Barack & Michelle's Market

The Obamas are their own economy.

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Race, ethnicity, generational change and other cultural dynamics combine to make a Barack and Michelle Obama a marketing dream.

    Barack Obama's big economic package may or may not be good policy.

    It may or may not become law. 

    The economy itself may or may not quickly recover. One thing of which there is no doubt -- to which even Republicans should tip their hat -- the Obamas are doing their bit to boost certain bottom lines. 

    Take the magazine and fashion industries, for example. 

    Obama has been a God-send for magazine publishing.

    Indeed, I went into my favorite comic book store two weeks ago and was surprised to find them selling a copy of Time's Person of the Year issue. The store sells magazines in addition to comics -- but those periodicals are either comic-, game-, or sci-fi/fantasy-related. One doesn't usually find mainstream news weeklies in the store. But sure enough, there's Time graced with Barack Obama's visage.  Apparently confirming Obama's role as a marketing superhero, Marvel Comics releases a pre-inaugural special edition of Amazing Spider-Man guest-starring Obama. Last year, the Image comic Savage Dragon also featured candidate Obama.

    Meanwhile, The New York Times sees Michelle Obama as a potential savior of American fashion:

    Mrs. Obama did something bolder on the campaign trail and, in a sense, less expected. With flashcard clarity, she signaled an interest both in looking stylish and also in advancing the cause of American fashion and those who design and make it. She wore off-the-rack stuff from J. Crew and, at times controversially, designs by fashion darlings like Isabel Toledo, Thakoon Panichgul and Narcisco Rodriquez. She brought to the campaign a sophisticated approach to high-low dressing, a determination to adapt designers’ work to suit herself — adding jewelry or sweaters or wearing flat shoes with sheaths or even altering dressmaking details — as well as a forthright conviction that it is the woman who should wear the clothes and not the other way around.

    Of course, every First Lady has some impact on fashion -- and interior decorating too, for that matter.  However's Michelle Obama's influence stems from much of the same dynamics that fuel the Obama-connected magazine sales -- race, ethnicity, generational appeal create a cultural confluence that ripples through the economy.  Most likely not since the days of JFK and and Jackie has one couple in the White House had such a ripple effect throughout the larger economy (and it extends to more technological types of accessories as well). While it's fair for conservatives to dismiss this fact as just more media puffing up Obama, but it remains a fact.

    However, Obama supporters and partisans should realize that the cultural impact is not infinite. For one thing, once someone becomes part of the popular culture, the clock starts ticking on their shelf-life. Right now, the Obamas stil have a freshness about them that intrigues the country -- even parts of the nation that didn't vote for him. But that natural curiosity will fade in time and the Obamas will settle into being "just" the First Family, rather than being a phenomenon. 

    Furthermore, the proof of the pudding is in the taste. If the country feels that Obama is unable to fill his promises -- or if those promises are proven wanting, any potential national love affair with Obama, Inc. will be over before it begins.  As George W. Bush undoubtedly knows, unpopular presidents rarely show up on magazine covers.

    For now though, there is a rather wistful irony that, in a pretty dire economy, one of the major "sellers" happens to be the man who will be in charge of this economy in about ten days.

    Robert A. George is a New York Post editorial writer, blogs at Ragged Thots and dabbles in stand-up comedy.