February 01, 2010

Paul Passavant: State of the Union or Civil War? The Current Conundrum Part 1 update: now published at CounterpunchFor all their bells and whistles, as far as I could tell, the mainstream media completely missed the significant symbolic politics of the Republican response to President Obama’s 2010 state of the union address (SOTU). Instead, it was fake newscaster Stephen Colbert who identified its importance. The Republican response was delivered by the newly inaugurated Republican governor for the state of Virginia, Bob McDonnell. The commentators on Fox news walked their viewers through what they were about to see, explaining that last year, Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal gave an unsuccessful response to an Obama speech. Illustrating the superior Republican sensitivity to aesthetics, Fox blamed Jindal’s shortcomings not on the Republican message, but on the staging of his speech. According to Fox, the problem with Jindal’s speech is that, from the viewer’s perspective, he looked like he had just walked out of a closet before speaking. The staging for Bob McDonnell’s speech would be much improved, delivered from the Virginia state legislature. Therefore, it would look almost exactly like an official SOTU, except it would not be delivered by the actual—Democratic—president, Barrack Obama. Instead it would be delivered by McDonnell. McDonnell delivered his response in the Virginia state legislature (isn’t this a misuse of government property?). The hall was stocked with people serving as props, or background, for McDonnell, making it seem like this pretend SOTU was actually being delivered in front of legislators, like the real one. President Obama delivered the SOTU standing behind a lectern....

Jodi Dean

Jodi Dean is a political theorist.

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