Monday, December 5, 2011

Decision 2012: The Man of Ideas and a Displacement of Images

The first campaign ad produced by former Speaker Gingrich since his unexpected and likely temporary (given the illusory demands of the accelerated culture) rise to frontrunner status, "Rebuilding the America We Love" appears to reinforce the impression that his Presidential campaign is not guided by a sincere intention of achieving the highest office, but rather of enhancing the visibility that comes with the intention and posture of race running.

To be honest, my favorite Presidential campaigns tend to be the ones designed not to succeed. Furthermore, if I was to reach my own personal goal of managing a prospective Presidential candidates campaign, my approach would be distinctive, ambitious but with no actual intention toward winning the race. As we are always in the process of becoming in our own lives as individuals, there is value in the performative politics echo-ing possibility in its pure form on the spectacle stage.

Newt's ad consists of perfunctory recreations of President Reagen's 1984 "Morning in America" ad juxtaposed with Newt in a library, seemingly disconnected from the technically warm and glowing yet lifeless images that accompany his narration. My favorite of these is the shot of the male and female co-workers of different races happily entering a corporate office elevator unimaginatively un-displaced from Newt's narrated line "...and respecting each other."

Ultimately the problem is that Newt seems truly disconnected from the visual language of the beautiful America slow-motion poetry and appears to be under no pretense (though ultimately cynical in this awareness) that he is a charismatic Reagen-esque figure to guide a new Republican revolution. He is lazily drawing on the past rather than suggesting a visual language specific to his own campaign and personage. Though this falls in line with Saturday Night Live's punchline of Newt "not really wanting" to actually win the Presidency, which itself is more likely motivated by the only heavyset cast member Bobby Moynihan being the least creative performer on the show next to Jay Pharoah, Newt reaffirms this with such un-dynamic efforts.

But what sort of visual language would suit the Newt Gingrich campaign? Though the former speaker converted to Catholicism in recent years, the florid image based religion's iconographic and sensual tradition does not suit his political personage, as it did Reagen and George W. Bush, which Newt feabily attempts here in an uncommitted manner. The "Man of Ideas" belongs in the word based visual rhetoric of the Protestant tradition and this need not be evaded but rather should be embraced and hyperbolized. So this does not mean that there is no visual rhetoric open to him.

What's often forgotten is that every word is an image of a word. There are visuals that suit the rhetorical life of word based things, possibilities suggesting the living and breathing energy of ideas. I see the former Speaker excitedly writing across the chalk board at the front of a large college lecture hall and the class is filled with the American people. The music is perpetually urgent, yet hopeful. The only true visionary candidate in the 2012 Republican Primary has a command over the class of America and the chalk sketched phrases and shapes, articulating in shorthand his "Contract with the 21st Century," begin to reveal a world inside the lines that form the words, and soon after the world inside every word is revealed.