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Thursday, July 19, 2012

THE KARDASHIAN PRESIDENCY

"I get to go to lots of overseas places, like Canada."
-Britney Spears

In a Democracy, you get the government you ask for. On the whole that's been true, although once in a while you get something other than what you thought you would, because of lies, confusion, or misinformation.

However, if you keep that government despite being misled, then perhaps its what you wanted all along and didn't realize it or aren't aware of it. And I wonder if that's not what we're seeing right now.

Polling at this point in the campaign is still pretty useless, and most of it is misleading, to say the least. The polls tend to greatly over represent Democrats, despite Democratic Party registration being on the decline (note the USA Today headline focuses on all parties losing membership):
The trend is acute in states that are key to next year's presidential race. In the eight swing states that register voters by party, Democrats' registration is down by 800,000 and Republicans' by 350,000. Independents have gained 325,000.
And since this is so early, people's ideas and tendencies aren't solidified yet on the presidency, so polling doesn't tell you much, even if its done properly and is representative (which is questionable to begin with).

However, all polls show the same basic story: Obama and Romney are very close in support, with Obama tending to show a slight, usually statistically meaningless, advantage. Which begs the question: how does an incompetent, hapless president overseeing a horrendous economy in an administration plagued with scandals as horrific as the Fast & Furious one, after showing blunder upon blunder, even show reasonable support from voters?

You can cry media bias and rigged polls all you want but at the end of the day, while Obama doesn't have the glowing, enthusiastic worship he did in 2008, he's still pretty supported by voters. Yes, I can say that several people I know who voted for him last time will not this time, but that's not only anecdotal, it presumes they're being honest.

You can't really argue that Romney is despised or being destroyed by media and campaign ads. The Obama team spent millions last month to demolish Romney by... well by portraying him as a successful businessman who also ran the world's first prosperous Olympics. I'm not sure exactly how that was supposed to hurt him. And it didn't. He lost no polling numbers, but Obama has gone down slightly in most.

So what is going on? How can President Obama possibly be in the running here?

I've been saying a few years that all bets are off, that you cannot predict political campaigns like you used to, and that all the old rules are worthless now. And I think that's still true. But there is a strange set of rules in play that still work: the rules of celebrity.

Quick now: do you like the Kardashians? Can you understand why they have a television show, let alone two? Do you know anyone who watches that crap? I finally met one 16 year old girl who does. Yet these shows are on the air and are some of the more popular shows on television. Someone is watching those shows, and they're so popular they are on the cover of various celebrity magazines and everyone knows their names.

Why is Survivor still on the air? Why do shows like Bad Girls Club, Dancing With the Stars, and Real Housewives of Atlanta have any audience at all? The answer to that is the answer to why President Obama has a real shot at reelection even though he should have been shamed out of the race entirely by this point. Derek Hunter writes on Townhall:
A large portion of our culture now celebrates what it used to shun, cheers that which used to drive people into hiding and rewards existence over accomplishment.
Not only is this sort of the same effect of glamorous movies during the last great depression (I can forget my lousy life for a while) but it lets you have a slice of celebrity and participate in some way yourself. Modern America worships celebrities, it is our new religion as a nation. Celebrity is the way by which Americans connect and have common social interaction; it has replaced tradition, faith, and family as the bond by which we are a single people.

And President Obama has tapped into that celebrity thread. He's become not president of the United States but the black guy who is in a reality series in the White House. Sure, he's lousy at it and things keep going wrong. Tune in to see what happens next week! The same reason people love conflict and argument - even if it has to be faked - on reality shows is why they shrug at the president's failings. He's a celebrity, and everyone can watch. And look I got an email from the white house! He's sending tweets!

The idea that this will drag the country down or demolish the economy even more just doesn't seem to connect to far too many people. That economic stuff is too hard to understand and anyway, isn't Bush to blame? You can't blame Obama, he said he tried real hard. I'm like that, I try hard and it doesn't work out, are you calling me incompetent? He's just one of us, we have to give him a chance. Besides what does it matter, they're all the same, dude.

President Obama truly is the I-President, he is the ultimate culmination of the dumbing down and entertainment-focused America that our culture has become. Thinking is hard. Truth is relative. Comfort and pleasure is all. Give me more stuff, rich people have too much.

This November we'll see how totally entrenched this attitude is, whether people really are that mindlessly celebrity worshiping and thoughtless, or whether there are yet enough people to make a culture and a country work. I'm not sanguine, let us say.

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