Sometime around the beginning of this year I pondered the similarities between Conan O’Brien and President Barack Obama (and teased an upcoming blog post on the subject via Twitter). With Conan’s new show premiering on TBS tonight, following the Republican tidal wave that swept into congress last week, and in doing so affixing a bold question mark onto Obama’s presidency, it seems like there’s no better time to finally revisit the parallel. This comparison is perhaps more relevant, and possibly more darkly prescient, than ever.
When Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008 a collective sigh of relief escaped young voters across the country. Actually, it was less a sigh of relief and more of a giddy shout. Hope had won out. Yes we could. We had a charismatic leader, the sexiest president since JFK, who was certain to reverse the damage done by eight years under George W. Bush’s tyrannical reign. And just like how JFK utilized his good looks and immense charm to capture the nation’s heart in the first televised presidential debate, badly outshining a sweaty, swarthy Richard Nixon, Obama used new media, most notably the internet, in a way no President had before. He was a star for sure, but in a way we had never seen. He galvanized the young, tech savvy populace, the early adopters who proclaimed their support on their Facebook and MySpace pages. MTV had been encouraging late teens and twenty-somethings to Rock the Vote for many years, but in that election we truly had a rock star to endorse. We were fed up with the Bush regime, with Republican rule, and we were energized, we were motivated, and we had Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan immigrant, as our shining ray of hope. And in that time it was a symbiotic relationship. Obama inspired the poor, the hungry, the unemployed and recent college graduate masses, and they banded together to have their voices heard, to provide Obama with the spirit and the mandate. He gave us hope, and we gave him our vote.
And then on that Tuesday night in November our prayers were answered. Celebrations erupted on the streets of Williamsburg, citizens went wild in Chicago, and Hawaii cheered their native son. We had won. We had our guy. And he would lead us to the promised land.