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Posted in: Culture Wars & Censorship

Published on Oct 08, 2008 by Phyllis Chesler

Written for Pajamas Media

The Marketing of the American Presidency


How long can one election go on? In the future, will elections begin at birth and end after the next life? I am serious. Even I, who am not a political junkie, already know–no, I can predict–the favorite words, phrases, slogans of each candidate. This is political theatre at its worse and I must ask: What kind of person does this, day-in-day-out, year after year, traveling from city to city, from one television studio or stadium to another, getting up at dawn, never stopping? Only actors, models, musicians–and politicians. By now, everyone, including the politicians, consider themselves entertainers.

We, the people dutifully watch our leaders duke it out as if they were gladiators and we a bloodthirsty Roman mob. The most gravitas on display last night was Tom Brokaw’s gravelley voice and face which increasingly looks as if it is carved out of stone: very Mt Rushmore-y but he is only a media actor. That’s another problem: The media keep interviewing each other about the candidates as if they and they alone are the real experts and not merely well paid actors.

As to last night: Everyone is saying that Obama won and McCain lost. My God, is this the Battle of Bull Run? What do we mean by “winning” and “losing?” What kind of grim popularity contest is this anyway? And whose idea was it to have instantaneous call-in and internet voting and in-studio focus groups? The marketing of the American Presidency by slicksters has taken us over just as Sherman took Atlanta. This is the only battle around. Bumper stickers, coffee mugs, jet-stop touring, endless televised debates, the parading of the candidates’ families for our inspection and approval–we, the people are the ones who are being seduced, manipulated, “taken,” and we love it, we’re flattered by all the attention which helps us forget that the important decisions and deals are still being made in backrooms, both here and abroad, without our knowledge or consent. What an illusion of people-power!

I almost want to say that we will deserve whomever we elect–but I do not really mean that, too much is at stake in this next election.

Someone has got to tell Senator McCain to give up his faux-folksy mantra of "My friends.” Someone has got to tell Senator Obama to stop smirking and smiling when McCain says something that either embarrasses (or should embarrass) Obama or when Obama thinks that McCain is failing an opportunity. McCain should not be referring to his honorable opponent as “That one.” (But I bet Hillary referred to Obama in saltier language than this). Obama should treat his war-hero opponent who is old enough to be his father with more respect, not merely with cool disdain.

By definition, most politicians are thieves and liars whose Number One priority is themselves, then their family and friends, then those of their constituents who can reward them handsomely for passing or for refusing to pass a bill. Then, there are the rest of us, at the bottom of the pile-on. We are lucky to get the scraps.

Politicians do not necessarily deserve our adulation or even respect until or unless they can prove and keep proving to us that they are not cut of this common political cloth but of finer, more stately stuff.


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