Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Live from Vegas, It's Democracy Tonight!

Like most blue-blooded, cattle-chewing Americans, I came home from a long day in the hopeless world to find that there were life-altering events underway in the august state of Michigan.

So be it.

I went to the fridge and grabbed beer, cigarettes, went to the couch and made my fort. There were some pretzels on the table, so I started in, only to learn that after the election coverage there was to be an NBC News Special Presentation of the Las Vegas Democratic Debate! Well kiss my grits! More politics than you could shake a stick at! Upon hearing the announcement, I spewed a wide-arching crest of pretzel crumbs all over the living room floor, and began dancing and whooping on the couch like an autistic monkey on pharmaceutical-grade speed.

As the election day draws ever closer, I suspect that these "debates" will garner a larger and larger share of the ratings and will attract a wider audience than ever before. I don't think it's any coincidence that they were scheduled during a slow television night. The only real competition was the slowly crumbling empire that was once known as American Idol ("read "Idle). And with the writer's strike in full effect, you can bet your bottom dollar that the television gods have already undertaken a complete manifesto on the importance of election coverage.

It's a wonderful thing that people are more interested in politics. They should be. But of course, it does present the obvious catch-22 of illusion versus reality.

Seventy years ago, elections were covered via newsprint and radio, and the constituency was forced to vote based on the issues, not on the image. Now, we have a large portion of the populace who has been mobilized to action and who understands the necessity of making a choice, but has no basis on which to make their decision.

So, these debates have not only become the platform for the candidates to spread their message, but the platform for the physical advertisement of the image of "president". Each candidate understands COMPLETELY that their appearance will affect the outcome of the election just as much as their beliefs. As such, I have a few theories based on the evidence, far-fetched and otherwise:

1) During the debates, Barack Obama was seated on the far left, wearing a dark suit with a blue tie. A blue backdrop was behind him. Certainly, he is seated in the position that represents the MOST democratic of the three candidates.

He was certainly the calmest of the three candidates, and at times seemed the most decisive and least willing to engage in verbal combat. We can safely say that his position and costuming was commensurate with his politics.

2) Hillary was seated in the center - the female separating the two males. She was wearing a dark suit with a RED shirt. A blue backdrop was also behind her.

Why choose a red shirt? The two colors on everybody's minds are BLUE and RED. So why the confusion? Her shirt was just-visible-enough through the V of her blazer, and so there was a red separation between her head and body.

She was combative at times, but never offensive. She was quick to interject on multiple occasions, but stated her positions clearly. Perhaps we could say that she was slightly more Republican than Barack in a way?

No, we can't say that. It's ridiculous.

What we can say is that she obviously has some red on her body, for reasons unknown at this time.

3) Oh lord, John Edwards. Seated all the way to the right, wearing a dark suit, I can't remember the color of his tie. Keep in mind I'm doing this all from memory, as the pictures haven't come out yet.

But I can't remember the color of his tie. Perhaps because he was the only candidate with a BRIGHT RED backdrop behind him. And though I found him to be the "most Democratic" candidate tonight, he certainly acted like a Republican at times (and I mean this in a good way, if that's possible).

So, what am I saying here? Is one candidate trying to be more "Democrat" than any other? No. What I AM saying is that these candidates and their advisers (and tailors and agents) are very aware that there are former Republicans who are looking for a non-Republican to vote for. If wearing a red shirt or sitting in front of a red backdrop (which may or may not have been the work of Edwards' staff) will get you a few hundred more converts, then god dammit, do it! Let's get those reds!

You will notice I have made no mention of the real issues. To be honest, I only remember a very few of them - the economy, nuclear power, the war in Iraq. There was some conversation about race and gender, but I was busy thinking about RED and BLUE.

Think about it logically: how much of anything on television do you actually remember? Do you recall even half of last night's evening news?

Unless you are sitting in front of the television, watching the debates with pad and paper, you will mostly likely come away with only a vague understanding of where everyone stands, and will be left with a sour, empty taste in the back of your throat at that. No, all most people are really looking for is to see if their possible future president can handle themselves under fire. I think it's safe to say that everyone handled themselves well.

If I had to pick a winner, I would say that John Edwards came off as the most capable of the three. He handled himself well, got angry when he was supposed to and showed emotion when he was supposed to. He even interjected with some stories of his "rough" upbringing. You could almost see the mist of empathy floating up to the stage from his would-be yokel voters.

Also, I find myself recalling his smile vividly, and I'm getting a nudge from my subconscious that says "A smiling president is a good president".

And you thought they outlawed subliminal advertising.

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