January 4, 2008  ·  Lessig

“Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.”

post-NH update:

This was the first of many, before the final in November. As John Edwards put it, “The status quo lost.”

From the “[old] generation of Americans”: “I’m not dead!” (See The Holy Grail, The Dead Collector)

Thank you, Iowa.

  • JC

    The Status Quo is dead! Long live the Status Quo!

  • http://www.draeke.com draeke

    And the new generation Obama is talking about is… the generation of Bobos! The bourgeois bohemians, man. I’ve been reading a book called “Bobos in Paradise” and I finally connected the dots with Obama.
    David Brooks argues that the century old paradigm of beatniks v. bankers has been eroded by the merging of bohemians and bourgeoisie into a new cultural, intellectual and financial elite: the “bobos.”

    From Amazon.com:

    You’ve seen them: They sip double-tall, nonfat lattes, chat on cell phones, and listen to NPR while driving their immaculate SUVs to Pottery Barn to shop for $48 titanium spatulas. They tread down specialty cheese aisles in top-of-the-line hiking boots and think nothing of laying down $5 for an olive-wheatgrass muffin. They’re the bourgeois bohemians–”Bobos”–an unlikely blend of mainstream culture and 1960s-era counterculture that, according to David Brooks, represents both America’s present and future: “These Bobos define our age. They are the new establishment. Their hybrid culture is the atmosphere we all breathe. Their status codes now govern social life.” Amusing stereotypes aside, they’re an “elite based on brainpower” and merit rather than pedigree or lineage: “Dumb good-looking people with great parents have been displaced by smart, ambitious, educated, and antiestablishment people with scuffed shoes.”

    I think that pretty much describes the scene. Only questions are whether the new establishment knows they’re the new establishment and whether they will institute some self-governance, some enhanced checks and balances, etc… Of course, you have to wonder about self control when somebody preaches universal health care and smokes (but quits for the campaign) or talks about helping the poor but gets a $400 haircut and breaks ground for a $6 million dollar home. Seems like the new elite talks the talk without walking the walk, same as the old.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    OK, somebody explain Barak Obama to me – I outright admit, I don’t get it (or him).
    I don’t get a lot of politics, true. But I find the guy particularly unfathomable. That is, I understand the appeal of RuPaul – he plays to the lunatic fringe, and he says amusing if nutty things, so he’s colorful and gets the support of the ranters, who are very loud on the Net.

    But what makes Obama all that? Granted, he’s a nice guy – but he’s got no notable experience, and no real program that I can see other than saying “Change”.

  • http://www.draeke.com draeke

    Oh, and it was probably just a typo but you forgot to thank Iowa for Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.

  • http://www.draeke.com draeke

    Seth, did my comment add to your understanding of Obama’s appeal?

    More importantly, I had to type in “lice” and “circumstances” to make this post, which is damn funny.

  • http://www.ime.usp.br/~is/ Imre Simon


    you seem to think that being a nice guy might be sufficient for a
    black man to carry white and agricultural subsidy-dependent Iowa on a
    political platform including “no special interests, please”. I don’t
    think that being nice is sufficient to do that but maybe you can give
    us a couple of similar examples to convince me of the contrary.

    Actually, in my thinking Obama literally fired up a substantial
    portion of Iowa on a political platform geared and fine tuned to unite
    the USA in one people and one country, which is necessary for him to
    gain a mandate to try to push through a very broad and ambitious
    program to change the world to be a little better and more just place
    to live! I for one do believe his intentions and having watched world
    politics for the last 50 or more years I do consider that he does have
    an outstanding chance of being at least partially successful in doing

    I wish him (and us) luck!

    For yourself, I recommend to read carefully Obama’s book “The Audacity
    of Hope” to understand better that he is much, much more than just a
    nice guy, which he most certainly seems to be.


    Imre Simon

    PS: a disclaimer – I am not an american citizen and I do not even live
    in the States.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    draeke: I’m not seeing it. Are you saying he seems authentic? There’s a lot of people I know on the Net (e.g. Lessig) who seem to really like him, and the appeal just escapes me.
    Imre: No, my point is that I don’t understand what his appeal is. I look at him, I think “nice guy” – but I don’t feel any great passion, any sort of “I believe in him!”. More like “Eh, good speech”. Yes, he has the nonthreatening, “Magic Negro” (note , that’s a term of art, don’t jump on it) angle, but I know that can’t go far.

  • J.Henry

    “There’s a lot of people I know on the Net (e.g. Lessig) who seem to really like him, and the appeal just escapes me.”

    Obama’s attraction for Lessig should be self-evident. Lessig stands less than a snowball in Alaska’s chance of getting elected himself, and he’s failed to influence the legislative agenda, because he can’t win a court case. Obama provides him the coat tails to whisk him into DC as a policy advisor. It’s the most attractive remaining option.

    I can almost feel the lurve for Obama here in Virginia, 2,000 miles from California. Can’t you?

