2008 The Anxiety of Hope
posted by December 11 at 12:49 PMon
The Stranger sent Eli Sanders to Iowa on Friday to see the first event in the Barack Obama/Oprah Winfrey tour. Hours before Obama’s event tonight at Showbox Sodo, Sanders’s full report on Obama’s rise in Iowa and beyond is up on our website.
Presidential campaigns are about the issues of the day, certainly, and these days there is no shortage of issues for the candidates to debate, chief among them the war in Iraq and its consequences. But for better or for worse, presidential campaigns are also, to a very large extent, about the stage presence and personal narrative of a given candidate—about the emotional bond these attributes create, or fail to create, with voters. Oprah knows she’s here not for a policy conference, but to up the wattage on Obama’s already electrifying stage presence, and to offer her voice—thick, dexterous, able to swing through more emotions in a minute than any political charmer I’ve ever seen—in the service of explaining Obama’s personal narrative as political destiny. Oprah is here to connect—and over two days she will connect Obama to voters in a bigger, more public way than has occurred for any other candidate this year: More than 29,000 people will attend the two Oprah-Obama events in Iowa; more than 8,500 will turn out in New Hampshire; and the next day in South Carolina, more than 29,000 people will show up at a football stadium to hear the two of them speak. At the event in Des Moines, standing in the center of the cheering crowd, I thought to myself: This doesn’t feel like presidential politics. It feels like a movement.
Later in the piece:
Being on the presidential campaign trail, even for just 32 hours as I was, is a bit like living in a fever dream. You’re landing, small plane shaking, passing over a snowy field in which someone’s done a few doughnuts, and you wonder if the circles, Os within Os, are some gift of an Oprah-Obama metaphor.
It’s a fantastic essay. The whole thing’s here.