, until they wake up beside you someday after a wild night at the polls, and get an up-close look.

According to the UK Guardian, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, up for re-election in mid-June, is putting out videos featuring the slogan “We Can” in Farsi.  Why not use a line from the speech he gave this week in Syria?  How about this one:  “The Zionist occupiers are destructive microbes.”  Certainly it would be more indicative of his values and agenda.  Or how about this statement directed at President Obama, which, in a nutshell, captures his great love-hate emotional range:  “The gentleman’s support of the massacre of Gazans in support for the criminals who were responsible for that atrocity was a major mistake. I think that if Mr. Obama wants to help with the Palestinian issue, he has to move in accordance with justice, fair play.”

Or he could just be shown ripping up United Nations sanction letters while uranium centrifuges spin in the background.  That would do.

Next up:  The man who wants Conservative Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s job.  Michael Ignatieff was just elected Liberal Party leader over the weekend, to the tune of a speech that had audience members wildly repeating, “WE CAN!”  He spoke of a “message of hope”, and a “longing change sweeping across the land”. 

Wrong land, Iggy.  Ignatieff’s biggest problem is that Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minister Harper, has been singled out at various international meetings as being in the best shape to weather current economic difficulties.  Harper has kept bailouts and stimuli to a minimum, despite Liberal pleas to do otherwise - and no one is paying anyone else’s mortgage. 

So where’s the substance behind Obama’s borrowed rhetoric?  Right here:  He claimed at a business leaders’ meeting that he might want to raise taxes to deal with the national debt.  It gives new meaning to his “unity” rhetoric in his convention acceptance speech.  Apparently Canadians can count on the Ignatieff Liberals to unite their hard earned dollars with their neighbors’ wallets. 

Late last year, UK Tory leader David Cameron ripped off Obama’s “change” theme to promote his convention.  His opponent, current Labour PM Gordon Brown, is nearly 20 points behind in the polls and imploding.  Why adopt positions and policies that risk being unpopular when hollow rhetoric will suffice? 

The next time you hear a politician utter the marketing slogan, “Yes, we can!” – or some variation thereof – just replace it with “Tastes great, less filling!” and you’ll have a much better idea of what they’re really about.