Politics as ‘Reality’ Show

Tom Junod at Esquire has a Modest Proposal for the Democrats to garner the votes of “independents”, under the title “How D.C. Became Hollywood for Semi-Attractive People“:

… But right now what’s most interesting about Christine O’Donnell — and the other candidates like her — is what her candidacy says about the opposition:
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The Democratic Party is boring. And its women are either old or unattractive.
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This is not a superficial problem in a country that has embraced superficiality. The Republicans, left for dead, are on the verge of taking back power because they of what they learned from Sarah Palin in 2008: that the values Americans care about are not family, but entertainment. Sure, it’s the party of no; it’s also the party of fun… Now the Republican Party has not so much remade itself as remarketed itself, its familiar cast of corporate shills learning to speak the language of populist outrage from the Tea Party, and its Tea Partiers rallying behind women attractive enough to allow them to forget their own grotesqueries.
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Christine O’Donnell, like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann and Nikki Haley before her, might not be the most beautiful woman in the world, but she has enough sex appeal for a turn on Dancing with the Stars, or for a contract with the Fox News mothership, or for a few contentious seasons on the Real Housewives of the Republican Party, if such a show ever existed, and if O’Donnell ever married or raised a family. The reality-television baseline is becoming the standard of beauty in this country: If you can say really crazy things or lead a really crazy life and become a star, well, then you must be beautiful. The Republicans have cornered the market on beauty because they’ve cornered the market on crazy, and if they’ve failed to produce a “candidate” in Delaware, they’ve succeeded in producing a star, and have made all the tut-tutting pundits look as behind the times as the newspapers they serve. Wherever populism reared its head, there used to be sweaty men; now — in country music, at Fox, and in crossover “Islamaphobe” bloggers who get their picture pasted on the Sunday Times — there are at least semi-sexy women.
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The Democrats didn’t think they had to worry about any of this. They weren’t looking for stars because they had the biggest star in the world as their president. He didn’t have a populist bone in his body, but he was a deeply thoughtful man and a galvanic speaker both, and he promised to transcend the bone-grind of American politics. With his promise of one-man racial reconciliation, he was transfixing, but the independents who were transfixed by him needed to keep being transfixed, and on this, he couldn’t deliver…
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… And the Democrats… deeply misjudged what the American electorate wants and is capable of. They thought that after the trauma of the Bush years, we would want a no-drama president; a regal First Lady; endless pages of necessary legislation, achieved at a political cost that proves the party’s commitment and courage; and a few more women on the Supreme Court who prove the party’s emphasis on excellence and ethnicity over eros. They didn’t realize that what we want is drama and nothing but, and so the Democrats became the CNN to the Repubican Fox, clueless in their competence, bewildered by their own best intentions…

You’ll have to click the link to read Junod’s tongue-so-firmly-in-cheek-as-to-protrude-from-the-vulgar-bodily-orifice solution, but I’m afraid he may be correct in his argument that a certain percentage of our fellow citizens may have given up on citizenship (hard) in preference for entertainment (easy).






46 replies
  1. 1
    DonkeyKong says:

    Behold the birth pangs of the Idiocracy! A deformed birth of rape and incest. But hey, when your given lemons, make…………….. lemon flavored BRAWNDO!

  2. 2
    Martin says:

    Hey, that’s my idea for Real Housewives of Wingnutopia! Inspired by the Pam Gellar profile.

  3. 3
    Joe Beese says:

    Bullshit.

    Christine O’Donnell is the most beautiful woman in the world.

  4. 4
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Imagine. If we could just cross the Wobblies with Hooters, we’d at last get a country Eugene Debs would weep with joy to see.

    All power to the Soviets of poll dancers and peasants!

  5. 5
    chopper says:

    i’d argue that this preponderance for drama is what’s currently causing so many people to invent the shit out of thin air, but then i remember that this sorta shit’s been whirling out of control for decades no matter the president. look at clinton, that guy swam in a sea of drama, yet the same crazy shit swirled around his ass all the time.

  6. 6
    Bob Loblaw says:

    clueless in their competence

    Competence is not a word that should be used to describe the Democratic Party. Or CNN.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    steviez314 says:

    I have been saying this for quite a while. Junod is 100% correct.

    USA Network’s motto is “Characters welcome”. It’s now the USA’s too.

  9. 9
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @cleek: Damn, you’re sharp….

