Election Crazy (TQP0095)
In any election cycle, there’s one issue that gets underplayed, never really gets the discussion it should, because it’s not about strategy or platforms or attacks. And I see it every time a debate rolls around.
It’s how fiercely intelligent you have to be just to campaign. Not even to be president. Just to campaign for the job.
As I write this I’m watching a 90-minute debate two candidates who have prepped for weeks, maybe months. Just to be able to talk for an hour and a half without running out of things to say.
What was the last thing you’ve put that much energy into, while also focusing on a hundred other things?
I can’t talk for 10 minutes before I feel like I’m running out of gas (and if I’ve ever talked at you for 10 minutes, I do apologize…I just find “Lost” to be a very interesting show). I certainly can’t talk for 90 minutes with any coherency.
You can argue the relative merits and weaknesses of each candidate’s debating styles and message-points (and there are plenty of each), but the fact is, they’re both prepared to speak for 90 fucking minutes – while listening to the other guy, taking notes, responding as well as they can, as quickly as they can, with their own talking points with as much spontaneity such an event will allow.
All this, while also doing their damnedest to never to get so frustrated at the other guy’s bullshit that they roll their eyes, snipe at each other, or, well, walk over to the opposing podium to wring the other guy’s neck. Which is probably even more difficult than the speaking thing.
That is not something the vast majority of people are equipped to do.
This is the only time I’ll ever associate the utterly forgettable film “Run Fatboy Run” with politics, but watching it the same week as the first debate did remind me how much an election is like a marathon. There’s something deeply impressive to me about the ability to run one – not even win it. Just the running of it blows my mind.
Once again, I’m reminded how much the “Obama is elitist” charge still throws me off. He should be! McCain should be!
Who in their right mind believes an Everyman should be president? Is there some oddly optimistic hope that a layperson might be able to employ his folksy strategies in government when professionals have failed? Don’t we WANT the smartest, cleverest people doing this job?
Did people think the movie “Dave,” with Kevin Kline’s president-impersonator doing the job, was a hopeful sign of things to come?
This is why I cringe when people call a candidate “stupid.” I don’t believe John McCain is stupid. I also don’t believe George W. Bush is stupid. I WISH.
I believe they’re dangerously manipulative, with varying degrees of success. But have you ever met a stupid person who was also a talented manipulator?
John McCain and Barack Obama both fully believe they are the right man for this job. A horrible, taxing, exhausting, ungratifying, reputation-crushing, physically-destructive job that nobody in their right mind would want to do for up to eight years.
Over the next few days, when all the pundits are weighing in, don’t spend too much time listening. Everyone hears what they want to hear, everyone adds to the narrative they were already building. The Daily Kos will insist it was a decisive Obama win, Fox News will praise the McCain knockout, and everyone between will ask “What just happened?”
Trust your own instincts, and think back to what you heard. Both men came prepared to prove their case. Thinking objectively, both candidates had to have sounded a little bit crazy to you. They have to – they both want to be president. Obviously, not-crazy-enough = “Quirky and eccentric.” But too-crazy = “Oh god, we’re bombing Iran within the year.”
So trust your gut feeling: Which one sounded just crazy enough to get things done?
And then, after you’ve made that choice, you can curl up into a fetal position and cry yourself to sleep wondering how democracy is still the best governing system we’ve got.