I was asked by a colleague yesterday to explain the American political system. How it’s structured, who is seeking election this month versus two years from now, what it means to America and, most importantly, how this might impact on President Obama’s ‘mandate’ for change.
I set sail on a treatise of pure reason and rational discourse … then came to a grinding halt as neural synapses snapped and notion began shadow-boxing with reality.
There is a perception there’s this homogeneous amalgam known as the United States of America but when it comes to quantifying this – much less having to predict how ‘matters’ might unfold – it all becomes a bit mystifying.
The absence of communication, context and leadership, as the song goes, doesn’t exactly make things clear.
Clearly there are disgruntled and disaffected forces at work who tend to ‘gather’, at the behest of their media celebrity flavour of choice, at a neighbourhood mall, drive in or, if you’re REALLY PISSED OFF, in Washington. In front of the Lincoln Monument with the Washington Memorial nearby.
Twin pillars of leadership from a time and place far, far away.
Born-again Mormon and Fox commentator Glenn Beck kick-started the communication practice and forum on August 28th with his ‘Restoring Honour’ encounter…or fest…or ‘love in’…or ‘chance to let off some collective steam’. All of this begging the questions…”whose honour needs restoration and who’s doing the repair job?”
Then, from the studio of what used to be a comedy show (and maybe still is) comes the just concluded Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert ‘Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear’. Again, questions go a-begging. Perhaps this was more an attempt to erode the GDP – grossly depressed population – effect of a nation that possibly will never really climb out of the GEC.
One person who clearly wasn’t amused is Mark Ames of the anti-Bush /anti-far-right blog The Smirking Chimp. He described the latest ‘gatherfest’ as The Rally to Restore Vanity: Generation X Celebrates Its Homeric Struggle Against Lameness. He goes on to anguish:
“Maybe what’s happening in America today will seem funny to some other culture in some future time – how it happened that in the depths of America’s decline, Liberals, the great opposition to everything mean and ruthless in this culture, couldn’t muster up a get-together for anything better than a mock-in. Led by a clown.”
“I confess, I couldn’t hack it. I came to the rally – saw those two pastry chefs from the Mythbusters show get all the Liberal Elites to hold a post-modern human wave, an ironic human wave allowing all the self-conscious Liberal Elites to play like Real America, while salvaging their vanity because it was all ironic and post-modern… And to make sure that everyone knew they were not really human-waving but rather meta-human-waving, the Mythbusters duo deconstructed the human wave. And all the Liberal Elites smiled and laughed knowingly, because all 150,000 were in on the biggest inside-joke [redacted]athon in American history. And that was it for me – I was outta there.”
Ironically, the right’s Glen Beck was less scathing. He characterized his Comedy Channel counterpart’s efforts as “a high-school play; it was not good.” Referring to much of the rally as “nonsense,” Beck nonetheless said Stewart tried to give out “the same message I gave on 8/28,” referring to his own D.C. rally this past August.
But unlike Beck, Stewart was “co-opted [by the liberals]. I don’t think he liked it… he was used,” said Beck. Beck said that when The Huffington Post and “the President himself promotes the rally, it becomes a mouthpiece for the [Democratic] party.” Beck added, “This became just another campaign stop.”
Then, out on the campaign proper, in between dodging Tea Party members and lynch mobs, Team Barack and Biden have urged the American people to ‘keep on believing.’
“Don’t let anybody tell you this fight isn’t worth it. It’s always been hard to bring about change.”
Clearly, we have seen and are seeing change. But the absence of communication, context and leadership, as the song goes, doesn’t exactly make things clear.