State of the Union: time for brand Obama to execute

How timely that Naomi Kline’s How Corporate Branding Took Over the White House piece so well analyzes the state of Obama’s brand.  I found this portion of Naomi’s piece particularly on-mark:

[Obama] will boldly appoint the first Latina to the Supreme Court, while intensifying Bush-era enforcement measures in a new immigration crackdown…

This preference for symbols over substance, and this unwillingness to stick to a morally clear if unpopular course, is where Obama decisively parts ways with the transformative political movements from which he has borrowed so much (the pop-art posters from Che, his cadence from King, his “Yes We Can!” slogan from the migrant farmworkers – si se puede). These movements made unequivocal demands of existing power structures: for land distribution, higher wages, ambitious social programs. Because of those high-cost demands, these movements had not only committed followers but serious enemies. Obama, in sharp contrast not just to social movements but to transformative presidents such as FDR, follows the logic of marketing: create an appealing canvas on which all are invited to project their deepest desires but stay vague enough not to lose anyone but the committed wing nuts (which, granted, constitute a not inconsequential demographic in the United States).

By the same token, it’s particularly timely that George Lakoff has put in his two cents on his It’s Not Enough to Criticize Obama: Citizens Need to Take Action piece, here are few highlights:

In forming his administration, President Obama abandoned the movement that had begun during his campaign for deal-making and a pragmatism that hasn’t worked. [However] That movement is still possible and needed now…

The conservatives are winning the framing wars again – by sticking to moral principles as conservatives see them, and communicating their view of morality effectively. In the 2008 election, Barack Obama ran a campaign based on his moral principles and communicated those principles as effectively as any candidate ever has.

But the Obama administration made a 180-degree turn, trading Obama’s 2008 moral principles for the deal-making of Rahm Emanuel and Tim Geithner, assuming it would be ‘pragmatic’ to court corporations and move to the right, in the false hope of bipartisan support.

By the way, looks like President Obama will be focusing largely on jobs and dosmetic recovery on his State of the Union speech … we’ll see … you can watch the speech live below:


Update: here’s the post-game analysis: