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Sam Smith: The American Idol Election

The American Idol Election

By Sam Smith editor

ONCE AGAIN, the pollsters were way off. Some of this is the fault of the trend towards what we have come to think of as American Idol elections in which superstars are selected by an audience that has only observed their talents for a few minutes with the help of dubious commentators. As we wrote shortly after Clinton's election, "Politics used to be about remembrance. The best politicians were those who remembered and were remembered the most -- the most people, the littlest favors, the smallest slights, the best anecdotes tying one's politics to the common memory of the constituency.

"Politics was also about gratitude. Politicians were always thanking people, 'without whom' whatever under discussion could not have happened. . . The politician was the creation of others, and never failed to mention it. Above all, politics was about relationships. The politician grew organically out of a constituency and remained rooted to it as long as incumbency lasted.

"Today, we increasingly elect people about whom we have little to remember, to whom we owe no gratitude and with whom we have no relationship except that formed during the great carnie show we call a campaign. Dallas coach Jimmy Johnson spoke for many contemporary politicians when he answered a question about his memories of Thanksgiving Day football games by saying, 'Memories? That's not my style.'"

According to the exit poll, 40% of Edwards voters and 29% of Kerry voters made up their minds on the last day. Thus it was not totally surprising that the polls were off. Still, these were striking errors worthy of deep looking into. And we can't help have the impression that it hasn't been an election we've been following but a reality show about one.

Kerry Vs. Edwards

ON PAPER there isn't much to choose between Kerry and Edwards. They were both wrong about the major issues of the recent past including the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, and the Bush education plan. Neither has done anything to qualify for the presidency. Both are hustlers, albeit of different cultural character. Kerry slips and slides with the political winds, illustrated by the fact that while historically liberal in his voting, he has become indistinguishable on major matters from George Bush. Kerry was also once a war hero, but that was long ago and as well as can be determined - based on subsequent behavior during which he has shown no courage - what happened in Vietnam was an aberration. Edwards' most notable achievement has been to obtain large sums of money in the court room, in at least some cases through the use of questionable science to accuse doctors of faults that belong properly to the gene pool. Like the Texas trial lawyer, he has stolen from the rich and given approximately half to the poor.

There is thus little for Democrats to be pleased or proud about. The only blessing is that their opponent is considerably worse.

In the wake of Wisconsin, however, those who have been prattling about Kerry's electability might wish to pause for a reassessment. According to the exit poll, Edwards received more than twice as much support from Republicans as did Kerry and 40% more support from independents. The Kerry electability argument has been dubious from the start; now thanks to Wisconsin we have the proof.

Further, familiarity in the case of Kerry does not breed fondness. We have found those knowledgeable of his career to be at best apologetic or forgiving of a man who is clearly boring, arrogant, shifting, and narcissistic. On the other hand, the adjectives for Edwards by those who know him fall into the likable, pleasant, nice guy genre. With the months we still have to go, the difference is not insignificant.

As for those who share our political distaste for the narrowed choice, there is still plenty of time to hide in the weeds. The Anyone But Bush crowd, the Katrina vanden Heuvels and the like are playing the same dumb game they played when Clinton arrived, stretching themselves out on the bed and saying to candidates largely indifferent to their cause, 'Do what you want with me.' Clinton did just that and it was the end of any decent progressive politics in this country.

Liberals, unique among political groups, seem to think that appeasement is the key to political power and never seem to notice those in power laughing at them. Even if one eventually decides to vote for Kerry or Edwards, now is no time to let them know it. Learn a lesson from Howard Dean and at least make them change their politics a bit.


FEB 18, 2004
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