Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Family Business

Monrovia, California

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Time for an update on the Republican primary front. As I and many others predicted, as the smoke begins to clear it’s apparent after only two states that Mitt Romney will be the nominee. Rick Perry is gone, so is John Hunstman, the Romney clone. Rick Santorum will soon fall by the wayside. We'll never have a president named Rick. We had one Richard and that was enough. South Carolina, being such a ruthlessly hateful (not to mention insane) place, may give Newt Gingrich some false hope, but in the end—and that end will come soon—Romney will be the guy. Barzini’s dead. So is Philip Tattaglia, Moe Green, Stracci, Cunio. They may not settle all family business today, but by the first week in February they will have done so.

Such is the nature of the exhibitionistic way they decide these matters that the nomination will be a foregone conclusion ten months before the election. Forget the smoke-filled rooms--you can’t smoke anywhere anyway, except in Herman Cain ads. The saddest and most dispiriting thing is that we will then be subjected to a full-bore election campaign between the Republican and Democratic candidates for what amounts to nearly a quarter of the presidential term. If the race were closer between some of the Republicans, at least Obama could relax for a few months longer as they continue to duke it out, and we wouldn’t have to be subjected to as much of the extra bullshit that gets thrown when the election itself is at stake, during which we will all get (more) sick of our own guy as well as the other guy.

The other aspect of the maddening preoccupation of the media with the political campaign as a form of reality television is that it gives the public outside the primary states the false impression that they have something of a voice in the process. I’ve pondered the phenomenon of “reality TV” for years, wondering first why anyone likes it enough to watch and second how they keep coming up with people who are willing to expose themselves to the nation for the utter nitwits they are. The answer to the first half of the question is what I suspected it was all along, namely, that it is somehow comforting to the viewing public to see people on television who are (if this is possible) even stupider than they are. The answer to the second half came to me very soon after I began producing my own public access TV show back in Connecticut in the early years of the new century. People (including me) love to see themselves on television, regardless of what they’re doing. The quizmasters of the 1950s knew this even when the medium was in its infancy.

Let’s get back to the “extra bullshit” thing I mentioned. To be sure, the stuff the Republicans are hurling at each other now scores very high on the old Shit-O-Meter. But the splitting of hairs of distinction among various card-carrying members of the official Party of Fear and Loathing in the U.S. isn’t the same as what’s coming up once it’s Obama versus Romney, mano a mano. As things stand now, those of us who wouldn’t vote for a Republican to save our lives can simply tune out most of their silliness and smile smugly at their buffoonery. But once the Mittmeister and Barack-o-rama square off we’ll be treated to the Final Insult, when the two candidates begin to try to out-God-Bless-America each other. Because there really won’t be much else to talk about. Both guys will promise the moon and the stars to the public, swearing they’re going to fix the economy, bring about world peace through superior firepower, clean up the environment while creating jobs, promote businesses small and large, put a chicken in every garage, etc. But in the end no president can actually do any of those things. They never could—the government simply isn’t set up that way for the most part. Nevertheless every four years we succumb to mass hypnosis and believe that one person can heroically pull us up by our bootstraps. We get this idea from inaccurate memories of presidents like FDR and JFK, who seemed to run the country by sheer charisma. (In fact, in our lifetimes it was the decidedly uncharismatic LBJ who came closest to running both the executive and legislative branches simultaneously.) Anyway, the country is really so completely in the thrall of Wall Street, Madison Avenue, and Hollywood that probably nothing that could happen in real life would ever make much of a difference either to our future or to our everyday lives. So the only thing left for the candidates to do is to tell the American people what a great and powerful and wonderful and divinely ordained country we live in, and that they are going to make it even better. Over and over, ad nauseam.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, all the sound and fury, signifying nothing, between now and November, the jillions of dollars pissed away on advertising, the endless hours of commercials, will be to capture a comparatively small percentage of the electorate. If they were to hold the election tomorrow the majority of the voters would simply choose the candidate of their party. They might not like the man much, and might think he’ll do (or continue to do) a half-assed job, but they’ll hold their noses and vote, based on what their party stands for. It’s as simple as that, and that accounts for over 80% of the votes cast in any election. But it’s the “undecideds” the advertisers and the candidates are courting. Some of these are folks who might not otherwise vote at all, and some will be genuinely undecided between the candidates, like breakfasters who are undecided about whether to order hash browns or home fries with their eggs and bacon.

I must here say a few words regarding persons who are undecided about whether to vote Republican or Democratic. They are idiots. This may offend some of my readers. Indeed, if you’re not sure which party to vote for, I wish to offend you. You should know better. Cynics on the far left or right will say there’s not much difference between the parties, and they may be right. But to be seriously wondering about whether to vote for the standard-bearer of the Republican Party, which publicly stands for racism and selfishness, or the Democratic Party, which publicly stands for equality and generosity—well, there’s just no excuse for that. I have more respect for a rock-ribbed Republican who knows his own nasty little mind than I do for a person who is genuinely undecided between the two parties.

The more strategically-minded among you might be thinking, “Yes, but if it’s the undecided voters who swing an election, then wouldn’t you rather they swing toward the Democratic side? Idiots or not, their votes are needed.” I suppose so, but what I’d really like is to live in a country where people know their own minds and don’t seriously believe that individual political candidates are going to make their lives better.

There is one important reason for us to put Obama back in office, notwithstanding his fecklessness so far and his almost limitless capacity to disappoint. That reason is the Supreme Court. The next justice to croak will probably be Ruth Ginsberg, a comparative liberal, and it would be a shame if a Republican were president when she does. And then there’s the possibility, remote but real, that Scalia, Alito, Thomas, Kennedy, and Roberts will get hit by a bus at the same time. Or individually for that matter. Or be accidentally gibbeted by a rope carelessly flung over a lamppost. Or be decapitated by a flying lawnmower blade. Or have their intestines….. Oops, sorry. I’m fantasizing.

So gird yourselves for the months to come. Put on your raincoats, put in your earplugs, and hold your noses.

.... Come on, Newt, what are you afraid of? Do you think I'd make my sister a widow? I'm godfather to your son. No Newt, you're out of the family business, that's your punishment.

No comments: