Remember just a handful or two of months ago where Barack Obama was inspiring US Festival-sized crowds and ruling every magazine cover? Well, those halcyon days are gone. At least they were before I went out for my last cigarette. Check the Friday night lineup at any Indian casino or county fair, and most of your headliners there used to fill stadiums, too. Politics is a milieu even more fickle than entertainment, and last week’s Flavor Of The Day is this week’s impacted colon.
By the same token, politics is an even tighter–and weirder–sine curve than entertainment, and everyone loves an underdog. Barack Obama came back from a post-primary lull and ruled the mid-summer, with a whirlwind tour of Europe and the Middle East, and was back to his Spring Messiah form just three weeks ago, packing Invesco Field in Denver with the biggest party nominating speech the country has ever seen.
But then came Sarah. The GOP charged back and they’ve owned the news cycle for the last 19 days. And if we’d like to tap the rock star/stadium metaphor again, suddenly Obama just as well have been Grand Funk Railroad selling out Shea Stadium in 71 hours in 1971–yes, you outsold the Beatles, but one of you made it to Cleveland, and the other today languishes in the 75 cent used LP rack at Salvation Army.
What a difference a few weeks and an ADD public makes, though. John McCain is now being lambasted as a brazen and shameless liar, the Sarah Palin dolls are about fifteen minutes from being stacked up by the crate outside Tuesday Mornings across America, and Barack Obama is now being touted as a would-be Comeback Kid.
Politics is a perverted theater on a par with any dark, sticky auditorium that ever showed a John Holmes film. And 2008 is as unseemly as it’s ever been.
It’s practically an inevitability in an age where information (and misinformation) pummels the American awareness there’s going to be some sensory disorientation among the soft and undecided. It’s like one of those six or seven 4th of July fireworks accidents we see on CNN every year. After the adrenaline rush of the assault, the first thought is, “Who do I blame?” You feel assaulted and reactive, it’s hard to see clearly from the smoke and the sting of the point-blank pyrotechnic discharge, and your ears are ringing like a test pattern. Even though your cooler head would recognize that this was a tragic accident, all it takes is for one person to point out another and shout, “It was his fault!”
Hopefully you can get out of harm’s way and out of range of the violent, uncontrolled explosions, and get a little perspective.
Assuming, of course, you’re not one of the unlucky few whose interest perishes in the tragedy, and you spend Election Day on the sofa with an armload of beers and a greasy bag from Carl’s, Jr., watching NCIS reruns instead of investing with your ballot in the future of your country.
Barack Obama isn’t going to be the reborn underdog for long. The American public being as captivated by shiny objects as they are, another theme will emerge from the lab of the wild-eyed Republican alchemists, and then it will be the Dems’ turn to whip up a captivating brew that can seize the momentum and manipulate it to their advantage until election day. It’s no surprise that the Republicans will play the terror card, but the Democrats have plenty of fright they can peddle. It’s going to be a six-week game of Musical Scares, and it’s going to be all about who is sitting in that lucky seat come daybreak on November 5.
In the meantime, it’s going to be a whiplash of charges and countercharges, of exaggerations, outright lies, and real concerns that will probably be lost among the cacophony and get no traction at all. With the proliferation of daily polling, the numbers will be all over the place.
Then there’s the economic Chernobyl to add a little more drama to an already dramatic race. In the end, the only October Surprise will be if any of us can afford to put gas in our cars to get to our polling place.