Perhaps the most bizarre event at this week’s republican convention was Clint Eastwood’s surprise speech. The supposed republican ace in the hole. Their coupe de gras. Their outflanking maneuver to send the democrats running.
Yet this speech was both far more and far less than what they intended. Instead of sending democrats running in route, the surprise speech was, instead, a self-inflicted wound. And the speech was nothing short of surprising. It included, among other things, a down-talking ramble to an invisible Obama sitting in a chair on stage.
Clint asked the invisible, mute, captive Obama a number of off-color and degrading questions. It was a sort of odd massacre of beat-nick humor, stand-up comedy, acrid politics, and ad-lib all recast to appeal to the narrow persuasions of the Republican Convention audience.
Clint’s invention of the invisible Obama is like an odd melding of the sock puppet, the effigy, and the straw man. All are tools that republicans would be familiar with. The first being the oft-seen anonymous troll in political chat rooms who seems to endlessly spout, line-for-line and without deviation the most recently packaged set of republican misinformation. In this case, however, the sock puppet was produced to serve as an object of mockery. A mental outcast of Clint Eastwood and a reflection of republicans deep denigration of Obama.
As such, Invisible Obama absorbed the painted faces held aloft by tea party supporters, becoming a form of grotesque mental effigy that accurately portrayed the cognitive dissonance projected by a party motivated by disdain, increasingly disconnected from reality. Which brings us full circle to the ‘straw man.’ Poor invisible Obama was just an empty chair erected to contain all the fallacious arguments Clint or other republicans might dream up to throw at an imaginary object. One with no ability to respond to the oft-tossed barb.
In short, Invisible Obama is the dream opponent for republicans. He conforms to all their darkest fantasies. He doesn’t talk back. He looks as scarey as they can imagine in their most horrifying nightmares. And, last of all, he doesn’t respond. He is their invisible, mute, derided, painted punching bag.
But the deepest irony of Invisible Obama is an unintentional channeling of the seminal literary masterpiece by Ralph Ellison. The Invisible Man is a story about a man robbed of identity by an adversarial culture. A man whose achievements, brilliance, and talents go unrecognized. A man forced to live like a troglodyte, underground.
A more perfect allegory to what republicans have attempted to do to Obama could not have been crafted by the political and literary geniuses of our time. It took Clint Eastwood to tell the truth. To summarize for us all the detractions of Obama’s critical achievements, to reveal for us their downplaying of his eloquence, to unmask their denial of his sound and solid leadership. First they character assassinated him. Now they turn him into a wraith whom they exhibit, circus-like at their convention.
It took Clint Eastwood to unintentionally part the curtain on the republican psyche and reveal for us its ugly, bizarre and repressive inner workings. It took Clint Eastwood to show that the man republicans are running against isn’t our president at all, that it is, instead, a mute, invisible, hated contrivance. A Gollum-like creature enslaved, corrupted, and made permanently invisible. A fantasy foe for a party that can’t quite come to terms with the reality of Obama our President.
But perhaps the republicans have unintentionally invented something worthwhile here. Worthwhile at least in the way The Onion may find worthwhile. An Invisible Obama does have a certain appeal as parody of the republican psyche. As a revelation of their fears, racism, narrow-mindedness, and great lack of capacity to handle change. And, for this reason, it is likely that Invisible Obama has received over 45,000 followers on Twitter.