Batman: I’m whatever Gotham needs me to be... Because sometimes truth isn’t good enough, sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded...
Hearing these words in the final few minutes of The Dark Knight, it finally dawned on me what Obama-mania is really about. Not faith, exactly. The answer was staring me right in the face from those incredibly compelling posters:
That's it. Hope.
People want and need so badly to have someone to pin their hopes on. The 21st century doesn't yet have our own Che or Malcolm or MLK. Mumia, who perhaps wore that mantle pre-9/11, has faded from view. For some, the breaking of the "curse" by the Boston Red Sox may have encapsulated their hopes, but the magic has been dissipated with the inevitable departure, one by one, of Johnny, of Manny, and the others. Hard to pin your hope on a free agent.
So along comes a man, an unlikely man, an interesting man, who captures the national imaginary. Who dares us to shout in unison "yes we can!" (neveryoumind the conspicuous plagiarism of the United Farm Workers' rallying call of "si se puede!") A friend of mine even wrote a paper recently examining the way Obama's primary speeches drew heavily on American Myth.
So I think it doesn't matter to people, ultimately, that Obama uncritically supports Israel. That he says we must capture and kill bin Laden. That he favors attacks on Pakistan. That he's not actually going to bring the troops home from Iraq, certainly not without leaving permanent bases behind. This is by and large the Obama we saw in the first debate. Sure he was still making some grand but politically unrealistic gestures about funding early childhood education, and raising taxes on businesses and the wealthy. But mostly the debate turned on petty political minutiae. But this is not the Obama that people want to elect. He's not the one they're phone banking for, throwing house parties for, wearing t-shirts for.
No, it's the one on the posters, promising "Change You Can Believe In" and then, "The Change We Need."
Gordon: Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not what it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him, because he can take it, because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector, a Dark Knight.