Here are a couple of pictures that morph the faces of President-Elect Obama and Abraham Lincoln. By now, I doubt people haven’t either seen or imagined such images; the comparison is pretty popular in the media. Indeed, as Time columnist Joe Klein says in this article, Obama “has never been shy about comparing himself to Abraham Lincoln.” The more obvious reasons for such comparisons have to do with his platform of change, negotiation, and most notably, his appointment of “a team of rivals” to high cabinet positions (a notion that, given the very different contexts of their presidencies, holds less water than it should– for instance, Obama is not hurtling toward a civil war).
But another less examined consequence of this type of morphing is that images like these can also unintentionally work as a strategy to produce an essentialized vision of President Obama as untouchable. Perhaps in the end, the more that we (the public) buy into this morphing of the two presidents into one, the less apt we — Democrats, or even Republicans for that matter– are to either criticize or engage in serious policy discussions and debates. In a sense, such comparisons could potentially allow President-Elect Obama to squelch, change, or appropriate differing viewpoints within his own party, and visual representation through the various morphings of Obama-Lincoln we find on the internet and in print– and the instant association we make between the two– could very well keep the American public from seriously disagreeing with his “core vision,” whether from the left or the right.