In recent years, everyone from pundits and politicians, to United States citizens, have developed "Democracy Amnesia." We have no concept of our history, or important laws that activists fought to push through the courts.
Case in point: Ralph Nader. You may remember him as the man who "stole the election" from Al Gore in 2000. An interesting trend has emerged in American politics. I'll call it the "Agree-With-Me-And-Stay-Mainstream" Candidate (at least until I come up with a catchier title).
Suddenly, it's not okay to engage in actual debates. Remember when Barack Obama decided to finally take the gloves off and swing a few fists of justice Hillary's way? I thought the mainstream press was going to have a heart attack. They called Barack everything from a dirty fighter to a hypocrite, since he was the candidate who called for a clean campaigning season. But since when is actually debating issues considered unclean?
With the rare (and petite) exception of Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic debate has been something of an "Agree-With-Me" Fest. However, whenever the candidates do butt heads, the press explodes with titles like BRAWL, ATTACK, and FIGHT as if they're covering a boxing match instead of a cog in the democratic mechanism.
Disagreement is essential in politics, as is diversity. This article is written in response to Eric Boehlert's evil article, "Stephen Colbert's joke is on the press" located here. In it, Boehlert calls fringe candidates (like the joker-runner Colbert) an unnecessary "distraction." However, he expands this thesis from its hilarious core to include any candidate who isn't a frontrunner. Boehlert quotes a cranky Colbert fan:
Now is the time for the fringe players to slip away. Bye-bye, Brownback, so long Kucinich (we predict) and Gravel (we hope). The race is tightening, stakes are getting higher, and the general feeling is that this is where things start to count. The distraction of a spoof candidate -- even the ultimate spoof candidate -- will just get in the way.
Get in the way? Are you fucking insane? By this reasoning, Hillary should just move into the White House in 2009. Why even hold elections, right? Democracy is such tough work, anyway. If only there was a way where we wouldn't have to listen to debates, use our brains, and make grown-up decisions. If only there was a supreme leader to tell us how to live and what to think. Oh! Oh! And can we elect our leader for life so we don't have to hold bothersome elections? Super...super.
Better yet, let's have a dynasty -- a structure of government we'll call Democracy, so we can remain a beacon of hope to the rest of the world. The dynasty will be two royal families: the Bushes and the Clintons, and we'll just cycle them in and out of power every four or eight years. No muss, no fuss.
The thing is: Stephen Colbert is joking. He's a brilliant comedian, and he's fucking with everyone. I love it. No one knows what to do with Stephen because he's slippery and smarter than everyone he talks to. At first, I was content in watching him slowly unravel the democratic process and reveal its gaping flaws, but now I want him to gain momentum. Serious momentum. I want him to ruin, get in the way of, and derail everyone's neatly prepackaged campaigns of commonplace answers and kissing babies. I want him to so utterly surprise candidates that they have to give real answers and act human.
I want him to make America a democracy again, one complete with discussion, diplomacy, and compromise. For that matter, I want my Kucinich, Paul, Gravel, and Brownback. I want all of them in every debate with equal time to speak. Then, in 2009, if Hillary loses the election, she'll have no one to blame but herself.
Nader didn't lose the election for Gore. Gore lost it for Gore. If Gore couldn't beat a hapless retard like Bush, then he was a poor candidate, and didn't deserve the presidency. Lost Floridian counts, and the sins of caged voting aside, that election was way, way too close in the first place. Same goes for Kerry/Bush, and whatever happens with Hillary Clinton. If she's worth her salt as a politician, she'll widen the gap to where she decisively buries her opponent.
Or here's a novel thought: Hillary Clinton doesn't win! Barack steps it up...or! Or...John Edwards? If you scoffed at the idea, ponder why we -- the American people -- have such a gosh darn hard time imagining a third party sitting in the White House. Why is it a fantasy to imagine a leftist candidate winning the whole thing? Because of evil statements like the ones Eric Boehlert makes:
Question: In the history of modern-day American presidential campaigns, has a new candidate ever entered the race polling at roughly 10 percent and then proceeded to pick up an additional 10 percent each week for four weeks running? Ever? Why would anybody suggest that a late-night comedian might be able to accomplish what no other candidate has ever done in American politics? What would prompt somebody to suggest that Colbert, by next month, might soon be garnering 40 percent and be the leading candidate for president?
Condense this statement to read: WHY TRY?
Bohelert answers his own question with "because it's fun." Fun? It's absolutely essential. It's the definition of a democracy.
This is the root of all that is wrong with American politics. It's the "you can't win, so sit down" attitude. Supporters of this philosophy forget that runners don't necessarily have to win to shape public opinion. Victories are won with ideas, and true leaders possess the vision and wisdom to know that sometimes revolutions happen gradually.
Sometimes, revolutions begin with one person standing up and saying: "I know you don't take me seriously. I know I'm the clown in the room, but damnit, I'm trying anyway."
Run on, funny man. Show them how it's done.
Follow Allison Kilkenny on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allisonkilkenny