Friday, February 6, 2009

Obama as president, not candidate

A little more than three months ago, Barack Obama was still a candidate. Three weeks ago, he was president elect. And now he's president. 

What's interesting from semiotic point of view is that he has become much less prominent as a cultural phenomenon as opposed to a political one. Interesting popular culture renditions of Obama undoubtedly are still being produced at a rapid rate, but they are not breaking through to mainstream media outlets, as they were before his inauguration. And media outlets are undoubtedly selling fewer commemorative issues; I suspect the sales of the Franklin Mint coins are going down too. 

One reason is obvious--the economy is dire straights, and media attention is focused on the battles between Republicans and Democrats, and to a lesser extent between the administration and Congress. 

But there is another reason. A candidacy is all about possibility--what the candidate might do and should do. The possibilities lend themselves to myth-making, and indeed, part of a good campaign is telling a good story. But once a president is elected, a president can do things, and the practical trumps the theoretical. 

Now that Obama is president, the symbols still matter, but not as much as fixing the economy.


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