I am stunned at my fellow Democrats. Stunned. I have never seen such overwrought, hysterical reactions -- from pathetic whimpering and finger-wagging admonishments right down to screeching denouncements and door-slamming party-defection -- all in response to one slightly anemic debate against a Republican challenger high on his own hyperbole. Despite the fact that Romney's "performance" (and let's not kid ourselves, calling it a "debate" is an insult to debating) was in the grand tradition of the decorum flattening, Gish Galloping steamroll, delivered with the verve of a vaudevillian carnival barker from a guy nurtured on success and wrapped in enough ego to pull it off. And, oh, he sang, he danced, he told jokes; he lied himself silly, flip-flopped on his previously stated platforms, interrupted the out-maneuvered Mr. Lehrer, pontificated with the wild-eyes of a Fox pundit puffed like a political blowfish in service of his goal to blow President Obama out of the water. And it was decided he did. "HE WON!!" the world declared.
And Dems lost their cool.
We must all realize at this point that we live in a culturally superficial world, one so easily tipped by smoke and mirrors that we need not rely on reality... we've got reality shows. Which means we've got pop stars whose entire recording careers are built on the digital mastery of engineers who tweak and manipulate their bad vocals into good ones and a star is born. We've got television series that make uber-stars out of housewives whose only talent is having smart mouths and a willingness to expose every corpuscle of their... lives. We've got misnomered Learning Channels that aggrandize dubious families for ratings points and audiences who can only giggle with voyeuristic glee. And we've got an electorate so immersed in this magical TV thinking that, like any night on The Voice or America's Got Talent, the chairs swirled, the crowds voted, and that gladiator pit known as a political debate was decided by forum. Republicans huzzahed and some Democrats, fragile of heart and apparently lacking in conviction or belief, found a less-than-stellar showing at a debate enough to throw the president under the bus. Or perhaps a reality show meme is more appropriate: "off the island."
Not for his policies, not for his worldview, for his performance. Our entire culture has become a reality show.
Writer Buzz Bissinger -- a supposed "lifelong Democrat" -- has loudly and publicly disavowed the president to declare his vote for Romney, a man whose policies and worldview could not be more estranged from or contradictory to those of the party to which Buzz had previously, 'lifelongedly,' aligned. Mr. Bissinger goes on to list his reasons beyond the debate and, in doing so, makes clear that he has become... a Republican. Given his heated defection-defense, including his presumed clairvoyance about what the president thinks, feels, and where he is when Mr. Bissinger isn't personally "seeing him" running the country, I would guess he's been edging toward Republicanism for a while now and just hasn't had the cojones to make the leap. Thank God Obama delivered that "tipping point" so he can finally hop aboard the Mitt Mobile.
But there are others: Andrew Sullivan is distraught in the audience, honestly wondering Did Obama Just Throw the Entire Election Away?. Howard Fineman has contributed several pieces excoriating the president as if the man had sat on the stage sucking his thumb. Other Dems have jumped on the bandwagon, screaming that "he doesn't want it badly enough," "he's bored with the presidency," "he's lost his mojo" and so on, apoplectic with rage, horror, and disappointment; disgusted, even, at this horrible man who has betrayed their hope, leaving them in upheaving, hiccuping heartbreak. Sheesh, I didn't see this much delirium when our guy was getting impeached for getting a blow job!
And while this isn't a reality show, let's make note that even on American Idol we didn't judge a contestant based on one performance; we looked at the entirety of their run throughout the season to assess their chops and, often, even the best had an off night. So why are we 'tantruming' like toddlers because the President of the United States didn't jump on the couch along with his opponent? Don't we know him by now? Don't we understand his understatement? His "elegant realism"? Didn't we appreciate that style after all the goofy "good ole boy" and GI Joe stuff Bush doled out? But now, at this point in the game, we're deciding his quiet intelligence is just... weak, pathetic, flog-worthy?
What Mitt did? All that trumped-up hyperbole and loud, bombastic demagoguery mixed with a dollop of distortion and a dash of revisionism? That's Mitt's style. That's not the president's style. And while I agree the president's style could use a jolt of fierceness for the next debate, to denigrate, denounce, defile, and ultimately detach from him and the party because he wasn't "energetic" enough belies any sense of proportion or loyalty.
To those who don't consider fickleness wise politics, who understand that there is so much more at stake here than style points; who can grasp that running the country while running a campaign has different demands for the incumbent than the challenger, who still very clearly see the chasm of difference between the president's platforms and those of Mr. Romney, and, lastly, who agree that one off night should NEVER be a dealbreaker; I suggest we stop participating in the cultural whine fest, get the fuck over it, and get back to speaking to the compassionate policies, economic improvements, and big tent considerations of the Democratic party and the current President of the United States.
If you're a Republican, celebrate your guy's win (though I'd argue the fine points of that definition) and revel in the bump... for the moment. If you're a third-party person, yes, holler about your people and dismiss all this noise about the debates in which you're not included. But if you're a Democrat and your attachment to those ideals is so tenuous that, like Buzz Bissinger, you're jumping ship after one debate despite the man's many significant accomplishments (Obama's Top 50 Accomplishments ), I'd suggest you rethink both the concept of loyalty and political vision. If you can switch that easily, at a time when party identity could not be more distinct, likely you were just looking for a reason to run. The rest of us Dems will stay put and keep working with the president and others of our party on compassionate, intelligent economic policy, foreign policy, immigration policy; women's rights and freedoms, health care reform, entitlement reform, environmental protections, tax reform, business incentives, LGBT civil rights, etc. You know, the party's platforms.
Those of you leaving? You probably belong right where you're headed. Good luck and close the door on your way out.