"Being in politics is like being a football coach. You have to be smart enough to understand the game and dumb enough to think it's important." - Eugene McCarthy, Minnesota Senator
"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" - Al Franken (as fictional character Stuart Smalley), Minnesota Senator
There's a fine line between Hollywood and Washington, DC. My parents met campaigning for Joe Biden and I met my wife at "Top of the Pops," so I know that line all too well. While it must have been strange when the dude from the chimp movies became president for my folks, between governors "Terminator" and Jesse "The Body" Ventura and a mayor with no name, it's business as usual to me. In fact, it still surprises me that I have only seen Warren Beatty and Martin Sheen play politicians on television or in the movies.
I made the trek from Hollywood to Washington, DC this week for the inauguration where my band Fall Out Boy played the Youth Ball. I've been a fan of Barack Obama's for a while and, like everyone else, was elated when he won, and even more so when I had the privilege to meet him at the event. He's an underdog, which is something I can relate to (and he uses a Blackberry as much as I do -- although I don't think we'll be getting any Twitter updates from our new President).
As he begins to translate campaign promises into actual leadership and the business of governing, Obama now has an interesting challenge. Much like an indie filmmaker or an underground rock band, he was an underdog and he had the people's support because of it. Everyone was rooting for him as they would David in his battle against Goliath. America loves an underdog. The Cubs are living proof of that.
But a funny thing happens when the underdog wins (trust me on this one, I have scratched and won one of the biggest lottery tickets that a goofy little Midwestern guy like me can get away with). The elation is high, but so are the expectations. Now there is a rapt audience. There is a microphone hissing, and feedback. When that happened before it was quaint and authentic. Now it's annoying and unprofessional. Now the challenges that our nation faced in November have been compounded. There is a recession, there is war, there is a mounting unemployment rate. And there is history to be made. Now he's no longer the underdog. He's the leader of the free world with big ideas and big responsibilities. Now everyone expects results.
You could choose to move fast, which would alienate the fan base and distances you from those who brought you here, but you potentially reach a wider audience. Alternately, you could choose to stand still, which discredits the innovative, independent spirit which got you here in the first place. In the end the choice may not be President Obama's on how fast he moves: our bureaucracy may be the only area of our culture that is run in a more unconventional way than the entertainment industry.
At the risk of extending the metaphor, President Obama faces a challenge like Lauryn Hill after her album "Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" won five Grammys or the Coen Brothers after Blood Simple won the Sundance Grand Jury Prize. Will it take a while for his own Fargo or No Country for Old Men? Or will success come early and often? Either way I, for one, am glad the underdog got a shot. Underdogs are the ones who are hungry, who will transcend convention and will break barriers. Just when it's at its worst... it gets better. As long as he just keeps up the pace he has so far, I have a feeling we will keep rooting for him. And heck, you never know about the Cubs!