U.S. Politics is Now a TV Show

U.S. Politics is Now a TV Show

America Has Traded Political Stability for the Chaos of Reality Television. That’s… Just Soooo Stupid


Oprah Winfrey might seriously be considering running for President of the United States. If Kanye sticks to his guns about doing the same, then that means the 2020 election could be a race – initially, at least – between Oprah, Kanye and Trump. And look, that combination excites me in almost any other context: if they were opening a chain of Thai/Soul food fusion restaurants together, I’d eat there every single night. If it was the next WWE pay per view match-up, I’d devise my own university course based solely around that event and dedicate my entire life to teaching people of its splendour. Threeway sextape? That shit should win an Oscar. But, when we’re talking about attaining the highest office in the land, one that can cause insurmountable, real-world damage on a mass scale, that literally holds the balance of life and death for so many… I mean, fucking come the fuckety fuck on! How did this even happen?

Oh… right. (History Channel)

If you wanna know the truth, I blame Bill Clinton. Before that, the American people were less bombarded by the 24 hour new cycle that permeates every facet of our lives in the 21st Century. People could only really have the one major concern at a time about the state of their country week-to-week, and they were some right and proper things to fret over: the Gulf War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Cold War, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the Civil Rights movement, WWII, the Great Depression. These things took up all of the public’s attention and they wanted desperately to have a professional dealing with them. No one gave a fuck about what whether Jimmy Carter seemed like the kind of guy they could have a beer with; all that mattered was his ability to do the job of President of United States competently and gracefully.

Then came Clinton. Here’s how things changed when America (and, specifically, the media and politicians themselves) decided to start treating the White House like a reality show: in the ’70s, Richard Nixon was forced to resign facing almost certain impeachment over the Watergate scandal, where his administration oversaw a break-in to the DNC’s headquarters and then attempted to cover it up. Y’know, shady, hardcore illegal shit. Cut to the ’90s, where Bill Clinton faced a public and Congressional trial, being very nearly impeached foooor… getting a gobby in the Oval Office.

“Heh, who me?” Yes, you honry old fuck! (Uncredited)

I mean, yes, the crux of the issue was that he lied about it under oath, but still, the fact that Congress and the media ran with such a lascivious story that very nearly saw the President ousted signifies the paradigm shift of American politics. The people, as a result of growing prosperity and the influx of the internet and wider media, had become less concerned about current events, political chicanery and wrongdoing than who was fucking who now in the Big Brother house. It represented a permanent and irrevocable shift in the way the presidency was perceived by the public.

Our collective memories of George Bush show this. Yes, I know we should all automatically point to his colossal mismanagement of the armed forces as his biggest cock-up, getting America involved in a treasure hunt in Iraq for weapons that basically everyone knew weren’t there in the first place just so he could secure the country’s plentiful oil reserves. But fuck me if the first thing I think of isn’t, “Rarely is the question asked: is our children learning?“, or that time he forgot how doors worked (full video below which, incidentally, I’m also submitting to the Oscars).

It’s the same even with Obama who I know achieved a great many things in office, such as the Affordable Care Act, eliminating the decades-long embargo with Cuba, drastically cutting the unemployment rate and ending that clusterfuck Iraqi war that his predecessor began. Shit, here’s fifty other things dude got done, if you’re curious. And yet, what’s my first thought when someone asks what was so great about Obama: dude was a motherfucking badarse. No, not based on any political achievements or showing of savvy leadership; he was just cool, y’know? He dropped a mic, he went on Between Two Ferns, he fucked around with Key & Peele, he pretended to be Daniel Day-Lewis. Dude even fucked with Kendrick! Yeah, I’m sure somewhere in there he passed a bountiful stimulus package that promoted vast economic growth, but did you see that time he went on Kimmel’s Mean Tweets?

I loved it at the time; who wouldn’t wanna have a cool President, a guy who got the humour his image generated, understood the way the public ingested it and was able to respond to it in a way that made him seem like the most on top of it, in-touch political leader in the world? But maybe we should have been just a tad less eager to revere the dude for his engagement with us outside of the realm of politics. Now everyone wants to have their own version of a “cool President”. As alien a notion as this might seem, that’s exactly what Trump is to so many people, a vitriolic, constantly-tweeting truth-talker who communicates with a rhetoric they haven’t heard from a figure in power since, well, probably before the Civil War.

So now, people seem to think the solution is to respond at every election with a basic 180 flip of the last President, someone with as much public exposure but on the opposite end of all their predecessor’s ideals. Oh, you guys had a cool black guy who liked rap music? Well, here’s the most racist turnip in the world who used to be on TV. And, apparently, our response is, “Well, here’s the world’s most powerful woman, who also happens to be black, also had her own TV show and will probably give us all free healthcare by screaming at us to look under our seats.” Or, conversely, “Here’s Kanye West. He’s also a dick, but he’s black.”

Let’s avoid this. Seriously. (RamelForde)

We should stop participating in this. The way to address the direction America and the world at large is headed in is complicated and multifaceted, but I know for a fucking fact that electing Oprah or Kanye is not the right move. The media, which is not fake but certainly flawed, needs to begin refocusing on policy and legislature over personality and clickbait articles (and yeah, I’m including Popticon in that missive because I’ve definitely been guilty of addressing the wrong issues). People need to be less able to treat the Commander in Chief like a character than a figurehead; they need to be a representative of ideals as opposed to a source of entertainment. Politics used to function (mostly for the better) because it was too boring for the layman to invest time in.

It used to be like the Olympics: every four years people would get worked up, a little division would emerge, someone would win and we’d all go back to our lives. Now it’s more like the new season of Survivor: tension, betrayal, faux scandal and merciless self-interest. In this version of politics, you can only win if the other side not only loses but is eliminated. That’s how a game works. And this isn’t, and shouldn’t, be a fucking game.

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