Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Non-Fulfilling Prophecy?

To say the media are on Barack Obama's side is like saying Renfield was a casual follower of Dracula. Since his historic election, the media have been trying to create the image of Obama as a transformative figure well before he has the keys to the White House. Some commentators have even tried to elevate him to the level of Abraham Lincoln. I can understand the hope he engenders in people, but shouldn't we wait until he actually starts the job before we slap him with a standard he may not be able to meet?

This is nothing against Obama. He's only the recipient of the glowing praise and heightened expectations of the media. But I would be remiss if I didn't point out how this tack could backfire on Obama in a big way.

When expectations are heightened in any situation, whether it be the playoff chances of the Chicago Cubs or the promise of a new Administration, there is always the possibility of failure. If expectations are raised too much, however, even marginal success can be seen as failure if that success falls short of the expectations.

In Obama's case, he's already been tapped as a transformative figure in this country. What happens if he doesn't transform that much? Granted, he has a sympathetic media on his side, but they can only offer so much cover before the people start wondering where the change is. Even some media outlets might be willing to take up the "Where's the change" banner if Obama fails to impress because conflict increases media consumer buyership. If the Republicans in Congress aren't being the bad guys, the media may turn on Obama.

The only caveat I have with this notion is that the media may treat any early Obama stumbles as being George W. Bush's fault. If this happens, combined with the inevitable "honeymoon period" that traditionally follows an incoming President, Obama may be able to ride out the storms of any early failures. But, blaming stuff on Bush won't work forever. Eventually, someone is going to point out how Obama has failed to deliver, and that may send his approval ratings spiralling downward.

Then, all the talk of "hope" and "change" won't make a bit of difference.

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