  • Imre Simon


    obviously he strikes you and me in very different ways. For me, his appeal includes:

        the very noble and very intelligently assembled set of objectives he chose to realize;

        the coherence and sincerity with which he presents his case;

        the competence with which he uses the diverse means at his disposal to reach his objectives, like his very able use of the Internet to construct a public shere around himself;

        the ability to fire up great masses, necessary to push through such an ambitious program;

        the enormous credibility he amasses by being able to win the successive stages of a long and tenuous battle in spite of his many apparent shortcomings.

    I don’t know your kind of politician, but for me this set of qualities is truly outstanding, like you are going to find something like that once or twice in a century, and it wholly justifies my enthusiasm and even my admiration for him.

  • Jardinero1

    Many very intelligent people are taken in by hucksters and politicians; especially when they meet them in person and feel like they know them on some personal level. Maybe that’s why the professor can’t see through the smoke and mirrors. A childhood friend of mine who is now very wealthy and lives on the west coast is a rabid supporter. I asked him why and the best he can come up with is that he met Obama at Oprah Winfrey’s house… like that’s a reason for a person who owns a small business and pays the highest marginal tax rates to support someone. .

    Obama is a milquetoast politico with little experience, no real “changes” to offer and who is just as captive to “special interests” as Hillary or Edwards or Romney. Still, he has a very strong everyman appeal to the generation born in the early sixties or later. I like him, I don’t support him, but I really like him. But I know he is not going to reform or change anything. The only candidates who really and truly stand for change and have the records to prove it are Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.

  • Jason Thane

    Seth Finkelstein,

    Barack Obama speaks with moral conviction, he’s honest, and his message is of unity. That’s enough to get my vote.

    In the words of Micael Medavoy,

    “We need a leader who will follow his conscience at the helm of a nation of citizens who are not afraid to vote theirs. There are those in this world who will hate us no matter what we do, but following the compass of our consciences, we will have behind us the moral and legal justifications for our actions — actions that for the first time in too long we can support together as a nation. America can once again lead the way to hope and human dignity for all.”

  • http://www.seemly.com Steve Baba


    Like Barak Obama or not, he is more than a nice guy, he has a lot of charisma – perhaps less than Bill Clinton, but more than Senator Hillary Clinton.

    Obama also with 20-20 hindsight guessed correctly to the anti-war crowd on the Iraq war. It’s not too clear how he did it, but if you argue against most wars, by chance you will be right sometimes. (The anarchy-libertarians such as Ron Paul also argue against most wars (and most government), which made Ron Paul correct to the anti-war crowd but also makes Ron Paul look like a fool to most Americans on the Civil War and Lincoln)

    In contract to your perception of newness/unknownness as a weakness, others have suggested the opposite in the election.

    Obama’a newness also means that he was/is unknown, which means he is more of a blank slate which people can paint their own pictures on and people know fewer things that would be considered negative by many voters. An unknown policy is one without opposition. It’s hard to object to “change” (for a better America), but when the exact policies become known, there may be more objection.

  • http://www.generosity.org/stoner/ John Stoner

    Obama did not guess against the war with hindsight, he looked with foresight, meaning he saw that we were getting into a completely screwed up situation and would reap the whirlwind, and he stood up against it. I did too. I thought it was pretty obvious, though a discussion of why seems off-topic for this forum.

    My support for Obama has to do with that as much as anything: he is a man with depth of vision. He can think past the end of his dick. Which is more than I can say for any of the fools who led us down the path we’re now on. And is surprisingly rare: I’d expect these folks in leadership positions in Washington to have better jnsight than me, but by and large, no.

    Moreover, he has taken specific positions, on health care, on transparency, and other issues, and he makes a lot of sense. Personally, I think he’s wrong on healthcare, but I’m pretty pessimistic that healthcare issues are going to get addressed anyway in the next term–we’re going to be dealing with some fairly severe economic issues.

    This line about how ‘we don’t know where he stands on the issues’ is a meme propagated by people too lazy to look at his website, or maybe the Clinton campaign, I’m not sure which. I was shocked to see it in NYT this morning. In an article that actually had a link to his website. I mean, does he have to talk about all that stuff in a speech for you to get it?

  • Jardinero1

    Has anyone noticed how Professor Lessig has uttered nary a peep about the presidential debates lately. Now the debates are actually relevant; i.e. people have a chance to vote in a timeframe proximate to their occurrence. Yet, ABC and Fox are censoring legitimate candidates, mainly Kucinich and Ron Paul, with alternative, truly reformist points of view.

    Where is the professor now? Why isn’t he rallying the troops to not only free the debates but, more importantly, open up the debates? I desperately want to see Ron Paul take a bite out of the the warmonger, civil liberty killers McCain and Giuliani. I would really like an opportunity to hear Dennis Kucinich challenge Obama and Hillary on healthcare reform. I would love for Kucinich to call Obama out on his support for the war. How does Obama square the circle of opposing the war but voting for the funding?

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I went and listened to part of Obama’s Iowa victory speech. Maybe it wasn’t the best primer about him, but again, I Don’t Get It. He just seems vapid to me. “Change, blah blah blah …”.

