Elephants, Donkeys, and Snarling Bears
Campaign season kicks off Way Too Early
By David S. LewisPosted Jun 22, 2011
My God, the countdown has begun. Race for the White House, 2012! Yippee!
I might be the only one in the country so excited. It’s still over a year away, and most of the country is half-dreading the slaughterhouse coming to their televisions, the inundated inboxes…but not me. If I could, I would Tivo the commercials.
I love the brutality, the palpable desperation in the air, the strange pageantry and the inevitable scandals…I watch it the way most people watched Survivor. I really don’t even much care who wins: I just like the fight.
That’s not entirely true, of course – it’s more than that. Campaigns are also an excuse for me to get even weirder than usual. Somehow, in the chaos and the confusion, all the boundaries become somewhat loosened, and you can get away with things that would never be possible in any other situation. When I covered the 2008 campaign as a freelancer, I kept a loaded speargun in my car at all times. I eventually traded it to a staffer in Cleveland for a one-on-one with a minor candidate, but until that point, I was ready to take a dive at any given moment. When I drove my battered Honda to Des Moines for the caucus in January, I had a taxidermied barracuda, spray-painted silver, lashed to the bumper of the car, and proudly homemade signs on both doors declaring me to be a member of the “PRESS.” I would jam the Accord into parking spaces ahead of satellite vans, or do burn-outs in front of campaign headquarters as we left. I bet I told half of the people in that frigid Midwestern city, “It’s okay! I’m Chris Dodd’s only son. He’ll pay for that, I swear…”
Yes, it’s started for me again this year, already. While covering the Southern Republican Leadership Conference last week, I tried very hard to start a rumor that the “Alaskan contingency” had brought a live bear with them, and that it was somewhere in the hotel. Only a handful of people bought into it, but we milked it for all it was worth on Twitter.
I know you guys, by and large, aren’t ready for this mess to start exploding under us, but there’s a real sense that things in this country are either out of control or sliding very dangerously towards the edge. There’s a near-constant sense of impending doom, and the media is trying everything they can to foster that in a desperate attempt to cling to their consumers, and therefore their jobs, in a threatened industry. The conservatives in America know that they have a long fight ahead of them, and they really believe that they have a better answer, or might be able to come up with one. Their condition is somewhat desperate, and it is making them nervous and cranky. An Obama impersonator hired to lampoon the President at the conference took a few too many shots at hopefuls on the Right, and the audience responded with sullen silence…his microphone was cut off. They have no room for humor, even less tolerance for it than usual. They are engaged in a serious business, and I worry that it might not be as much Fun this year. Again, they are starting early, and these things are hard…the candidates are going to be very tired in the spring, and bleeding from the terrible wounds they will have inflicted on each other. I hope, for all the viewers’ sakes, for the Nielsen ratings, and for the good of the State, that they are able to retain some of the spring in their steps…
The Dems have to do stuff, too, of course. They won’t need to start this early, but if they can’t get control of the price of gas, or the unemployment rate, Obama’s incumbency will almost surely be doomed. Osama was a fine distraction, but we are not even going to pay $4 a gallon!
It’s weird, now. Tornadoes are tearing the country apart almost weekly. Vicious bears are stampeding throughout that heartland, breaking into houses and cars and looting department stores. No one has any money, and it’s getting kind of old. Still, I can’t help but think this is going to be a fine year for very many of us. I would predict the pendulum will swing back, but the fact is, there are very many pendulums. Some are still on the way out, haven’t even neared the apex of despair and dissolution, but others are ready to go our way, ready to let us jump back on board. Safe travels, everyone…and I will try not cover the campaign again for a while. You certainly aren’t going to Tivo me if I do.