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The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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The Emotionality of Politics

‘People were passionate,’ Congressman Joe Wilson said to Chris Wallace of Fox News, regarding his outburst at Wednesday’s speech. In fact, Wilson’s ‘You lie!’ was just one discernable voice in something of an uproar that ensued after President Obama promised that his proposed health care reform bill did not guarantee insurance to illegal immigrants.

After apologizing to the President and to the Vice President for his misconduct, Wilson remains ‘grateful’ for what his irreverence has caused. At the time of the President’s speech to Congress, the clause on ‘No Federal Payment for Undocumented Aliens’ had no provisions for enforcement, and by Friday that policy had been changed. Since the incident, Wilson has earned over a million dollars in campaign funds and abounding press coverage, leaving us with the horrifying prospect that we just gleaned an insight into the current administration’s modus operandi.

The congressman repeated the phrase at least thrice, with an actor’s timing and tonality. Between Nancy Pelosi’s reaction, and Wilson’s YouTube following, the broadcast is just as deserving of an Emmy as the inevitable late-night parody version will be. On the subject of violating decorum, Wilson explains with sheepish pride, ‘I truly would have said it in a different way if I had time.’ The urgency, the word choice, and the repetition signifying an emotional response are all very familiar: Wilson’s tone was a direct reflection of President Obama’s messianic style of speech and manner.

What prompted Wilson to comment the way that he did, and what has caused people to respond to it, was more than perceived urgency of the issue. It was the nature of the devotion that people feel towards the current President. We elected Obama as a savior, so it seems almost blasphemous to refer to him as a politician. But when his plans infringe on our rights, and bipartisan politics seem to have worsened, despite the President’s party having a majority in the Senate, we feel both guilty and betrayed in a way that no speech can fix.

To draw an unoriginal comparison, Washington, Lincoln, and Roosevelt inspired the same emotionality in the American people. None was loved for the span of his presidency. They all fell prey to this sense of disillusionment resulting from the ungainly compromise that emerges when one person’s idea is applied to a nation of people with different needs and expectations. Finally realizing that Obama cannot possibly fulfill all of his campaign promises in the best interest of the nation is particularly dispiriting, because of the unique role that he plays.

A few months ago, Obama was the one describing politicians as liars. He forgets that he shared media pages with pop stars, not fellow candidates. He can’t expect to use an emotionally driven campaign, inspire that feeling in voters, and not inspire that same sense of spontaneity in his congressmen, or citizens. To inspire the respect of the office of the president, he needs to keep clear of the tabloid-style reporting style he helped propagate, and if he offers transparency, he should ensure that his circuituous policies remain transparent.

Of course, the act of entering office creates an immediate and irreversible disconnect between the man and his voters. We’re already seeking out the next voice of truth, who foils the mean plans of politicians without ever becoming one of them. Wilson has appallingly stated, ‘Now I’m going to be speaking on behalf of the American people.’ Comments on the video posted on YouTube of the speech refer to him as a hero. Will this man’s legacy be longer than the fifteen minutes he deserves?

If a member of the unfashionable Republican Party can attain the forefront of international media attention with a two-word campaign, how easy will it be for political parties to manufacture saleable candidates by the time of our next election? If President Obama has created a political situation that works most like a stage, I hope we have the good sense not to vote for the first person to boo him off it.

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