The real question

Everyone has an opinion of Obama’s presidential win and most everyone – prompted or unprompted – has already shared it among friends, family and the random passerby.So the fact you’re rolling your eyes at just another “why Obama being elected is so meaningful” columns is not just understandable – at this point, it’s expected.You’ve seen the proliferation of the I-watched-his-acceptance-speech-therefore-I’ma- political-expert mantra in this After Election (AE) era.These observers, many of whom were either apathetic or too young to vote in 2004, have turned dinner tables into roundtable CNN discussions. They’ve become citizen journalists, self-proclaimed politicos and stars of their own political talk shows to anyone who’s unfortunate enough to be listening.They’ve asked the trite “now what?” questions, they’ve tuned in to 24/7 all-access coverage of Michelle, the girls and the future puppy, they’ve ordered their “Victory T-Shirts.” They’ve declared the end of racism, or at least the nearing of the end. They’ve processed the election of Barack Obama.Those with a sense of humor poking fun have no shortage of material. But there’s a darker side to the Obama Mania.The energized and newly-hopeful masses have also strayed from the basic themes of the Obama campaign, perverting hope and change into magazine covers and made-in-China t-shirts.Participation in the political system has become an experience – a commodity, even – that serves as a marker of more than just political preferences.It’s become more of an indicator of social class than issue preferences, turning support for a president-elect into a litmus test of “hipness.” And the implications of this trend aren’t all positive – the unification and the re-energizing of the masses under the Change and Hope messages might make for some feel-good photoops.But in the long term, the redefinition of our political system and changes in political participation patterns raise serious questions about the legitimacy of the reasons for these changes, as well as who’s profiting from them.Everyone might have already asked the “now what?” question to Obama about his plans for the country.But considering the newfound power and relevance of these self-proclaimed politicos, we’ve all forgotten to ask the more cynical question: “Now what for democracy?”