Celebrated author and veritable Renaissance man Michael Crichton died this week, and upon reflection his passing brings up some interesting thoughts on Barack Obama’s historical election. Allow me to pontificate, if you will.
Crichton and Obama actually have much in common. Crichton was born in Chicago, and also attended Harvard, both for his undergraduate work and for medical school. Crichton was incredibly well-learned, with a vast knowledge base and an exceptional intellectual pedigree, and viewed American universities as important places of cultural exchange. And he too was somewhat politically controversial.But the similarities end there. Michael Crichton was a noted libertarian. He spoke often and eloquently about the dangers of a speculative and undisciplined media, the pseudo-religious overtones of the left’s environmental fanaticism, and a perceived rejection of scientific evidence by global-warming alarmists. Many of his books touted the importance of technology, but they also exposed its weak spots and served as societal cautionary tales.
One such work was Jurassic Park, of course, where overly confident private scientists develop the means to breed dinosaurs in a lab. Gleeful at the prospect of making history, breaking new ground, and giving the starving and bored masses something truly new and exciting, the latest in interactive amusement parks is unveiled. We all know how it goes.
There’s a line in that movie that came rushing back to me after watching Barack Obama’s acceptance speech from Grant Park in Chicago, where Oprah Winfrey, Jesse Jackson, Brad Pitt and other American fixtures watched with understandable awe and pride. In warning Jurassic Park scientists that they failed to consider the greater implications of playing god with genetics, Jeff Goldblum’s character says, “Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should.”
This is a fitting metaphor for the Obama campaign. He was the embodiment of so many utopian hopes and promises – the face and voice of a new America – that at some point along the way he stopped being a candidate and became a concept. His inarguable lack of experience, his unseemly relationships, his troublesome voting record, a long list of questionable decisions and statements – all seeming non-issues to those who supported him. Whether it was young voters and black voters, both of which turned out in record numbers, Democratic and Republican elected officials who wanted a stake in the made-for-Hollywood Obama narrative, his countless celebrity supporters, or his allies in the media, some of whom admitted they threw objectivity out the window for him, it seemed as though there was a point at which his presidency became a pre-destined inevitability.
Momentum gained and steamrolled over nonbelievers with unstoppable speed, and somewhere between his explosive DNC speech and the creepy video of 8-year-old Obama supporters singing his praise, it was clear that reason and healthy skepticism were but relics of a Jurassic era – specifically, 2004 – when we collectively looked at the promising senator from Illinois as a man, not a mandate.
And the question of whether or not America would actually elect an untested candidate to the highest office in the land based solely on his inspiring rhetoric and infomercial promises, buried its roots deep into the socio-political soil of the country’s center-left, and even became an international point of speculation. Obama supporters essentially went on auto-pilot, and focused intently and passionately on the question, “can we?” and forgot about “should we?” And at every turn Obama was there to answer back with an assuring and resounding “Yes We Can!”
Challenging what we’re capable of – whether it’s in the biology lab or in the voting booth – is an admirable pursuit. But Crichton was always wise to inject a voice of reason into his suspenseful tales of enthusiasm – and arrogance – run amok. Only time will tell whether investing unearned confidence in Barack Obama was the right decision. As a member of the new loyal opposition who wants a strong and united nation, I hope it was. If there’s another lesson learned from Crichton’s novel it’s that no matter how smart you are, how cunning, how exceptional, life will find a way. Let’s hope Barack Obama is prepared.