This election process of ours has become reminiscent of an overcooked, deeply redundant television series written by a cabal of hacks with no concern for freshness of tone or inventiveness of detail, relying instead on weary bromides, eye-rolling hyperbole, sophomoric name-calling and the deadening boredom of clichéd characters made interesting only by the manipulated controversies stirred up for the sake of media drama.
Welcome to Election 2012, the Series.
Unlike a 13-episode arc that can be mercifully cancelled when the audience clicks away to another, less haranguing, form of entertainment, we are, by virtue of our election process, blanket media coverage, and the apparently set-in-stone ramp-up to November, obligated to suffer through the soap opera plot twists and nefarious characterizations of the characters (by the other characters, of course) all the way up to that seemingly ever-distant date in November.
I keep thinking Rip van Winkle had a point... wake me up when we get there.
Why do we need a ramp-up this long? Where are the story editors in this scenario, ready to nip, tuck and tweak until we've got something streamlined and tight as a drum? Instead, it's like Bridezillas run amok: week after week of screaming participants insisting on their own fabulousness, pointing fingers hither and yon; spouting invectives about horrible colleagues, the worst cake in town and "if we book the Ranch we won't have an orchestra pit!" That kind of hysteria. Or maybe it's closer to those D.C. Housewives with their interminable screeching, backstabbing and puffed-up pontification about who really is hotter, better, richer and more of star (too on the nose?). What about Revenge? I think the comparison goes without saying but, face it, none of the Election 2012 cast are good-looking enough to pass muster on that particular Hampton shore! But I could draw a parallel to the behind-the-scenes machinations of Dudley Do-Right and Snidely Whiplash; (actual) cartoon characters running to and from center stage to twizzle a moustache or trill hearty declarations about "here I come to save the day!" (Dudley... Romney... come to think of it, there is something there!).
Whatever parallel drawn, the prevailing rhetorical remains: when, Dear God, will this be over?
Right... November. Calling Mr. van Winkle!
At least last go-around we had Obama and Palin, fresh faces at the time, and Hillary, who, though known for her many other variations on a political theme, including two stints as a New York senator, had also never run in the "Big Dance," and so offered some suspense that was nothing if not interesting (and, for some, quite refreshing). This year? We've got a line-up of mostly old white men (save the preppy Santorum as youth spoiler and the female tokenism of Bachmann, now relegated to pom-pom wielding cheerleader on the sidelines), all of whom have walked this gauntlet before, all of whom we know (perhaps more than we'd like); all of whom are basically regurgitating the same party-lines about themselves and their particular slice of the GOP pie that they've always spouted. Nothing new except wives, a few contemporary issues, and a sputtering awareness of social media. It's like changing the series Dallas to, say, Cleveland, but still having Bobby, Sue Ellen and J.R on board... only now they're circling The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame instead of Southfork.
When friends and acquaintances of the Republican persuasion tell me they haven't yet made up their minds I can only look at them moon-eyed and shout (in my mind, anyway), "Why the hell not??" How can any Grand Old Partying partier on this bloody earth not have already made up their mind? What haven't they heard? What do they need to know? Who are they waiting for? Is there some enduring hope that out of a steaming chasm in the wide and varied American landscape some fresh new face will yet rise up to rescue this droning process from its mundanity? I don't see that happening. My guess is we're left to relegate all suspense and story arc to the simple question of whether Newt or Mitt will win whichever primary is currently on stage.
There's a nail biter for you.
So we will continue with many months more of "debates" that will provide a forum for every kind of flip-flop, agi-prop, chop-shop, sponge mop, full stop, over-the-top pontification of every kind, all of which we've already heard, all of which is calculated, political and designed to reach out to the impossible few who apparently live on a desert island holding that uncomfortable, unfathomable and oddly catered-to position atop a fence, whoever those people are. We'll glance at headlines without reading full articles because it won't matter; the script will always be the same. We'll watch pundits pundate (shut up, I know that's not a word!) rather than listen to the actual debates because, frankly, the punditry is more compelling than the mantra'd party lines being spouted in one form or another from this candidate or the next. With whatever nuances -- large or small -- exist between them, the dialogue has been gestated so long there are no reveals to reveal, no plot twists unexpected, and no real excitement about any of it. We'll get past the primaries and then we'll transition to some version of the same script -- name-calling, finger-pointing, self-aggrandizing, etc. -- only now it will be scattershot toward the opposing side.
At least that's a plot twist of sorts, right?
Fact is, we could have this election now -- could've had it yesterday -- and I daresay the results would be identical to what will occur in November. But somehow habit, custom, simply the electoral process, deigns that the series must run its full order -- unabated, unaborted and uninspired -- until we reach the towering denouement, the ultimate episode, the great Finale that is "The Next Four Years"... whomever they may belong to.
But if we ever could get into the inner sanctum editing room of that monolithic thing call "The Election Process," to discuss how to make this series less costly, less redundant, and less wasteful, perhaps we could start with the simple idea of a MUCH SHORTER SEASON. If given the opportunity, I'm convinced we could make up our minds a whole lot faster. And without the interminable and very expensive bather and bludgeoning. Try us. I'd be willing to bet on it.
Until then, carry on if you must... but please shut the light on your way out; me and Rip are takin' a snooze for the next, say, ten months.
This post has been updated to reflect that Hillary Clinton was New York senator from 2001-2009.