  10. 10
    tomvox1 says:

    Sure, it’s kind of clever. But Junod like so many in the punditocracy, no matter how “clever,” fail to see that the last laugh is going to be on the GOP when they cease to exist as a single entity and split into the Teatard Party and the Eisenhauer/Nixon/Rockefeller/Want to Get Elected Party. It will probably begin in 2012 when Obama goes all Reagan/Mondale on the GOP’s asses and the antebellum wackos come to the brilliant conclusion that they got slaughtered because they still haven’t been conservative enough. All the hot crackers in all the trailer parks in the world won’t be able to save them as a cohesive political force then. So ha fuckity ha, Cleverpants Junod. Stick your tongue in that action.

  11. 11
    Mike in NC says:

    Real Housewives of the Republican Party

    That’s what they mean by “Must Flee TeeVee”

  12. 12

    @Davis X. Machina:

    If we could just cross Hooters with the Wobblies

    Cool!

    Of course, you’d have to find people who knew what the Wobblies were all about, wouldn’t you?

    They still exist, by the way.
    http://www.iww.org/

  13. 13
    beltane says:

    These people should limit their voting activities to voting on the things that really matter to them such as American Idol. In 2012 the GOP will scour the high-end escort services searching for candidates they can run who will appeal to the man-boobed Republican faithful. The teabagger phenomenon, when you get to the hear of it, is really all about male impotence, sexual and otherwise.

  14. 14
    zmulls says:

    This has been true, in one way or another, since the Kennedy/Nixon debates.

    Television has changed the requirements for news coverage from “people who knew how to write a complete sentence and finish a thought, and who knew what the hell they were talking about” to “people who are interesting to look at and listen to.”

    Politics has been moving towards that as well, and a candidate who can’t do TV has no shot — no matter how smart or capable.

    Politics is all about Q-rating; unfortunately, we get our governance from folks who can run the gauntlet of politics.

  15. 15
    MikeJ says:

    Promise of one man racial reconciliation? I missed that speech.

  16. 16
    DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice. says:

    There is one thing no one remarks on: the “hot babes” of the Republican party have been box office poison — Bachmann only wins because she’s in a R+7 district, Palin has disastrous favorable/unfavorable numbers and, at best, was a net neutral VP choice, and O’Donnell will lose a race by 15+ points that Castle would have won.

  17. 17
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @Linda Featheringill: They were organizing baristas, last time I looked.

    Joe Hill would be pleased. Confused, but pleased.

  18. 18
    Steve says:

    @DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice.: Quite right. Sarah Palin may be attractive, but you’d be hard-pressed to find many people who would vote for her because she’s attractive. Craig Ferguson aside, the people who go on and on about Palin’s looks are mostly lovestruck conservatives like Rich Lowry who would vote for her anyway. Her support is basically limited to the hardcore right. Maybe her looks have something to do with how much coverage she gets in the non-political media, but who cares?

  19. 19
    beltane says:

    @tomvox1: But at least we will be able to call the GOP the party of whores without someone chiming in that we’re being unfair to whores. Maybe Karl Rove will even set up tents where potential voters can “explore a candidate’s positions”.

    Why isn’t more being written about polling which shows real women (not people playing them on TV) mostly have a virulent hatred towards these Tea-bimbos?

  20. 20
    Citizen_X says:

    If we could just cross Hooters with the Wobblies

    Well, “Wobblies” won’t do. The Firm and Bouncies?

  21. 21
    beltane says:

    @DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice.: Women hate them, Doug, they really do. Even the non-political, white working class lunch ladies at my kids’ school react with shocking amounts of venom whenever Palin’s name is mentioned.

  22. 22
    Davis X. Machina says:

    @MikeJ: It’s not what Obama said, or meant, or said he meant. It’s what people who voted for him meant.

    Nate Silver probably has pre-emptively proved me wrong. but I’ll go to my grave sure that three or four or five points of Obama’s 2008 general election totals were due to people who wouldn’t vote for him again, and won’t vote for Democrats now, but voted for him anyways.

    Just this once.

    To show them that we’re a big country, not just a rich one, or a powerful one. To show their kids they were too hip, not like old farts, like you said. To buy insurance against ever being called a bigot again. To bury the past. To have something to tell the grandkids.

    Yeah, it’s tokenism, but it’s a good kind of tokenism, I guess. I’m 53, and I never thought I’d live to see it. And it won an election. But it was a vote for one person, at one time, not for his party, not two years later. And by the time two more years have passed the particular person it was a vote for then will have ceased to be.

    But once, one cold day in November, he really was your new bicycle.

