Thursday, October 23, 2008

What's my name?

Republicans are obviously all about the working class. But the proletariat don't know what's good for them, and since the labor-oriented pick of Sarah Palin for VP candidate didn't exactly energize working people nationwide, McCain needed a new saint. Now Joe the Plumber, archetype for the politically-manufactured myth of right-leaning American labor, has turned out to be less than a godsend for McCain's campaign. The solution? More Joes. Except they're not all Joe, and they're not all plumbers. That's because diversifying the catalog of working heroes will get us all onboard when we see how much we can relate to somebody on McCain's generic job list of supporters.

I mean, we all know that McCain has the votes of plumbers, moose hunters, and naughty librarians locked down. Now the challenge is to get everyone else. So we are gradually being introduced to Jane the Engineer, Tom the Carpenter, Bill the Electrician, Bob the Builder, Oscar the Grouch, and so on. That's not a joke, it's actually what the McCain camp now considers appropriate content for oratory and political discourse (well, Oscar the Grouch is a joke, but his opinion doesn't matter--motherfucker's probably on welfare, and you know what Mama Palin says: now is no time to be experimenting with socialism!).

Listening to these speeches one gets the sense that the Straight Talk Express is now run by mediocre schoolchildren doing a group project on their weekly vocabulary word, "vocation." They make two columns, then start picking names to go with jobs. But, not wanting to sound like nerds, they actually make a concerted effort to produce the most banal lists possible. So for one column they come up with "plumber, painter, electrician, mechanic, janitor, nurse, secretary." In the other column they list "Joe, Jim, John, Sally, Harold (not Harold, that sounds professorial--Harry), Peggy, and Frank." Draw lines connecting names to professions and you've got yourself a Republican populist litany of saints.

The trick is to be as unoriginal as possible. By aiming for the generic you supposedly cast a wider net and eventually bring in all those faceless, nameless people who can relate to your faceless, generically named examples. But it's not working, maybe because all those nameless and faceless folks really do have names and faces. Maybe it took them eight years, but they've finally figured out that the candidate you want to have a beer with isn't always the guy that should run the nation. Maybe people don't want economic analysis from an unlicensed plumber.

So as I lament the realization that Sarah the Hockey Mom will probably never give a shout-out to Brian the Grad Student, it occurs to me that--for uniqueness and elitism, respectively--one name and one profession could never, ever be in John McCain's canon. And since Joe the Plumber hasn't succeeded in warming us to John the Maverick, maybe it's time we lend our ears (and votes) to Barack the President.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Rock the vote?

From The Devil's Dictionary by Ambrose Bierce, a few terms to keep in mind over the next few weeks:

A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.
An eel in the fundamental mud upon which the superstructure of organized society is reared. When he wriggles he mistakes the agitation of his tail for the trembling of the edifice. As compared with the statesman, he suffers the disadvantage of being alive.
The greased pig in the field game of American politics.
The leading figure in a small group of men of whom -- and of whom only -- it is positively known that immense numbers of their countrymen did not want any of them for President.
  If that's an honor surely 'tis a greater
   To have been a simple and undamned spectator.
   Behold in me a man of mark and note
   Whom no elector e'er denied a vote! --
   An undiscredited, unhooted gent
   Who might, for all we know, be President
   By acclimation.  Cheer, ye varlets, cheer --
   I'm passing with a wide and open ear!
Jonathan Fomry