Obama, Where art Thou?

One of my favorite stories regarding the movie Oh Brother, Where art Thou? involves the reviews I read about it. One columnist called it a brilliant retelling of Homer’s Odyssey. Another reviewer was much less impressed, arguing that every movie is basically a retelling of the Odyssey. The second reviewer had a good point. Think about it—any movie you’ve seen takes a person or people who are where they do not want to be—either geographically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, or whatever—and puts them on a quest to get to where they do want to be. Some movies end with the star failing, or with a cliffhanger that leads to sequels, but they all start out with some variation on Homer’s theme. Now in defense of Oh Brother, it does follow Homer’s model much more closely than most other movies, but still.
And all of this brings me to Barack Obama, the candidate who has campaigned until recently on the themes of hope and change. I write “until recently” because these days it seems that the Illinois Senator is more caught up in defending himself from his two most dangerous opponents (not Clinton and Edwards but Clinton and Clinton).
The themes of hope and change have resonated with many Democratic voters, and this is not surprising. Hope and change are the themes of almost every candidate for President. There are some exceptions. Incumbents can’t really campaign on change, though some try by encouraging Americans to vote the opposition party out of Congress, so the good guys can get some serious work done. And one candidate for re-election had already told the public that America’s best days were probably behind us, and we should just get used to that. (For all of you future presidential hopefuls reading this, there is an adjective for such a candidate—“unsuccessful.”)
The bulk of the people who want to be President all offer some variation on Obama’s themes. He deserves credit, though, because like Oh Brother, Where art Thou? he follows these themes more closely than most other candidates. More significantly he has inspired a portion of the voters to the point that comparisons to JFK and Martin Luther King are being made.
The trick for the Senator will be following through on his pledge to change the dynamics in Washington, to actually bring about this change that has been a centerpiece of his campaign. It is inspiring to talk about moving forward without partisan bickering, but once a politician tries to get something done, the battle lines are drawn. Is it possible for Obama to tackle an issue like abortion in some creative way that doesn’t lead to hardened positions and acrimony between too very passionate sides? Many men have run outsider campaigns in the past then they have been stymied by Washington’s ways. Can Barack Obama succeed where others have failed? The Clintons are hoping you don’t find out for at least eight years.