  23. 23
    tkogrumpy says:

    I’m Thinking Terry Schiavo might make a good Republican candidate for the next cycle. Sort of brings republican politics to it’s logical conclusion, no?

  24. 24
    meh says:

    wow – file under the No Shit Sherlock pile…watch fox any day of the week at virtually anytime. When they do the dem v gop debate bullshit, it’s always an attractive GOP spox and a hideous Dem. Always. Set your watch to it. This country is a freakin joke.

  25. 25
    Zifnab says:

    but I’m afraid he may be correct in his argument that a certain percentage of our fellow citizens may have given up on citizenship (hard) in preference for entertainment (easy).

    His solution won’t work for several reasons.

    1. Any moral misstep Obama makes will trigger a nationwide media impeachment trial. There is such a thing as bad publicity. He’d be lynched with it.

    2. Ew, Hillary? She’s in her sixties.
    and
    3. That will get you some Jersey Shore fans, some Twitter hits, and some Facebook friend invites, but it won’t get you votes.

    The Unions like card check over the onerous “Vote to Unionize” process because it makes creating a union very easy. The Democrats need to move in the same direction with citizenship. Make being a good citizen easier.

    We’ve seen this already in some respect with Early Voting and ActBlue donations and online town hall meetings and at-your-fingertips information from blogs and websites. YouTube can, in ten minutes, break down the financial crisis in a way any elementary school student could understand.

    Keep lowering the bar on citizen involvement. Get some kind of “volunteer search engine” that works like a Google map. Organize citizen lobbying efforts like college students organize flash mobs. Make people more aware of what they can do with limited time and resources.

    As the barrier to being a good citizen comes down, you’ll see more good citizens move up to fill in the ranks.

  26. 26
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Didn’t Irving Kristol say, just before he died, that his son’s support for Palin grew out of a schoolboy crush? I think the old man was more than a little embarrassed. Lowry just put it right out there. And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if randy old man McCain got some crotch-ety nostalgia when he met her.

  27. 27
    Punchy says:

    They didn’t realize that what we want is drama and nothing but

    By “we” he/she means “the media”.

  28. 28
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    @Punchy: Amen to that. Reading polls lately, I’ve been remembering that “likely voter” was a construct invented IIANM to make the ’92 campaign seem more like a horserace. Not that it doesn’t have some validity, especially in mid-terms, but that’s just one incident in the way the political media hypes nonsense. It’s Mike Allen’s reason for being.

  29. 29
    Nick says:

    And the Democrats… deeply misjudged what the American electorate wants and is capable of. They thought that after the trauma of the Bush years, we would want a no-drama president; a regal First Lady; endless pages of necessary legislation, achieved at a political cost that proves the party’s commitment and courage; and a few more women on the Supreme Court who prove the party’s emphasis on excellence and ethnicity over eros. They didn’t realize that what we want is drama and nothing but, and so the Democrats became the CNN to the Repubican Fox, clueless in their competence, bewildered by their own best intentions…

    Well this I agree with. Serious people trying to govern a country of goof offs.

  30. 30
    lacp says:

    @Nick: The Democrats misjudged the unwashed lumpen? Heaven forfend! You mean it’s purely accidental that Democrats hold both houses of Congress and the Presidency? Hoocoodanode? That the ignorami meant to pull the lever for Republicans, but were too stoopid? Well, fuck ’em.

  31. 31

    No. Just, no. This is wrong. Sarah Palin and Christine O’Donnell are not winning politicians. They are losers. They lost. O’Donnell will lose.

    The reason they are “stars” is because the fucking NEWS MEDIA finds them entertaining and attractive.

    Just, no.

    I am going to have to write a post about this.

  32. 32
    scarshapedstar says:

    Ok, fine. Christina Hendricks for VP.

  33. 33
    JPL says:

    @scarshapedstar: That would be an improvement. Presently they have a lot of Betty’s preaching.

  34. 34
    gnomedad says:

    @meh:

    an attractive GOP spox

    A what?

  35. 35
    Steve says:

    @gnomedad: a spokesperson!

  36. 36
    James E. Powell says:

    @DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice.:

    That’s what so great about the New Republican Women, v4.0: it’s actually better if they don’t get elected because then they can do nothing and say just about anything.

    Junod is correct; crazy is the new black. But it has more to do with the disastrous Bush/Cheney years than a trend in politics. These crazy candidates did not come to the fore because they are strong, but rather because the establishment Republicans are weak.

