(And with part four in the series, we wrap our splendiferous coverage of Barack Obama's relationship with popular culture. Please see part one "ObamaRama, The Beginning," part two, "ObamaRama, The Sequel, and part three, "ObamaRama, The Trinity."EO)
Leftward Shift in American Culture Propelled Obama to the White House
It may seem like a distant memory now, but about six or seven years ago, the influence of the left wing in mainstream and political culture was nearing rock bottom. In the aftermath of 9/11 and the beginnings of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, conservative figures and conservative ideals dominated what Americans read and watched in the media.
It wasn't just the politics of the Bush Administration that got a ringing endorsement from our cultural gatekeepers; it was the symbols of the new, neoconservative America that were the strongest influences on the American public. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani was dubbed "America's mayor." The American flag became the central icon of American life, more so perhaps than ever before. And the unflinching support of the President, the war(s) and the troops became the uniting force behind the public's perception of America.
Those few who did try to reassert more liberal values in this climate were branded as radicals and traitors. The traditional outlets of the mainstream left in America – from Hollywood films to the New York Times – were either swept up in the neoconservative movement, silenced or marginalized. This was best illustrated at the 2003 Academy Awards, when leftist filmmaker Michael Moore took the stage to denounce the Bush Administration and was roundly booed – in Los Angeles, no less.
Leftist disillusionment culminated in the run-up to the 2004 presidential elections. Vermont Governor Howard Dean looked like the next person to take up the liberal mantel until the now-infamous "Dean Scream," when an overblown scream at the end of a speech effectively ended his presidential ambitions.
The 2004 Democratic nomination eventually went to John Kerry, who acted as more of a centrist than Dean. Although more effective than Dean as a politician, Kerry was unable to make even the remotest dent in the popular culture; he may go down in history as one of the more forgettable presidential candidates in recent memory. Even many strident Democrats only supported Kerry reluctantly, adopting the "anyone-but-Bush" mantra that ultimately failed at the polls.