Elected candidate Barack Obama’s slogans aim to rally Americans around the idea of hope and change. T-shirts given to those who donate to the Obama campaign read: “One voice can change the world.” His central campaign slogan is: “Change we can believe in” or, just plain “Hope.” After arguably dystopic national and global affairs over the last eight years, and a mess of current economic and ecological issues, hope and change within the presidential election seem to be dreams that we can rely on to cure the dystopias of our nation and world.
In our interviews, when we asked Oregonians if they think regional or global situations will improve or get worse, they frequently answered, “it depends on leadership.” This suggests the ambiguity over who will be the next president of the United States of America; whatever happens in the future will be due, in a large part, to Barack Obama. While Barack Obama or John McCain weren’t mentioned frequently over the course of all our interviews, the role of leadership in the future was mentioned again and again. There are numerous factors that might cause people to factor in leadership as a key determinant of the future: the presidential campaigns were a considerable topic in the media over the last few months; the last eight years have in some peoples’ opinions been less than utopic; Barack Obama’s campaign has been relying on the imagery of hope to conjure up our utopic dreams and convince us change is something worth voting for; and possibly, people feel leadership is simply a powerful component of the direction our world heads. Undoubtedly, more than one of these factors has played a role in the leadership response. But with all the dystopias that Oregonians have mentioned concerning economics, politics, ecological integrity, and culture, it seems likely that they are hinting towards some sort of utopic vision for the future when they mention “leadership.” This especially seems to be the case when one considers that our utopias and dystopias are closely intertwined.
On the 2008 National Election Day, it seems not only that the new President was elected, but potential future scenarios of our nation and the world have been somewhat mapped out simply because new United States leadership has been chosen. With newly elected President Barack Obama, it may seem as if the dystopias that seemed so prevalent over the past eight years could finally be addressed. Likewise, it seems our utopias may be achieved on some level. Not only in the interviews, but in other contexts as well, have we heard 2008 referred to as a pivotal year. Since there is so much hope Oregonians have in addition to having nightmare scenarios, it seems that they relied on Barack Obama’s campaign for a sort of North Star in dystopic times. I imagine this is because Obama’s campaign put so much emphasis on hope and change. The utterance, “depending on leadership,” shows how much people think the future is contingent on imagining and working towards the concept of utopia, and how that vision of utopia plays a important role in politics.