  37. 37
    RareSanity says:

    @DougJ is the business and economics editor for Balloon Juice.:

    There is one thing no one remarks on: the “hot babes” of the Republican party have been box office poison—Bachmann only wins because she’s in a R+7 district, Palin has disastrous favorable/unfavorable numbers and, at best, was a net neutral VP choice, and O’Donnell will lose a race by 15+ points that Castle would have won.

    Yet, Sarah Palin is still the go to person, to “respond” to teh libruls…

    What difference does it make, if you can’t get elected, when you are more influential unelected? The Teatards will do anything she tells them to, the media will “report” that a group of 27-percenters are a revolution sweeping the nation, Democrats will cower….rinse, and repeat…

    Did you ever wonder why the demographic most frequently a “slave” in S&M films/photos*, very closely match the same demographic that will most frequently describe themselves as a Tea Partier? Middle-aged, upper-middle class, white males. Sarah Palin, Christine O’Donnell and Michelle Bachman are their Dominatrix(es?), and they must submit…

    *-Not that I have seen a lot of this material…

  38. 38
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    I agree with the folks above that this is the mainstream political press corpse masturbating and thinking that what turns them on turns on the rest of the country. Which makes it little more than an exercise in auto-necrophilia.

    To borrow and adapt a phrase from the late great Steve Gilliard: fuck the fucking MSM.

  39. 39
    Bob says:

    Yeah, the reason that the Democratic party will lose the majority is because the American public can’t appreciate the competence of the party. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  40. 40
    Brachiator says:

    You’ll have to click the link to read Junod’s tongue-so-firmly-in-cheek-as-to-protrude-from-the-vulgar-bodily-orifice solution, but I’m afraid he may be correct in his argument that a certain percentage of our fellow citizens may have given up on citizenship (hard) in preference for entertainment (easy).

    This reminds me. Did anyone see or comment on the recent NY Times piece about how Ann Coulter is being upstaged by a younger and prettier cohort of conservative crazies (Outflanked on Right, Coulter Seeks New Image)

    For a right-wing, evangelical Christian who has made fun of homosexuals and opposes same-sex marriage, Ms. Coulter seemed awfully … game. Wearing a black lace-up cocktail dress and high black heels, she posed for a photograph with the founder of Boy Butter, a maker of sex lubricants.

  41. 41
    Bubblegum Tate says:

    @Brachiator:

    Ann Coulter is being upstaged by a younger and prettier cohort of conservative crazies

    Exactly what’s going to happen to Palin in a couple years.

  42. 42
    Brachiator says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:
    RE: Ann Coulter is being upstaged by a younger and prettier cohort of conservative crazies

    Exactly what’s going to happen to Palin in a couple years

    I think that Christine O’Donnell is already being pitched as a kinder, gentler, but equally nutty Sarah Palin. And she shares some of her ability to come off well in front of the tv cameras. With Little Miss Witch O’Donnell mind, let me amend my own blurb: Ann Coulter is being upstaged by a younger and cuter coven of conservative crazies.

  43. 43
    Mike in NC says:

    @Bubblegum Tate:

    “I just think it’s a waste of great talent,” said Bob Guccione Jr., the founder of Spin magazine, who dated Ms. Coulter in the late 1990s, smitten by her good looks and sharp wit.

    Talent? Looks? Wit? WTF?

    But then again, that’s coming from a member of the Guccione family. Maybe he felt Coulter wasn’t “classy” enough to pose for Hustler.

  44. 44
    rf80412 says:

    @Punchy: Exactly. The media and the cocktail party crowd live for drama. They’ll manufacture it where it doesn’t exist, and it will always work to the favor of the Republicans with whom the media kewl kidz are birds of a feather. And these people all confuse themselves with the American people, much like rich people once referred to themselves as “society”.

    Unfortunately, Junod has also bought into this thinking. He’s thinking in terms of how the Democrats might win over the media, but what he doesn’t realize is that these people are all rich elitists, who will never be won over. Follow his advice, and we’ll only end up confirming the people’s worst suspicions about Democrats and politics as a whole, while the media keeps right on with its high school antics.

  45. 45
    timb says:

    Junod’s thesis is just one more proof that Douglas Adams was not writing comedy; he was writing prophecy. Hitchhiker’s Guide completely and utterly predicts this movement….

  46. 46
    Jason says:

    Anne, I’d benefit from a long-form comment from you on this topic – can’t help but think the authors at the source of the excerpt are taking a particularly Y-heavy pov on this issue. Is there a similar article in a women’s journal/magazine? Jonah, play us out: I’d research it myself but I’m just leaving the office…

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