Lessons from the New Yorker


Everyone, thanks to our sensationalist media, is now well-acquainted with the most recent cover of The New Yorker magazine. By the way, the cover artwork is called “The Politics of Fear” by Barry Blitt. The magazine has stated that it is pure satire, poking fun at the numerous and ridiculous rumors that Mr. Obama is a muslim, a terrorist, an extremist, anti-American, etc.

It seem pretty clear however that this cover “goes there” way too much, that the parody goes way too far, and in doing so, really hurts Obama among those who merely glance at the cover and feel that the suspicions they have gained from their chain-emails are confirmed. If The New Yorker doesn’t think that this could be the case, they should meet my mother, who thought the cover was the magazine’s implicit endorsement of the rumors.

I’m not writing here to delve much further into the cover. What I want to talk about is the main article: “How Obama Became a Pol,” which proved far more interesting and perhaps for some even damning toward Obama’s image.



The article begins on two-page spread of this photograph of Obama as a community organizer in Chicago’s South Side. Who know’s what the woman on the left is signing, but it may as well be the rights to her image to add to Barack’s vault of altruism, later to be used at a politically promising moment.

I say such things because political opportunism is the theme of this article. Ryan Lizza tells a story that Barack, the author of not one, but two autobiographies, has conveniently left out: the years between Obama’s arrival in Chicago in 1991, and his 2000 senate victory.

Being the nerd that I am, I jotted down some notes of various Machievellian maneuvers by Obama. I am not going to try to write down everything, that would be superfluous and disgourage whoever reads this to go and read the article for themselves. I do want to discuss this general trend though.

The article begins with Toni Preckwinkle, whom Obama consulted with in his first run at political office. There was a vacant seat opening up for Congress, and then-state sentator Alice Palmer wanted it. That left a vacant seat in Obama’s state senate district, which he wanted to fill.

The article discusses at length Obama’s somewhat random decision to carpetbag his way into Chicago and its political structure. His work for Project Vote and other avenues of social activism, as well as his work in the progressive law firm Davis, Miner helped him build ties with black leaders and more importantly the Chicago liberal elite (whom he found greater attachment to).

Ultimately, Palmer lost her bid at congress, and rather than stepping down so Palmer could reclaim her seat, Obama caused a sharp rift in South Side political allegiances by running against her. It caused lasting tension between many South Sider’s who would rather have not had to choose sides.

Other examples abound…

Barack coordinated his “Dreams From My Father” release with his state senate campaign, making it more political than typically perceived. He walked the Million-Man March, only to later describe it as a “Waste of Energy.” He gerrymandered his district to include some of the Loop and the affluent liberal elite whose connections he would eventually use to fund and support his subsequent campaigns, including Bettylu Saltzman, Hugh Hefner’s daughter, David Axelrod, etc…

The examples are numerous, and the moral of the story is that Chicago was Obama’s stepping stone to higher aspirations. He was magnetic and attracted the early support of many of the South Sider’s, who ultimately became disillusioned with him because they dedicated their lives to city politics while Obama had bigger plans.

Lizza urges that Barack’s ability to penetrate and become a success in the Chicago political machine, which is infamously averse to carpetbaggers like himself, attests to an uncanny political ability by the senator. The problem is that many of his supporters view him as unconventional and post-partisan. Lizza sees a paradox here because Barack’s message is one of universal values and post-partisanism, yet his success has come from his innate ability to master the political structure. His ability to mask the paradox is what makes him so successful. I close with profound words from the article

Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary

…realization among his supporters that superheroes don’t become president; politicians do.”


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