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Democrats are fed up. They’ve now been given several manufactured, make-or-break Tuesdays, and yet the primary churns on. Now things better turn more exciting, or we’ll switch to the ballgame.
This ennui must stem from the penny-ante poker that the major news outlets have been playing for months on end. If this race is as revolutionary and unpredictable as we keep being told it is, why leave its coverage to the lumpy, petit-bourgeois benchwarmers puttering around this or that Washington bureau? Only the master conjurers holed up in Hollywood studios and Manhattan high-rises, arbiters and alchemists of the American Zeitgeist, can save the ailing electoral beast.
The problem is, there’s little left to be resolved. We’ve heard for weeks of the ‘mathematical impossibility’ associated with a Clinton victory, yet MSNBC keeps plugging away with dozens of hours of “Decision ’08” coverage. Can you hear Middle America yawning, too? The stakes need (re-)raising, and this hackneyed political narrative could do with a bit of novelty.
For example, take the cover of the May 5 issue of Time that features half of Sen. Clinton’s face, half of Sen. Obama’s, and the phrase, “There can only be one.” Despite being a nervy rip-off of both recent advertisements for the NBA playoffs and the 1986 film “Highlander,” the cover fails to advance the primary’s plot: We always knew there would only be one. That was why we were having the election.
If things are truly to remain unresolved until the Democratic convention in August, the whole script needs a rewrite. If we’ve learned anything from films like “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” and “Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever,” it’s that audiences will watch any male-female relationship unfold as long as it features an attractive, charismatic couple, once turned against itself with explosions-qua-flirtation, uniting in the end to defeat an apocalyptic common enemy. Even if the Clinton/Obama ‘dream ticket’ is nothing more than a pundit’s daydream, it might seem far more reasonable if the Chinese introduced lethal nanorobots into American bloodstreams—just a thought.
This is not to impugn the news media and their repeated attempts to douse the candidates’ in newer and more dramatic paint. Radio host Tammy Bruce kicked off a great development on Fox News earlier this month when she “diagnosed” Clinton with mythomania, what she calls “[making] up fantastic stories to bolster [one’s] image.” Whether or not this is medically sound or accurate (it’s not), people love the psychopathology angle: what if it turned out the Tuzla incident was actually a psychotic episode, and that Sen. Clinton is in fact schizophrenic economist John Nash? Is that played out?
Meanwhile, ABC News has been vehemently derided for its recent debate, which was labeled ‘irrelevant’ by many and whose host, Charlie Gibson, was pilloried as a gossipmonger. One exemplary moment featured Nash McCabe, a Pennsylvania everywoman in a bizarre tunic who asked Sen. Obama if he “believes in the American flag.” If so, why won’t he wear a tiny tin replica of it on his lapel? But the attention this debate received should point the way going forward: why not have “The Hills” star Lauren Conrad ask the same thing at the next debate? It’s just that folks particularly like hateful sniping and character judgments made on the basis of fashion when they’re delivered by someone pretty.
Indeed, the candidates—all of whom have now appeared on countless talk shows and World Wrestling Entertainment’s “Raw”—could learn something about exposure and appeal from their disgraced predecessor. He turned up on a giant screen during the game show “Deal or No Deal” last week. To its host, Howie Mandel, President Bush cracked: “How’d you like to host a three-trillion dollar Deal or No Deal?” Yes, he was talking about the budget, and he had some great material on waterboarding they cut for time.
But Democrats who find their once-electric primary narrative gone lifeless, wooden and bland should hardly despair, even if it doesn’t get the Hollywood makeover it may need. John Sidney McCain is 71 years old, and there’s nothing you can do about that.
James M. Larkin ’10, a Crimson editorial executive, is a social studies concentrator in Quincy House.
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