Are these dinners an opportunity for Obama to connect to his voters or a chance to spin his image as a populist?
On top of running a fundraising lottery for dinners with the President (I’m sure you’ve been getting Michelle and Barack’s emails), the White House has been prominently using the ensuing sit downs for photo-ops. The latest event took place a few days ago at the Mintwood Place restaurant in D.C.’s Adams Morgan neighborhood. Whereas, on the surface, it’s heartening to see the Obamas hanging with wildfire smoke jumpers and assistant high school principals, as if one of those chairs might be filled (for $25 or so) by you or me, I’m wondering about the larger symbolism.
Isn’t what we’re seeing here, in fact, mostly the product of brilliant marketing, with the president (or Romney) engineering the perception of populism and participation? More seriously, by having people pay for the opportunity, isn’t the campaign also emulating and forcing the public to (literally) buy into the plutocratic game where citizens (those with the real wealth) are expected to pony up to get (the real) attention of elected leaders? Looking at the photo again, how much is the scene a democratic act, a lighthearted strategy for engagement, a concept to say that the little guy helped build the bank, one more reinforcement of the lottery society, and/or a vehicle to model for the American electorate the concept of “pay to play”?
Click for full size
And then, I happened to notice this single photo from the evening that the White House happened to publish on Instagram. In contrast to the wire photos presumably taken of the Obamas and the lottery winners before the dinner started, everyone sitting there with a glass of water in front of them, the Instagram shot shows the Obamas in isolation enjoying their meal in what otherwise (there’s no caption) looks like an intimate meal.
Not to make too big a deal out of it, I also wonder what kind of message this snapshot is supposed to communicate, given that the whole point of the event involves the Obamas breaking bread with Joan and Jane Q. Public.
Click for full size
(photo 1: Pete Marovich-Pool/Getty Images caption: President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama have dinner with three winners of “Dinner with Barack and Michelle” fundraising contest on August 20, 2012, at Mintwood Place in Washington, D.C. Voters will go to the polls on November 6 to decided if Obama will be re-elected for another four years.)(photo 2: @barackobama / Instagram.)
Michael Shaw is a Clinical Psychologist, an analyst of visual journalism, and a frequent lecturer and writer on how politicians and the media frame political imagery. He founded BagNews in 2003. Follow him on Twitter @BagNewsNotes. More Michael Shaw.
More Related Stories
- IRS official takes the Fifth: "I have not done anything wrong"
- Experts: Fox News spying scandal a game-changer
- Lessons from Lincoln leave gay immigrants behind
- Los Angeles elects first Jewish mayor
- Peter King: There's "hypocrisy" over aid by Oklahoma senators
- Anthony Weiner announces run for NYC mayor
- How policy nihilists in the Senate doomed LGBT immigrants
- On freedom of speech, Obama-Nixon comparisons are apt
- Senate panel approves immigration overhaul
- Slave descendants seek equal rights from Cherokee Nation
- Peace Corps to allow gay couples to volunteer together
- Is abortion about to doom Republicans again?
- Anti-voter-fraud Tea Party group sues the IRS
- The Bachmann-inspired romance novel
- Nate Silver: Why the scandals aren't hurting Obama
- How to oust Michele Bachmann from Congress
- Rand Paul: Congress should apologize to Apple, not the other way around
- Who is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford?
- Colorado judge rules Abercrombie parent company violates Disabilities Act
- When America became a third-world country
- Inhofe and Coburn: Red state hypocrites
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11
Salon is proud to feature content from BagNewsNotes. Leading LIFE.com's 2011 list of best photo blogs, it is the only site dedicated 100% to visual politics and the analysis of news images.