O-Bummer! Hipsters O-Bandon Obama

Prez ditched by Pitchfork.com-wielding puerile politicos who prefer Stumptown to stumping. ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO...Well, it's not really clear right now.

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Illustration by Drew Friedman.

As Election Day 2008 approached, if you were an urban organic kale farmer, or a crochet enthusiast or a vaudevillian with a new song to sing, and you wanted to support Barack Obama for president, you were in luck.

The streets of New York were crowded with “Walks for Change,” “Bike4Barack” groups, “Karaoke We Can Believe In” sing-alongs, “Get Out the Laughs and Votes” comedy shows and “Art for Change” auctions. The days leading up to the election saw Pasties for Peace, a Cowboys for Barack Wild West Burlesque Show Fund-raiser, a Yo La Tengo fund-raiser at McCarren Pool, and a $1,000 fund-raiser in Dumbo featuring They Might Be Giants, which sold out.

Richie Fife, who helped lead the Obama effort in the run-up to the primary, estimated that 10,000 New Yorkers had contacted his office to get involved and that three times that many were out on the streets on their own initiative.

“It was an amazing thing,” Mr. Fife said, and he recalled going sometimes to five different events a night at various clubs, houses and downtown galleries. “It was like going to an AA meeting, except it was at a bar. You would have all these people stand up and say sort of sheepishly, ‘I’ve never been involved in politics but this time I am going to get involved.’ It was almost like a religion.”

The Urban Dictionary called them “The Obaminators” (or, for the females, “Obaminatrixes”) and despite a short lifetime of political ignorance,  they helped create in 2007-08 a cultural flourishing tied to electoral politics the likes of which the dreary world of campaign canvassing had seldom seen. It is hard to remember now, but the summer and fall of 2008 in the city were as if an old-timey party convention had met Burning Man, and it seemed like all the political clubs in town had been swept aside in favor of open-mic nights from a generation of supposedly apathetic and skeptical hipsters. They passed around Obama speeches like they were bootlegged concert tapes. They carried around dog-eared copies of The Audacity of Hope. They quoted the 2004 convention address like it was poetry. Even supposedly blasé Williamsburg sported a Shepherd Fairy two-toned Obama poster, with the word “Progress” stenciled in bold font below.

But now the progress posters have begun to wither. A new poster, featuring the president’s image superimposed over Frankenstein’s monster’s face, has been spotted around the neighborhood. The Obama T-shirts—it was, recall, ultrahip if you had a particularly faded one, maybe even one dating back to his Illinois state senate campaigns—have been turning up at the Goodwill and at garage sales. The next election is going to be a tough one that invites a question few campaign officials thought would ever be asked: Can Mr. Obama afford to lose the hipsters? Or was the Obama love last year’s record, now destined to wind up in the used bins alongside so many Conor Oberst CD’s?

“Everybody was taking the campaign’s energy and saying, ‘Hey, I’m a part of this obscure group of citizens, maybe we can raise $5,000 or $10,000 or whatever,” said novelist Amy Sohn, who held a couple of “Authors for Obama” fund-raisers at downtown clubs featuring big name writers like Colson Whitehead and Jonathan Lethem. “At a certain point it was like wink-wink—there are some really bizarre fringe groups around.”

Ms. Sohn didn’t sound inclined to enlist her literary brethren again, comparing the Obama presidency to a first novelist who signs a big advance for their roman à clef.

“The best day is the day you get the advance, and then everyone wonders if you were worth it and whether or not you will earn the advance back, which of course, you probably won’t. Then you just become the person everyone paid too much for.”

As the election season approached, David Mahfouda, 29, tied an art project he had been working on to the Obama effort. “Mending Bee for Change,” enlisted dozens of supporters to help sew a 65-foot-by-130-foot American flag. He had been, he said, “not so political, and not so good at being informed,” but he saw that all of the rhetoric he had been hearing about restoring and repairing the country was “embodied by this living and breathing person.”

Supporters sponsored stars and pieces of fabric, proceeds from which went to the Obama campaign. On election night, they braved the November cold and carried the flag from Bed-Stuy and over the Williamsburg Bridge and unfurled it in Union Square, meeting up with a group a hundred or so people who had planned a previctory parade from Brooklyn to Manhattan.

Mr. Mahfouda said that the flag is now in his living room and hasn’t been unfurled in over a year. There are no immediate plans to bring it back out again for 2012.

“My intuitive response is that [Obama] hasn’t done a ton,” he said. “He hasn’t really rocked the boat too much.”

The parade was organized by a fellow Brooklynite, Julian Bennet Holmes, then only 17 and too young to actually vote for Mr. Obama. Besides the march, he phone-banked for the candidate during the primaries.

Now, he said, “I’ll vote for him, but I think that he could be a little tougher”

Will there be a parade next time around?


  1. Anonymous says:

    Seriously, what the hell is a hipster? Someone who lives in Brooklyn? An artist? A person in their 20s? Dudes with skateboards? Douchebags? People who fall for gimmicks? This article could have used a definition….

    1. Anonymous says:

      Author provided examples of hipsters throughout article without specifically defining hipster. What do you care what the hell a hipster is (unless you suspect you are one)?

      1. Anonymous says:

        Yeah, why would I care what a hipster is in this article entitled “O-Bummer! Hipsters O-Bandon Obama”

  2. K.C. says:

    Obama 2012 operatives need to take a look again, at what they did for the people in their 20s and 30s who got them elected. What affects me? Health insurance until I’m 26. What else? So far,  my subsidized grad school loans will be eliminated thanks to the budget crisis, most likely I won’t have clean water in my future since oil and coal industries run the country…

    1. Anonymous says:

      Word. And I still don’t have my free gas.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nothing like a cold dose of reality to the face.

