Tale of Two Videos: “Yes We Can” vs. “Vote Different”

Exactly a year and a day has passed since Barack Obama stood on the steps of the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Il. and declared his candidacy for president, the wind in his sails. About a month later, a Democratic consultant anonymously created and posted a homemade ad for Obama called “Vote Different,” a parody of the famous dystopian 1984 Apple ad. According to , the ad has been viewed more than 5 million times. ( The creator was identified about two weeks after its posting.)

Zip ahead to Feb. 2 of this year, when a cabal of pro-Obama celebrities release its instant hit, ” Yes We Can .” It receives more than 3 million views on YouTube in eight days. A virus that potentially would wipe out humanity.

The video is powerful, inspiring, and asinine. Better yet, it is blissfully ironic. Less than a year after “Vote Different,” which perfectly captured the sentiment that the Obama campaign was an answer to the Nutrasweet hegemony of Hillary Clinton, “Yes We Can” captures the sentiment that the Obama campaign has become a cult of its own. This is probably not what the beautiful faces in the video intended, but consider the conceit: a parade of cultural icons repeating their dear leader’s words as he utters them, stringing together happy phrases around that strophic refrain. Totalitarianism doesn’t have to be gloomy to be vicious.

In the early months of his campaign, Obama made an effort not to act like the savior his most fervent supporters wanted him to be. I saw him deliver the keynote address at the Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Richmond last February, a week after he formally announced his bid, and at the press conference before his speech, he said something very interesting: “People have been noticing we’ve been attracting big crowds. I’d like to say it’s just me. But I think I have come to represent, in the minds of some, turning a new page, and getting beyond the slash and burn, very tactical politics that we’ve become accustomed to in Washington.”

It was a talking point, no doubt, couched in Obama’s special brand of humility, but it’s still a sentiment we’ve heard less of from his campaign as the months have worn on. While it’s impossible to say exactly whom Obama was thinking of when he qualified that statement with “in the minds of some,” I would wager that it’s a highly overlapping set with the people who still have that “Yes We Can” video linked in their away messages.