Politicians as Performers

So, like most people, I watched the Vice-presidential debate last night to see how Palin would hold up and also to get a better impression of Biden.

Biden definitely seemed the stronger of the two candidates. He was relaxed and more (genuinely) confident while Palin seemed uptight, like she had the hand of the Republican Party up her ass. Every one of Palin's words seemed like it was regurgitated from her pre-debate coaching sessions. And every one of her facial expressions seemed forced, especially that eerie smirk that exuded a very artificial sense of confidence and know-it-all-ness.

After the debate, I watched the ABC post-debate analysis with George Stephanopoulos and Charles Gibson. Both commented on Palin's performance, pointing out how she never freezed or flubbed and how this was indicative of a successful debate. For guests, they had some former campaign managers, one having worked for the Democrats and the other two having worked for the Republicans. These managers discussed the candidates' "strategies" and how well-executed they were. Biden's strategy was to take as many jabs at McCain as he possibly could (I guess he said the name 'McCain' a ridiculous amount of times during the debate). Palin's strategy was to reach the 'soccer moms' and 'Joe six-packs' of America (this is apparently why she spoke directly into the camera and had a forced motherly tone in her voice, as though a good cup of chicken soup was all America needed to cure its ills).

Anyway, it didn't hit me right away, but after a few minutes of listening to the campaign managers discuss Palin and Biden's strategies, I suddenly realized how ridiculous it all was. They were talking about the debate as though it were one big game. They never once talked about how well the respective candidates argued their differences or how well they made their points or how well they delineated their plans for America. It was all about who was better at essentially tricking the American people into voting for them through various strategies, as though the debate were one big superficial performance. According to these campaign managers, the candidates' performance during the debate was more important than the meat of what the candidates were saying. Appearance, in other words, took precedence over substance.

This sudden realization made me think about politics in general and how stupid and pointless they really are. Maybe there was a time when politicians let their beliefs and words and plans convince people into voting for them without having to use certain strategies to trick people into voting for them, but that time is certainly not now.

Sadly, politics has become one giant performance, and the debate last night is only one example of this. Why? I'm not exactly sure. Maybe because we have become such an entertainment-saturated culture due to Hollywood and tabloid journalism. We are surrounded by shows and performances on a daily basis, so maybe we have come to a point where we can only understand politicians in terms of how good of a show they put on.

After all, I believe the only reason why McCain chose Palin as a running-mate was because it would make his campaign a good show. And he was right! Palin practically became an overnight sensation after she was chosen. She was all over the headlines and, even more importantly, all over the tabloids. There were all sorts of stories about her pregnant daughter and her days as a high school star basketball player and her son in Iraq and her "controversial" speeches at her church. Even a couple days ago on Inside Edition there was a story about Sarah Palin in a swimsuit contest when she was younger - really ridiculous stuff. All completely sensational.

The fact of the matter is that the Republicans really wanted to tap into tabloid America and appeal to the simplest minds out there. Just like with any other celebrity, no press was bad press when it came to Sarah Palin, as along as her name was getting more exposure than Biden and Obama. She put on a good show for America, and every American, they figured, loved a good show.

Part of me wants to believe that we're not as superficial and simple-minded as the Republicans make us out to be, but I think there's no denying the fact that the way we process reality is heavily influenced by the showmanship we are surrounded by in the media every day. We are so used to "shows" (whether it be in movies, TV, in the tabloids or whatever), that people like Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous don't even realize how foolish they sound when they go on air and talk about the candidates' strategies and performances more than they talk about the SUBSTANCE of what the candidates debated.


Out of the two parties, I have to say that the Democrats put less of a show on than the Republicans. This is why I'm voting for Obama, or I should say that this is one of the reasons why I'm voting for Obama. I don't care what anybody says: clearly after eight years of nothing but disaster - both on our own soil and abroad - it's time for a change. McCain claims to be different from Bush, but the fact of the matter is that he's different but same. Although the way in which he carries out the Republican agenda may differ from Bush, the important thing to know is that McCain is still going to carry out the Republican agenda...period. He is a good guy, but he will be a yes-man for the Republicans. And the same thing goes for Palin: she's a good woman...very attractive...hell, I'd Mrs. Robinson that shit...BUT she's going to be a yes-woman for the Republicans. Vote Obama!


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