Fangate is a Reflection of Voters
By Chad Nelson
The big election season story this week comes from Florida, where in that state’s gubernatorial race, Republican incumbent Rick Scott refused to take the stage for a debate because his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, allegedly violated the debate rules. Apparently Crist’s podium was equipped with (gasp!) a fan. Mainstream news outlets, always eager to over-report on a meaningless story that has high tabloid-value, is in all its glory. If I didn’t know better, I’d guess that this is the media’s way of pretending to hold politicians’ feet to the fire–by relentlessly criticizing them for idiotic, petty personal behavior that has nothing at all to do with actual issues. On the real issues, the media’s role in relation to the politician is one of enthusiastic cheerleader.
What this non-event actually highlights is the stupidity, the utter gullibility, and supreme narcissism of voters. No, not just Florida voters. Not the voters in this particular election cycle. Voters in general. The very act of voting says a lot about the people who participate in it, and none of it is positive. There seem to be two kinds of voters historically, each of them locked in their own tight race for who will win the award for most deluded.
The first kind of voter is glued to the set for the latest take on the Scott-Crist drama. He will ultimately cast his ballot largely based on surface-level attributes such as whether the politician is likable, whether he’d be a fun guy to have a beer with, or whether he sweats. Think I’m overdoing it? Look no further back than the Kennedy/Nixon presidential election where popular opinion holds that Nixon did himself great harm by profusely sweating in the country’s first ever televised presidential debate. Interestingly enough, it is said that Kennedy’s “handlers” knew this about Nixon, that he was a sweater, and made sure to turn the heat up in the debate studio for this very reason. I laughed last night when I read a tweet (which I now cannot find) that said “Whichever handler told Crist to go out on stage and just stand there until Scott showed up deserves a raise.” That was brilliant. It perfectly captures the empty-headedness of politicians, whose actions are driven solely by a team of doting aides who are constantly gauging public perception.
And let us simply reflect for a moment on why politicians have handlers in the first place. It tells us everything we need to know. Politicians are like cardboard cutouts whose skulls are empty vessels just waiting to be filled with slick soundbites by Madison Avenue’s finest. Consider further that high-level politicians even have their own press secretaries, whose jobs consist of nothing more than spinning issues the politicians themselves have no grasp of in order to fool the electorate into thinking they have everything under control. Press secretaries serve as nothing more than high caliber con artists for their bosses. It is only more distressing that voters are gullible enough to buy into the political performance.
Sadly, events like Fangate and a politician’s sweat glands matter to American voters. If Rick Scott’s team of handlers didn’t realize this, they wouldn’t have withheld their monkey from the stage over a trivial issue like No Fans Allowed. What percentage of voters charge enthusiastically into the voting booth knowing little more than this type of information is unknown, but we’ve all come across many friends, neighbors and family members who embody this density.
The second kind of voter is the true believer. The true believer is supposedly the creme de la creme of the electorate, purportedly “versed on the issues”. He’s done his homework, knows where the candidates stand on the big issues of the day, and makes an informed choice as to who is more equipped to run the affairs of he and his fellow men over the next few years. The true believer thumbs his nose at the eggheaded superficial voter described above. He can even see through the handlers’ and press secretaries’ spin machine if he watches closely. Warning: if this description doesn’t activate your gag reflex, you may be a true believer voter.
The true believer evidences the same kind of mystical superstition that a weekly churchgoer exhibits. He believes with blind faith and without critical examination that politicians are our saviors, selflessly stepping forward to “lead” the country in the most difficult and complex of human affairs, if only the right ones can be found and elected. To the true believer, there is nothing the politician isn’t, or cannot become, an expert on once he gets into office and has the vast resources of the state at his disposal. Can a former Constitutional Law Professor become the nation’s expert on Ebola? Shizzam! He’s a doctor now too! How about a failed Texas oilman-cum-Major League Baseball team owner? Poof! An expert on Middle Eastern affairs overnight. How about a handsome, California born and bred B-movie actor? What hidden talents did he have up his sleeve? Don’t you remember? He ended the Cold War with sheer resolve and a big wallet!
The true believer eats up campaign promises with a spoon, and everything that happens in the world, good or bad, is attributable to the rightness or wrongness of the actions of our political leaders. And if this leader fails us, by golly, the next time around we’ll get it right in the voting booth. Isn’t this the clinical definition of insanity?
P.J. O’Rourke said it best with the title of his book “Don’t Vote, It Just Encourages the Bastards”. Voting tells politicians that they’ve fooled you. Either you, the voter, are so vacuous that a sweating politician will determine how you vote, or perhaps worse, you’re so naive that no matter how many failed political promises you’ve been fed, you’ll always believe the next one will actually be fulfilled.