The William Hung Candidacy
John McCain asks us to name one thing – one thing! – he’s flip-flopped or changed positions or…
Oh, he said that governors and mayors don’t have the requisite experience to be president. Well, that’s settled. Who wants ice cream?
The weird thing about the continued McCain insistence on lying his happy ass off is that he’s actually being called on it, albeit in that frustrating way where you’re trying to get someone to say the word that sums it all up (in this case, “liar”), and they instead use every other imaginable phrase and concept to describe the phenomenon except for the one that’s actually the most useful.
This is the end result of three decades of working the refs into oblivion. The interesting thing, though, is that McCain/Palin is working less on a Rove/Atwater model and more on a model gleaned from prime-time TV.
What McCain has learned is not that you win by simply destroying your opponent – he’s taken the lesson of the lovable-yet-obviously-lacking-talent finalist that always makes it deep into American Idol and written it large on this campaign. The reason those people always go on is for two reasons – the first is the section of the audience which hates Simon Cowell and needs to rebuke his criticisms, and the second is the culture-jamming audience that enjoys the show ironically and aims to ruin it by way of fighting to make the winner whoever doesn’t fit inside of the obvious mold the show is going for. In both of these cases, it rarely matters when the less-talented contestant misses a note or chooses a song that’s way out of their league – it only matters that the ref or refs have been sufficiently vilified so as to make the act of voting for that contestant a statement of solidarity against whatever wrongs the audience felt they perpetrated.
McCain has learned that people like to root for the underdog when they can see a simple and easy way of lashing out at the bully. Racism and sexism are often intractable problem that require confronting your own biases as well as others’. Media bias, however, especially in the way that Republicans sell it, is always easily combated – just vote for the Republican and call the reporter a liberal elitist. It immediately excuses any error he makes or lie he tells, because while he’s just one guy trying to get his message out, the Em-Ess-Em is the one that’s forcing him into all these mistakes.
The heartening thing, though, is that eventually the underdog on American Idol loses – after a certain point, the talent gap becomes undeniable. The disheartening thing is that it’s a singing competition on TV and Kevin Covais wasn’t raising money to run ads pointing out that Chris Daughtry has an illegitimate black child. (It may not be true, but it was on the internet!)