“The Audacity of Hope” was not originally a book by Barack Obama. In his memoirs Dreams from my Father it is the title of a sermon that Reverend Wright gives. In that sermon Wright speaks of a harpist on a mountain looking down at the world, but also daring to hope for a better future. In The Audacity of Hope, the 2006 book by Barack Obama, he strives to take a similar role to the harpist, commenting on the current state of Washington politics, while throwing out suggestions and ideas for a better future.
Obama establishes the dichotomy of truth and lies, makes use of parallelism to reinforce his points, and employs careful diction meant to showcase his concerns with politics as usual. By presenting himself as a detached narrator, Obama can, free from his identity as a senator, voice with disdain his thoughts on sensationalist media and his disappointed expectations regarding his colleague’s style-over-substance manner of politics. Obama throughout the passages makes use of parallelisms in order to drive home his points on the truth and appearances in politics.
Towards the beginning of the passage he uses one such instance when talking about the truth saying, “The truth may cause consternation; the truth will be attacked” (Obama 127). The point of this repeated sentence structure is to reinforce within the reader that there exists a correlation between doing what is hard and telling the truth, that the easy road involves avoiding and circling around the facts. Later on he uses parallelism, particularly mimicking word order to bolster the dichotomy of style and substance in modern politics.
By doing so, particularly with the distinct diction Obama employs, he can establish himself as removed from the conflict of interests, and at the same time sympathetic towards to the man who “looks like he believes” (Obama 128). In order to take advantage of the conflicts he creates in his parallel syntax, immediately he establishes the media as those who take the easy road, lacking the “patience to sort out all of the facts” (Obama 127). This imagery allows the reader to view the media as purveyors of falsehoods, interested only in the big stories and horse races that make up politics today.
However Obama is not through with the media yet, continuing to trivialize them into mere storytellers through diction such as “narrative boxes the media has created for politics” (Obama 128). The media, to Obama, is taking away from the political discussion trough its fixation on the conflicts, rather than the possibility of compromise. Obama’s diction is not the only way we have of understanding Obama’s feeling toward the battle in Washington with the media and political positioning. By looking through the narrative presence he takes we can understand more about the way Obama relates to the struggles at hand.
Obama’s point of view creates an interesting mixture of perspectives. Both observing and observed Obama’s point of view in this passage tends to try and distance itself from the content through slight attacks on the subject matter. With such diction as, “whether he believes in his positions matters less than whether he looks like he believes” (Obama 128), or “He may not lie” (Obama 127) he removes himself from the judged, while at the same time disappointed and disdainful towards them. To further add to his detached nature, Obama’s voice throughout the passage remains full of formality.
By refraining from colloquialisms and employing words and phrases meant to enhance his prestige with the audience. “Consternation” and “matter[s] of personal integrity” (Obama 127-128) are both examples of how with single words Obama creates formality. Combined with his eloquent syntax and elaborate images, Obama’s voice becomes clear. His voice then, along with his point of view firmly establish Obama as detached, not bound by the same failures as though who came before him, although free to see and learn from them.
Obama’s final characterization, of those who have fallen to the pitfalls of the media-centric politics, is defined his ability to look at once from outside and within the political system. Obama’s point of view is critical to understand his attitude towards them, but so is the imagery and parallel structure that he uses to establish a difference between himself and everyone else. Without placing himself firmly on the side of truth and the facts, Obama would risk the reader interpreting him amongst the many that have fallen under the media’s sway.
But also in his imagery, his conjuration of a “stance that will fit [… ] the image his press folks have constructed for him” (Obama 128) can be quite harrowing. The reader asks him or herself: Can I truly believe the person I see speaking at the ribbon-cutting ceremony or on TV be more than a series of political messages? Obama, in getting us to question our senators, tries to awaken the cynicism in us, to get us as disappointed as he is in the fabrications that our politicians have become. The concoction that the media has turned politics into in modern times has done enough damage, according to Obama.
His opinions become only more clear as the passage goes on, incorporating his formal voice and diction, his imagery of politicians as mere fabrications, his in-and-out point of view and his repetitive syntax, he creates two bodies that pervert the truth, the media and politicians. The media he paints with near villainous colors, placing most of the blame for the perpetuation of position based politics. Politicians he views more sympathetically, as people who have had their ideals corrupted by the need to appease the mass media in order to stay in office. For both though, the time for change has come.