Are we leaning toward R&R yet?

By Stan Persky | August 31, 2012

Oh, by the way, there’s an American election just around the corner. In case you’ve been busy playing World of Warcraft video games in your basement for the last six months and haven’t heard about it, not even from your dear mother who delivered all those tuna fish sandwiches to keep you from starving to death, I figured you’d want to know. 

The contest pits the Kenyan-born, Allah-worshipping, dark-skinned socialist President Barack Obama against the former predatory capitalist CEO of Bain Capital, Mitt Romney. Mr. Romney is also the former governor of Massachusetts, a former (and present) muckymuck in the Mormon Church and the former CEO of the winter Olympic Games in Salt Lake City a decade ago. His running mate is Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, the chief rightwing economic ideologue of the Republican Party, a devotee of Ayn Rand, and a devout Catholic who opposes choice on all abortions whatsoever, including those for victims of rape and incest. To recall that old song sung by everyone from Danny Kaye to the Monty Python comedy team, “Gee, what a lover-ly bunch of coconuts.”  

Up until now, we at Dooney’s Election Central and Save the World Project headquarters, located here in a mini-storage locker in blissful Mississauga, Ontario, haven’t mentioned this upcoming event. That’s because, as most of you know, our entire staff has been busy delivering humanitarian aid and financial counselling to hotspots around the world. But now that we’re out of the jungles and the deserts, and back in the comfort of our TV sofas, we’re speedily getting up to speed.

Thank goodness, you haven’t missed much so far, apart from $500 million in eye-gouging, knee-capping, negative political advertising by the available parties and their respective, unregulated backers. Fortunately, the election is easy to understand. In fact, we don’t have to explain it, because Newt Gingrich, former Republican Party presidential candidate contestant, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, and present day multi-millionaire, slightly nutbar, all-purpose political consultant, can explain it all to all of us.

Newt was on TV the other day, on some pre-dawn Sunday morning show called Face the Nation, or maybe it’s Facebook the Nation, I can’t remember, but anyway he made it easy for us to get the picture.

According to the Newt, it’s simple. “Do you want a  country with a smaller government, a bigger economy and more jobs? Or do you want one with a bigger government, a smaller economy and fewer jobs?” he asked. There you have it. If you want the former, vote Romney and Ryan (or R&R). If you want the latter, you disloyal skunk, vote for the foreign-born, Muslim, socialist, incumbent president. In case you missed it the first time around, Newt remembered to repeat himself. “Do you want a more dynamic economy, more jobs, a faster-growing country and a smaller government, or do you want a much bigger government with a much bigger deficit, with fewer jobs and a much smaller economy? “

It’s a no-brainer, one would think: who wouldn’t want more jobs, a dynamic economy, and all the rest? Yet apparently 48 per cent or so of likely voters want a big government, big debt, few jobs, eensy-teensy economy type of country. Thank God, the other 48 per cent of pro-life, gun-toting, nuclear-armed, coal-fired, pro-marriage (but only if it involves one real man and one real woman), totally 100 per cent loyal Americans, want a big jobs, big economy, small government country. Hmm. That means the election is up to the 4 per cent of likely voters in a half-dozen key states who are “undecided,” “independent,” or absent-mindedly about to pull the lever on a voting machine, perhaps mistaking it for a one-armed bandit slot machine at their local casino.

The undecideds can’t quite decide  if 50 million citizens ought to be completely without any health care protection whatsoever and left to die in the streets, or if they shouldn’t. The independents aren’t sure whether millionaires should pay more income tax or if their “capital gain” and “investment earnings” should not be taxed at all. The absent-minded are confused about whether to carpet bomb Iran now or wait a few weeks. They all agree, however, that the multi-billion dollar defence budget should be trimmed to reduce the deficit and that it should be increased to fight new wars. Fortunately, the election is in their hands, just like beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Just when you think things can’t get any Dumb-and-Dumber, along comes the media and Clint Eastwood. The 82-year-old actor appeared at last week’s Republican Party convention and did an improvised comedy sketch involving an imaginary President Obama who was symbolized by an empty chair. The entire shtick revolved around the imaginary president telling his rambling interlocutor, “Go fuck yourself.” Eastwood didn’t say the word “fuck” because the convention is a God-fearing, family-first, non-swearing ritual, but the TV camera reaction shots of the tittering, gasping, WTF (what-the-fuck) delegates ensured that we knew that they knew what was going on. A good deal of learned post-oration commentary was devoted to whether Dirty Harry was drunk, demented, or possessed by the devil, although the anatomically unlikely dirty joke metaphor at the heart of this performance went politely unmentioned.

The media repeatedly announce that what they want instead of cheap shot, low blow, titilating, negative advertised out-and-out lies (to which said media devotes hours and hours of reportage) is a sober, serious, deadly-boring discussion of the issues.

There are two slight problems with this oft-stated wish: first, the TV audience would  en masse immediately switch channels back to Ultimate Fighting Challenge, Big Brother or American Idol, which they were watching just before they tuned in for a few seconds of Fate of the Nation; and second, the viewers, loveable no-brainers that they are, would be unable to understand a word of any even half-serious debate about any policy. Anything beyond the crayon cartoon bromides of the Newt is probably beyond them these days.

If three decades of Dumbing Down has been successful, and there’s no reason to think that it hasn’t been, then you end up with a populace whose mentality is not exactly a shining example of enquiring-minds-want-to-know. I confess in advance that my shameful contempt of ignorance displayed here is, alas, elitist (a word now dirtier than descriptions of anatomically unlikely acts).

The media, that is, the non-partisan, middle-of-the-spectrum part of it, aka CNN, can just barely make it clear that Obama really isn’t foreign-born or a Muslim (although they’re not so sure about the socialist stuff). They’re unable to point out that the lethal “gridlock” in Congress is the result of the Republican Party voting 100 per cent against any “liberal” measure proposed in the last three or four years. To do so would be “biased,” the deadliest of media sins.

But enough complex chit-chat. Hopefully, you now know where Dooney’s election central firmly stands.

So, are we leaning toward R&R? Not yet.



  • Stan Persky

    Stan Persky taught philosophy at Capilano University in N. Vancouver, B.C. He received the 2010 B.C. Lieutenant-Governor's Award for Literary Excellence. His most recent books are Reading the 21st Century: Books of the Decade, 2000-2009 (McGill-Queen's, 2011), Post-Communist Stories: About Cities, Politics, Desires (Cormorant, 2014), and Letter from Berlin: Essays 2015-2016 (Dooney's, 2017).

More from Stan Persky: