Tuesday, August 17, 2004

The Town Crier is Trampled by a Mob of Citizens with Torches and Pitchforks

It's normal for the political process to intrude into our lives a little more than we would prefer during presidential election years. One of my fond memories is my grandma grousing during election years, as the commercials would festoon her "stories" (soaps) and game shows, which annoyed her to no end. My grandma was a world-class grouser, full of wit and vinegar.*

But never in my life, outside of the Nixon administration, have I seen such a massive movement to push a president out of office. Sure, there was the Clinton impeachment fiasco, but that was largely just the wingnuts doing that; it wasn't spread across many levels of society. And with Nixon, it was an impeachment for a sitting pres. who had been caught red-handed, not a movement to influence an election. So, when even guys like Bruce Springsteen and John Mellencamp get in the mix (and Mellencamp said the most interesting thing, see the TLD below**), alienating their fans who don't agree with their politics, it's pretty amazing.

But what made me blink recently was an article in "Entertainment Weekly" - my favorite guilty pleasure because it's typically about nothing but entertainment, no messy politics or actual news (outside of the gay movement, of course). This week's issue has a preview of all the movies coming out this fall. A new one by John Sayles is a blatant - "thinly veiled" isn't even strong enough to describe it - portrayal of a dimwitted Texan who's drafted by a cabal of evil wealthy guys to become their political puppet, and the actor portraying the puppet (Chris Cooper) is consciously doing a dead-on impression of Bush, and Richard Dreyfuss is clearly playing Karl Rove. Someone on the production was asked if they were uncomfortable with the naked politics of the production and was quoted as saying she (he?) is proud s/he can be part of something that could help get Bush out of office.

And even I, someone who wants Bush out of office badly, hoisted an eyebrow at that. I mean, my God, it's really never been like this before. I once had to back off of political posts on this blog because I was so full of seething frustration, I couldn't write anything other than what amounted to an incoherent bellow of rage. Part of my frustration was the impression that no one but people with similar views to mine were noticing what was going on. It was like watching someone let her toddler stand up in a grocery cart and reach for a glass jar. But these days, I feel I've been lapped in the outrage race, and am kind of breathlessly amazed at the crowd that has passed me.

Then, I see that most polls show that both candidates are in pretty much a dead heat, and that makes no sense. But then there are a lot of factors at play. It's no secret that most of the major news outlets are controlled by conservative corporations who ensure the news is slanted that way - no more do we have a "liberal media," it's gone baby. So the polls might reflect the will of the CEOs more than the people. Also, the partisanship that has been with us since Reagan has a lot of folks in its thrall; some partisans wouldn't change sides even if it were revealed their candidate were satan himself. Perhaps Bush is actually getting some underdog sympathy, as well. Maybe the polls haven't "caught up" with the public opinion. Or, perhaps, the polls are correct, and it really is a dead heat.

However, that just doesn't reflect what I hear on the grapevine. I work and live in a very Republican state. We don't get much Democratic attention because we are considered a lost cause. We were one of the states that allowed Tom DeLay to gerrymander our districts to insure Republican locks in the House and Senate. And we even had one of our elected officials (Ben Knighthorse Shithead, as I call him) switch sides once he got to Washington, because he was told as long as he was Democrat, he would be ignored and barred from committees (one of Tom DeLay's dubious tactics). So, in the midst of redland (interesting that the very people who have taken most of the credit for the fall of Soviet Communism have adopted their color scheme), I'm hearing all these people who would typically be a lock for Bush saying they can't vote for him. So, they're going to sit it out, or vote for (gulp) that other guy. Usually, when the scuttlebutt on the street flows that way, it is a portent for larger things. I think it's gonna be close to a landslide or a mandate come the election.

But I'm still shocked at the intensity and volume of opinion this time. Wowsers.

*TLD #1: This is really an unfair representation of my grandma, because she was typically a very prim and proper elderly lady, very sweet, rarely used profanity, etc. And this was the only time I heard her use this particular word (at times I even doubted that she had ever heard it before), but it's too good not to tell. During one of the Ethiopian famines in the late 70s we were watching TV, and the news kept showing reports of the human devastation. The most common picture was of a mother with about 7 kids around her, one latched onto a breast, with flies swarming around them, crawling in their mouths and such; they were typically so exhausted they didn't fight the flies. Well, after about the nth report that day, my grandmother finally said, "Oh hell! If they've got the energy to fuck, they've got the energy to brush the flies away!" True, not the most sympathetic thought, but I do believe she had a point. I seem to recall I was too shocked to laugh at first, but then I couldn't stop for a good half hour.

**TLD #2: "John Mellencamp has joined a coalition of musicians trying to unseat President Bush, but the rocker says that doesn't mean he has anything against Republicans.

"'If there was a Democrat in the White House, and this was going on, we'd still be doing this,' Mellencamp told The Herald-Times of Bloomington in an interview published Sunday.

"'This is a protest. It's a protest about the abuse of what we feel are American values. And in this case it just so happens that, yes, this is a Republican president, and yes, the proceeds will go to efforts to defeat that Republican president.'"

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