Friday, September 03, 2004

Back to the Funny, Please
Are you ready to read something depressing? You are? Great, let’s go!

According to an article in last week’s New Yorker (which I was unable to dig up on the web)—I would call it required reading, except that it will only serve to confirm your deepest fears about the ineptitude and ignorance of our beloved fellow citizens—the idea that Americans choose their political candidates based on deeply held convictions, or logical determinations of a candidate’s positions or abilities, is pretty much a crock.

To wit: “Studies show” that most voters can’t be bothered to learn a damn thing about the issues, and instead, vote according to really important factors such as the weather, the color of a candidate’s logo, or whether or not he knows how to eat a tamale.

This week’s Republican National Hootenanny demonstrated why those guys will almost always be better at winning over this silent, stupid majority—they keep it simple and memorable, because they know this country is approaching levels of anti-intellectualism and truth-denial that would make Pol Pot proud: Bush is a good ol’ boy trying to save the farm, Kerry’s a high-falutin’ Ivy league flip-flopper. It doesn’t matter that it has no basis in reality. It doesn’t matter that Bush’s party has done nothing but deceive and plunder and it’s all in the public record. Short of finding footage of Bush actually devouring a live baby, he is the People’s Candidate.

[I’m reminded of a sticker I saw on a truck bumper in Sacramento that featured a flag with little white bombs in place of stars, with the caption “Payback is Very Sweet.” Yep, bombing the hell out of someone—anyone—sure is good payback for those 19 guys who already blew themselves to smithereens. Boy, we showed them!]

I try to be optimistic—to believe that, as a culture, it’s to be expected that we may go two steps forward, one step back, as an educator friend of mine suggested—but I doubt that’s the case. The apathy and stupor is just too deep, and the spin doctors are too skilled with the scalpel. I regret allowing myself to believe for a minute that maybe substance would defeat style this time, that even with Kerry’s lack of charisma or flair for demagoguery, Bush’s excesses would prove to be too much for even the most jaded populace to stomach.


In fact, I can’t even take solace in history’s judgment, as much as I like the idea of reading about Bush & Co.’s malfeasance in some future textbook alongside other great failures in American democracy—because I believe this crowd is so good at Newspeak that future generations will probably never know how bad they were.

I’m tempted to take the same approach towards politics that I try to take with my other source of heartbreak, the Mets: stop believing, stop hoping, let them sort things out on their own for a while, and save myself the disappointment. Wait ‘til Next Year, or next election year. But I doubt I’d be any more successful at avoiding political news than I am at ignoring the box scores.

It’s my team, dammit—my country—and I just have to hope against hope.