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Pop Goes Obama: Why B-Rock Is the Coolest Presidential Candidate Since Bill Clinton

By Niki D’Andrea

Political candidates need charisma, and if they’re running for the office of President of the United States of America, they need to use that charisma to appeal to voters. And if they’re playing to a younger demographic, it never hurts for them to show their young, hip side. Bill Clinton knew all this in the early ‘90s, when he made smart campaign moves like doing a Q&A session on MTV and playing saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show. But it seems like ever since Bill had that infamous Lewinsky-dipped cigar, our candidates for President have been exceeding old and boring.

Barack Obama has changed all that. In the past year, the senator from Illinois has received more pop culture props than any other presidential candidate in history. Musicians, movie stars, artists, and Web-heads have all thrown in their two-cents, praising the Democratic candidate’s platform and good looks.

But what really makes Obama a pop culture icon?

Obama’s pop culture takeover started in early 2007, when an unknown model and actress named Amber Ettinger took the moniker “Obama Girl” and started posting videos like “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama,” named the biggest Web video of 2007 by People magazine:

“I’ve Got a Crush on Obama”

Once Obama Girl had her 15 minutes, established celebrities started churning out their own pop culture propaganda for Obama, like the song “Yes We Can” by The video below features appearances by the likes of Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Scarlett Johansson, Tatyana Ali, Nick Cannon, and Common:

”Yes We Can”

Continuing on the hip-hop tip, now there is “The Obama Dance”:

The Obama Dance:

But Obama’s pop culture reach extends beyond music videos. His stoic image was the subject of this popular poster by Shepard Fairey, the guy who did all those “Obey” posters:

There’s also a ton of bootleg T-shirts, and countless songs by little-known musicians (the latest, “I’m Having a Barack Attack” by a rap artist named NonchilloN, can be heard here).

And let’s not forget The Obama Girls of Comedy (pictured below), who are touring battleground states to comically proclaim their love of Obama and disdain for Republican Vice President nominee Sarah Palin.

So why is Obama such a pop culture icon? There are numerous reasons, but here we present The Top 10 Reasons Barack Obama Is Cool:

10. He’s black. Now, race has nothing to do with his qualifications to be President, but we can’t ignore the fact that the United States has never elected an African-American to the highest political office in our country. If Barack Obama wins this election, it will truly be a historical event.

9. Obama’s networking with heads of the hip-hop community like Kanye West and Jay-Z earned him the nickname “B-Rock,” a handle that’s a lot more hip than “Dubya.”

8. He can dance. See the video below.

7. He knows cool urban gestures like “get the dirt off your shoulder.” See the video above.

6. There’s a persistent rumor that he offered free beer at his rally in Germany in July, 2008. This has not been proven, but it’s a known fact that more than 20,000 people showed up to the rally. Whether they came for Barack or beer doesn’t really matter -- any presidential candidate that’s rumored to offer free beer at his rallies is freakin’ cool.

5. Obama admits to having used alcohol, marijuana, and cocaine during high school. Although Obama called it his “greatest moral failure” at the 2008 Civic Forum on the Presidency, the fact that he admits to experimenting with drugs as a teenager is evidence of his honesty. It’s also reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s early ‘90s Q&A session with MTV, when one of the college kids asked if he had another chance to smoke marijuana, would he inhale? Clinton’s response? “Probably.”

4. Last year, the Global Language Monitor added "Obama" as a root for new words like: obamamentum, obamaBot, obamacize, obamarama, obamaNation, obamanomics, obamican, obamafy, obamamania, and obamacam.

3. Obama plays basketball. This is an All-American sport, one that the common American can identify with -- unlike, say, going hunting and shooting a friend in the face with birdshot.

2. He looks awesome on the beach. Look at the photo below. Obama looks so young and fit, unlike his 72-year-old opponent, John McCain (we would not wanna see McCain with his shirt off).

1. Obama favors ending the development of nuclear weapons, has called for more proactive measures to stop the genocide in Darfur, is pro-choice, opposes the privatization of Social Security, supports universal health care in the United States, wants to eliminate taxes for senior citizens making less than $50,000 a year, and favors investing in alternate energy sources to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

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Niki D'Andrea has covered subjects including drug culture, women's basketball, pirate radio stations, Scottsdale staycations, and fine wine. She has worked at both New Times and Phoenix Magazine, and is now a freelancer.
Contact: Niki D'Andrea