Theater Of The Absurd

Copyright © by Len Holman, 10/15/12


  I did not see the first Presidential debate because I was exfoliating my elbows (I think global warming is ruining my skin—or is it my age?), nor did I watch the V.P. debate between Uncle Joe and the Kid From Minnesota, but I want to thank all the pollsters, pundits, patriots, partisans, and panderers out in Mediaville who have told me who “won.”  Now I know who is the better candidate because 1) I have been told by experts in the biz who is more likeable, 2) I have been told by experts in the biz who was more aggressive and presidential (whatever THAT means), and 3) I have been told by these same experts who was not up to the challenge.  Obama “belly-flopped;” he was “passive and “distracted;” he seemed not to want to be there at all.  The implication is clear:  Romney will win and will make a great President, creating jobs like a momma rabbit creates bunnies and eliminating unnecessary and costly programs which currently are abused by the poor and indigent. 

  At least, that’s what I THINK he will do, but even some conservative commentators (and my, weren’t they just FULL of themselves?) admitted to me (in the comfort of my living room the next morning, elbows shining in the sun) that Romney SEEMED to be “shifting” to the middle, which is ridiculous since the middle has long since disappeared from American politics.  So words DO mean stuff, like “shifting” as opposed to “flip-flopping.”  Winners “shift” to the middle.  They do not “flip-flop.”  That means that metaphors and adjectives favored Romney, which is not quite the same as election results favoring him—but since I had stuff to do, I had to take what I got from the media. 

  It’s just theater, after all—and not very good theater at that.  It’s as if Hamlet was being staged as a puppet show and no one seemed to think it was unusual, or worse:  that nothing could be done to get the real deal on stage.  Whether Obama was “ready” or “complacent” or just bored is irrelevant to public policy.  Reagan knew this.  People who really matter to politicians (independents, undecideds, those of the other party who are not wedded to knee-jerk bumper sticker values) don’t vote policy issues; these people vote authenticity, personality, personal connection (at least the simulation of it), and all the “optics” commentators love to comment on.  Obama seems not to recognize this, although he invokes Reagan’s name from time to time.  He seems to think we’re all in a classroom at the University of Chicago, frantically scribbling our notes in preparation for the big exam. 

  So these debates really aren’t about the real world of Iran, Syria, fiscal and/or monetary policy, that over-mentioned “safety net,” or what happens to vets or seniors or people underwater on their mortgages.  The debates are theater, where we, the people with clean elbows, can examine the hairdos, the body language, facial expressions, eye-flutters, and various non-policy items.  They don’t sit in front of their TVs with a computer, looking at fact-checking sites.  They don’t spend the next week studying what a particular candidate said and compare that to what he said earlier in Armpit, Arkansas or Sweatrock, Arizona. 

  The experts were a bit more flummoxed by the VP debate, since Biden didn’t make any major cartoon errors, and Ryan was, well, Ryan.  No surprise there.  And no theater, either.  So, what’s the final score?  Who won and who lost?  Why wait until November, when we can read all the polls and listen to commentators tell us the plot of the play and what happens in the final scene?  Why consider, compare, analyze, and examine when, with the push of a remote control button or a click of a mouse, you can already know?  Why not go wash your car or finally get around to snipping those annoying nose hairs or maybe head into town for a sausage pizza and a cold beer?  Anything would be better than this years-long election cycle (which I’m sure is already starting for the NEXT election, in some strategy session somewhere), ending with the whimper of fake debates and the re-statement of candidate positions and statements by their respective staffs (to “correct misstatements and media bias and just plain confusion). 

  After these so-called debates, there will be more ads, more campaign stops, and more rhetoric which we have all heard for a very long time.  This is theater which is not only absurd and unnecessary, it is almost content-free.  Potential voters care more about expressions and bags under the eyes than policy.  But that’s OK because when Romney gets elected, puts his signature to hundreds of “signing statements,” appoints two very conservative Supreme Court justices, and calls Israeli prime minister Netanyahu in the middle of the night and says, “It’s a go for Iran!” we’ll all smile and say, “What a great play…what’s next?”  If Romney IS elected, maybe we won’t want to go to any more theater productions.  Sure—when my elbows don’t need scrubbing anymore.


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