Obama: Politician or Celebrity?

The Answer is ‘Both’

It has been a long debated question whether Barack Obama is more of a politician or a celebrity. As a presidential candidate, he has come under heavy fire for his celebrity status. Seeing that all presidential candidates are under the merciless eye of both tabloid reporters and political columnists, the question is whether he has really earned this dubious reputation — and whether it matters.

While McCain’s campaign to link Obama’s name with the likes of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton has cast a negative light on Obama’s fame, it also underscores Obama’s undeniable popularity among the younger generations. The question of why younger voters have supported Obama has been analyzed, dissected, and spat out in crumpled sheets. For the comprehensive range of reasons why an MIT student would support Obama, simply read Spenser Skates’ article in The Tech Volume 128, Issue 51.

What I’m interested in is what makes Obama such an iconic figure. I think that for many young voters, and young people in general, Obama has transcended the celebrity status. Humans are by nature intrigued by the lives of others and tabloids only tap into this innate thirst for (for lack of a better word) gossip. Even for bystanders who scoff and look down on celebrity gossip, they are nevertheless intrigued by the lives of the stars — who’s in relationship with whom, who’s in custody battle over which adopted child, and what boutique the nth Disney channel pop sensation shops in.

Barack Obama’s position in pop culture is eons above that. While the interest may be rooted in way that the junior senator from Illinois has challenged deeply rooted social stigmas, he has overcome the initial stereotypes and backlash from playing the ‘race card.’ I think that many voters are so intrigued and drawn by Obama not by who he is but more so for what he stands for. Obama, like the late J.F.K., is the epitome of vitality and potential. Many associate him with the change that America needs, the ‘young man with fresh ideas’ that could turn around the economy and prevent American from running down to the ground.

For these reasons and then some, Obama has more than a fanbase. It’s more like a cult following. It’s been a while since there’s been such a hubbub about a *gasp* politician among the young and restless. Al Gore had stirred some interest eight years ago, but it had by no means been on the scale as Obama is now.

Obama has earned not only the support of many college students, he’s also earned nods from many other celebrities. Though it’s true that Hollywood tends to be liberal-minded and partial towards political anomalies, it’s quite something for stars to talk about Obama more than the next “It” bag. Designers who often sniffle in disdain and bore at politics have been releasing Obama paraphernalia like mad. Want a bag to display your support for Obama while running from the Stata Center to 10-250? Then the Marc Jacobs button tote is for you. Want something to support Obama but don’t want anything too kitschy? Then Proenza Schouler’s Obama bracelet’s the Obamaphenalia for you.

While some cynical anti-Obamaites may point and shrilly accuse a conspirational marketing ploy behind the presidential campaign, it only shows the breadth of Obama’s influence and support.

In the worst scenario, Obama does not become president but ends up filming a documentary and wins three Oscars. Hey, Al Gore lost the presidential race but won the Nobel Peace Prize and a leading place in the green movement. Not too shabby.

Regardless of the outcome of the elections, Obama is a more than worthy candidate. Considering how talented he is as an individual, he will be welcome warmly in not only the political arena but many other fields of life. If an individual possesses capabilities and such charisma, he doesn’t have much to fear.