Saturday, November 17, 2012

Election Rejection

With so many pundits voicing so many opinions about why Obama beat Romney in the election last week, I had every intention of keeping my mouth shut.  For one thing, I can't analyze demographics and numbers and lots of dry, meaningful data without getting bored halfway through and going out for ice cream. For another, I was pretty certain that nothing I could say would have much value. I'm really not much good at arguing politics; I mostly try to avoid it because once I'm in the middle of a discussion (usually with my sister), I tend to lose.  I think it's because our discussions usually go something like this:

Barbara:  Okay, here's why you need to hang onto your money: The world is going into the shitter because, according to Dr. Blahson from the University of Blah, that poser in the White House is advocating for blah blah blah while blahtity-blah percent of the current population is on food stamps, which our economy can't sustain. Furthermore, factity fact arguments suggest that fact number of people are blah blah fact fact and, of course, totally wrong.  So ... even though I don't like Romney, I'm still voting for him.

Me:  I don't like Romney because I think he's a big poo-poo head.  (This point in the discussion is when I usually start thinking about strawberry or mint chocolate chip, and whether I seriously need the nuts and whipped cream.)

Frankly, I think the analysts need to talk to more people like me if they want to know why Romney lost. Sure, what I just said sounds simplistic, shallow and just plain stupid. But when it comes to politics, I think most of those "s" words do apply to most of our ignorant, uninformed population. It's not because all of us are idiots ... it's because the topic of politics makes us all idiots. Why?  It's just plain boring. If I write the words, "coalition," "lobbyists," "sequestration" and "fiscal cliff," I'm betting at least half of you out there will start glazing over.  It's really not your fault; political science can be dull, dry and depressing.  So, desperate to not appear to be as stupid as we are, we turn to mass media and cling to whatever talking points people like Rush Limbaugh and Rachel Maddow hammer into our heads. What other course of action is there? Must we do actual research on the Internet?  I'm sorry, but I only have so much Internet time at my disposal, and "Words With Friends" eats up a large chunk of it.

But politically speaking, most of us don't have a clue what we're really talking about.  And we're the ones who were out there voting last Tuesday.  So, when some brilliant person like George Will wants to analyze election results, he needs to stop thinking that we all make predictable, semi-rational decisions based on hard facts. Human beings are, as a group, pretty irrational and messed up much of the time. My friends and I tend to make our decisions based on hormone levels, the Magic 8 Ball and whether the Planet Mercury's in retrograde.  I have no clue why members of my family make the decisions they do...the other day I watched my mother put strawberry jelly on a burrito. So, when someone like Karl Rove or Peggy Noonan suggests that Obama won because he appealed to more Hispanics, or won more young adults, or ran a better ground game, they're dead wrong.  Why?  Because those conclusions sorta make sense, and we, as a species, never do.

So, here's my not-so-brilliant analysis, based on all the shallowness, simplicity and stupidity I can muster: Romney lost because he didn't have the "X factor", and most of us couldn't stand the thought of watching him on TV for the next four years.  That's it.  And, let's face it, that Great Glowing Screen in the living room pretty much dictates everything we think and do. It tells us we're too fat, what to wear, where to stare and whether or not we have good hair.*  With Obama, we either liked him and welcomed his almost-constant presence in our faces or, if we couldn't stand the guy, we quickly learned to tune him out. But Romney wasn't really all that lovable, even to his own party. I would have considered voting for a charismatic, good-looking Republican who would interrupt my prime-time television viewing without my wanting to blow an artery, but it definitely was not Mitt. I was too aware of his money; too annoyed by his gleaming family (all of whom looked like they were birthed from a loaf of Wonder Bread); and, seriously, I didn't like his smug little mouth and his beady little eyes. I wouldn't have wanted to buy a car from him, much less entrust the future of the free world to a guy whose own cars get to ride in elevators.

And, before all you Romney-lovers get on my case, let me just say that Obama often annoys the stuffing out of me too, especially when he's campaigning. His voice gets all churchy and he delivers every line with the grandeur of MLK's "I have a dream" speech. And, frankly, I was disappointed with his first four years.  I was one of those people who expected him to magically fix everything wrong with the country; I was willfully oblivious to the reality that no president has that kind of magic. And this whole Benghazi/Petraeus mess has me more than a little wondering if some folks in his administration may not have been entirely honest with us. Worst of all, though, I sure wish modern science could do something about his Alfred E. Neuman ears. When he's on TV, I can't stop staring at them. The entire time he talks, I'm sitting on my couch thinking, "My, what big ears you have, Obama." They're very distracting. Maybe he could tape 'em against his head or something, I don't know. that everybody's mad at me, I'll continue with my original point.

People make friends with people they like; they hire people they like; they buy crap from people they like, and date and marry people they like. That's just how we're wired.  We bond with other human beings because of gut feelings and brain chemistry and then later invent reasons for feeling the way we do. Furthermore, the Great Glowing Screen That Rules Us All lets us participate in popularity contests such as "X Factor" and "American Idol," where we get to vote every week! Do we always choose the most talented contestants?  Nope. We vote for the ones we love. We vote for singers like Scotty McCreery because yeah, he's a good singer, but awww, isn't he just the sweetest boy, playing baseball and workin' in the grocery store after school? You can bet he loves his mother and goes to church. Even with those big ears, isn't he just so cute you wanna squeeze his widdle face? Much of America fell in love with him and that's why he won.  With American Idol winner Phillip Phillips, it was a little different.  The guy was talented, but he made people like him because he was able to project irresistible self-confidence even while his clothes looked like they just tumbled out of the dryer. Gruffy, scruffy people-you-can-share-a-beer-with are often perceived as charming and quite easy to love.

So, if the Republicans want to take back the White House in 2016, it's really easy: Pick out several guys or gals who exhibit more personality than an ear of corn, parade 'em in front of Simon Cowell and let him pick out the star. The winner will be someone who can turn on the ol' razzle dazzle, put on a good show and leave the audience begging for more.  Look at the last two popular Republican presidents ... one was an adorable old geezer who used to be an actor ... the other a make-believe rootin' tootin' cowboy who liked to invent words like "stratergize."** Yeah, maybe some of us made fun of George because he sounded kind of stupid when he said that, but secretly we loved it.  And in the voting booth, the love is all that matters.

*Speaking of not having good hair ... can somebody out there please beg Hillary to cut hers if she wants to run in 2016?  Flippy hair only looks good on 20-something, Marlo Thomas "that girls" from 1970.

**At first I loved going around saying "stratergize" just to mock George Bush, but the last laugh's on me because now the word pops out of my mouth when I least expect it and makes me look like an idiot... as if I needed any help. Thank you, Mr. President.

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