  4. a citizen says:

    I submitted a post a few hours ago that blew this dumb article out of the water. It has not yet been posted. It looks like the NY Observer is engaging in cencorship.

    1. They  did not approve  my highly critical comment either.

      1. Boo101 says:

        Censorship we can believe in!

    2. Romanxp47 says:

      Maybe they’re looking for people who are marginally proficient a spelling.

    3. Anonymous says:

      Fight cencorship.

    4. Anonymous says:

      Perhaps they are still spell-checking it?

  5. Robagiuffre says:

    all i can say is that maybe some of these people should of taken the time to read up on Mr. Obama and his stance on issues and they wouldn’t have been so surprised. Obama is nothing more and nothing less than Bill Clinton 2.0, but in a time where Bill Clinton 2.0 is not the best political strategy.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I thought he was Jimmy Carter 3.0.  And Jimmy Carter was like the Herbert Hoover Droid.

  6. Dvz says:

    What the hell is a “stenciling station”? This entire article made me feel stabby.

  7. Guest says:

    This article’s hipster cred is slightly undermined by spelling Shepard Fairey “Shepherd Fairy.”

    1. Anonymous says:

      I’m pretty sure it was an artistic choice on the author’s part. Conveying at once society’s inability to spell, and the apathy most emotionally healthy human beings have toward the misspelling of someone as useless as Sheepherder Fairy.

  8. John says:

    What the ..I keep reading this and think you really have a code that hasn’t been shared.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I cannot resist just loving the cartoon pictorial. In my personal belief this is as close as a depiction as to what is really going on….Lets see what happens during the elections..

  10. Don says:

    Dear bozos, What is the alternative?

  11. Anonymous says:

    Yeah right, vote 4 Mistershell Bachman/woman…

  12. richiepartington says:

    President Obama is responsible for Sonia Maria Sotomayor sitting on the US Supreme Court.  Want another Clarence Thomas or Antonin Scalia making the decisions?  Then sit on your hands.

    1. Anonymous says:

      “The newness and the excitement is gone, and it would be hard to rekindle just because of the historic nature of the election,” he said. “But it’s definitely still there. Talk to me if Michelle Bachmann is the Republican nominee; then  you’ll see how fired up everyone will be.”

  13. Msmsm says:

    Maybe because Obama is destroying the Country.. Some People just don’t study the canidates like the should, before voting.. I hope they have learned thier lesson..

  14. josh c says:

    don’t forget he killed bin laden!

  15. Peter Mullen says:

    And I thought hipsters were smart.  Turns out they make idiotic voting decisions just like most the rest of us.  “He’s articulate!”  “He’s inspiring!”  “He’s black!”  “He’s cool!”  Gag me.

    1. Anonymous says:

      And me.

  16. Boo101 says:

    all your base are… resist we much.

  17. 57nomad says:

    I remember when my daughter was in high school and at that age when her contempt for all things not cool was at its most condescending and her lack of patience with her parents view of the world at its highest I asked her what she wanted and expected from life.  She replied “oh a nice apartment, a new car, and a few luxuries.” 

    I asked her how she expected to obtain these things and she looked at me as if I’d just stepped out of a space ship wearing a clown suit.  There was simply no way of explaining to a dork like me that everybody that lived in her world, a world I could not by the nature of my being ever understand,  just got these things as a matter of course, like getting wet in you stood in a running shower.

    I realized that there was no way I would ever be able to explain to her in advance the lessons that life was going to teach her once she left home.   Looking back, it took her about the same two and a half years that it has taken the Obamaites described in this article to understand  that believing that you are cool will translate into material reality is the road to disappointment.  They now understand that that road which  appeared at first to be a smoothly paved highway with a special lane for the very hip was nothing but a movie set illusion painted on a backdrop and  utterly lacking in substance.

    1. jadez says:

      its called having hope.

      you start each day wondering if you should jump off a bridge??

      jeez…you must be tons of fun to be around.
      you could bring helium balloons to the ground.

      1. akobori says:

        no, its the difference between having a purpose with plan to get there and a wild expectation that everything you dream of will magically fall from above just for you.

        Were the obamaites really looking to get into politics or were they just voting for someone because it was cool at the time?  If they really wanted to make a change they would have gotten involved in helping local politicians, held rallies for the elected officials who affect them most. but then thats not cool, and sounds like a lot of work.

        If obama had a plan to go along with his vision he could have accomplished much more.  We’ve now witnessed what happens when a lot of energy is directed to no plan in particular, a freight train on ice.

      2. VincentMVNY says:

        Dude, like Wow, your reply was real cool. Cool words, like ‘wake up’ and ‘hope’ and …. and well like you know what I mean
        Typical doofus hipster.

  18. Bachmann-bashing and Romney-bashing, but no Perry-bashing? We’re going to need you to try a little harder.

  19. Mcdume says:

    I can’t define ‘hipster’, but I know one when I see one. Of course it’s tough for the 2008’ers. Look at what Obama ran on, his promises, look at what he’s followed through on. And that’s WITH 2 years controlling House and Senate. Basically, once again, we were lied to.

  20. patricia says:

    Hipsters are young people who “think” they know everything. If you ever have a chance to have a conversation with one of them you’ll find out they are not only ignorant on most current events, they are also small minded and stupid. In their efforts to “be cool”, they have no common sense or sense of responsibility, just like Obama. Living in the real world takes time and practice, something most hipsters choose not to do.

  21. Gravedi99er says:

    I  pray no one votes for Obama – he has destroyed America enough!