    I’m inclined towards Edwards because when you come right down to it, a politician has to campaign on something, and fighting economic inequality and providing health care strike me as pretty good issues to stand on – even if one can only go a small amount in that direction due to “corruption”.

    What does Obama stand for overall, besides being a new face? I don’t mean what are his policy working papers, more like what is his “theme”?

  • http://www.draeke.com draeke

    Seth, I would abandon searching for a message from Obama like what you get from Edwards. He only gives a message of Unity and Change, which are pretty expected.

    In my earlier comment, I meant that Obama seems to me to appeal to members of a certain class, the bourgeois bohemians, for certain reasons (and among other classes for perhaps other reasons). He appeals to the Steve Jobs of the world because he’s the JFK they’ve been looking for…and being younger, multi-racial, from Hawaii, a former Harvard law review editor, basketball player, former drug using, peace preferring rebel give him the merit or street cred, that is, the cool non-conformist (but now only conformed so he can beat the man at his own game) elements that appeal to the bourgeois bohemians. His theme is “I’m Cool.” I defer to “Bobos in Paradise” for more details about the bourgeois bohemians. Can you name another candidate that is as cool in the JFK kind of way?

    As for Edwards, do you really think a man who is building a $6 million dollar home will be a champion for the poor? Especially if he believes his next address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave? I want to believe in John Edwards, but with a lifestyle like his, I can’t, as much as he sounds like he, too, might have read A People’s History Of The United States. Because apparently, Edwards thinks he’ll be living in the White House for 4-8 years while owning (and leaving unoccupied?) a mansion in country where mentally handicapped people sleep on the streets? That ain’t right.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    I think Edwards will help the poor as much as anyone who can get elected President in 2008 would be able to do. Ralph Nader is not getting elected. Neither is Kucinich.

    There’s a sort of fashionable-nihilism argument “XYZ is a multi-millionaire! He’s not going to be a revolutionary!”. Well, I wasn’t nominating him for a revolutionary. I was saying his goals are the best of the lot.

    Ted Kennedy is very rich. But he is a liberal stalwart. The idea that no rich person can ever have any interest in liberalism is simply refuted by history and evidence. And I don’t want to have to type a reply to the tedious strawman of making an extreme statement then knocking down the extreme statement strawman.

  • http://www.draeke.com draeke

    I found a link about Edwards home:


    At the end, Tucker Carlson (I don’t like the guy) says:

    “It’s such a syndrome though, I’ve seen it so many times growing up around rich liberals. .It’s absolutely some kind of a psychological condition where the people who live in the most excessive possible manner are also the people with the most left-wing re-distributionist politics who want to control how much money you have. I’ve seen it in every state in this country. What the hell is that anyway?”

    He’s talking about BoBos, of course, but just doesn’t see it. The classic liberal BoBo doesn’t dissociate a message about equality from their own consumerism and wealth. For example, A BoBo might be happy to spend $20,000 on a Zen-themed bathroom renovation or but would question a person’s judgment if they put nice rims on a old Cutlass.

    A rich elite is a rich elite is a rich elite.

  • http://www.draeke.com draeke

    Seth, yes, a rich person can be for liberalism. A rich person, such as Ted Kennedy or John Edwards or the John Kerry ’04 or anything in the “history” and “evidence” I’ll assume you refer to can be for “liberalism.” The key point I’m making is that they DO NOT dissociate their own anti-liberal behavior from their liberal message. Unlike Paul Wellstone, for example.

    I hope you see that I for one do not adopt the “fashionable-nihilist” position you seem to wish to box inside my posts questioning Edward’s authenticity. You might be saying his goals are admirable; I’m saying spoken goals are no more meaningful than Obama’s being “cool.” Remember George Bush’s compassionate conservative goals in 00? Given Edwards’ lifestyle, not just his wealth, I draw a different conclusion than you about his legitimacy as a true candidate for the poor. Maybe he’ll do something to prove me wrong, I’m open to such an example.

    On uber-rich revolutionaries: You’ve heard of Bill Gates (and Warren Buffet), no doubt. Bill Gates owns a > $50 million dollar home made from hundred year old redwoods from old-growth forests. But he’s also redistributing 85% of his wealth to the poorest nations in the world. Fashionable-nihilists forget to take this into account.

    Gates Will Cede Day-to-Day Role At Microsoft
    By Robert A. Guth and Don Clark
    Word Count: 1,101 | Companies Featured in This Article: Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, RealNetworks, Symantec

    REDMOND, Wash — Bill Gates — the Harvard University dropout who created the business framework for modern computing and in the process became the world’s richest man — plans to give up his day-to-day role at Microsoft Corp. to spend more time helping the world’s poor.

    Mr. Gates, 50 years old, said he would remain Microsoft’s chairman, but begin a transition that in two years will remove him from overseeing product development at the software giant he co-founded in 1975. In July 2008, he will begin full-time work at his nonprofit foundation, which contributes money to health-care programs in developing …