I was at a barbecue over the weekend at my boyfriend’s family’s place, and before the corn on the cob had even been thrown onto the gas grill, someone asked me for whom I was voting in November’s presidential election. After good-naturedly breaking his balls about the sacro-sanctity of my vote and its very personal nature, I told him which of the candidates was more in line with my political views, circa-2012, and was immediately assailed with comments, pro and con, about my “guy.”
I honestly don’t have a lot of patience for this kind of ‘polite conversation,’ because I was a radio and television talk show host for ten years, and it doesn’t take much to set my gorge to rising, especially during the quadrennial presidential election cycle. There is very little in the current political climate (that’s watchable for more than three minutes, anyway) that smacks of intelligent, articulated, sober, and rational conversation about the most important issues that matter to us, as a community and as a nation.
The talking heads are spewing the talking points, and talk radio is so Agenda-driven (pardon the pun), that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have become the equivalent of World Wrestling Entertainment “stars:” Loudmouthed, opinionated regurgitators of a canned message that won’t brook (or invite) any debate. (There’s plenty of this to go around on the Left, too, but my homo-animus is momentarily directed towards the ’tards of the Right, thank you.)
I know when I watch one of the tights-clad personae created by promoter Vince McMahon that I am being treated to Theatre of the Grotesque, with larger-than-life depictions of dime-novel villains (or for a more recent, pop-culture relevant specie, Tom Hardy’s Bane in the latest “Batman” film is a perfect example), little more than caricatures to tease some Jungian archetypal yearning of the psyche.
That’s all well on TV—but it has no place in a grownup political conversation, and certainly shouldn’t inform a citizen’s voting choice.
(You can stop laughing now.) Unfortunately, there’s no such “mental warning label” accompanying the likes of Rush Limbaugh as when you are watching the antics of say, Hulk Hogan. But Limbaugh is no less a clown for all that he advocates policies and positions which are oh-so-less-than funny.
But at least I personally know that the pill-popping hypocrite is a clown—what excuse do his legions of Ditto-heads have to offer? Are they so starved for guidance and a firm hand (“paging Dr. Freud”) that they are willing to overlook the dishonesty, fact-twisting, and blatant lies that spew from his nicotinestained lips? They obviously don’t mind that Limbaugh never cast a vote for Ronald Reagan (because he didn’t register to vote until he was 35). Telling other people how they should think is easier, I guess, than making up your own mind.
There’s nothing wrong with being a Democrat, or a Republican, or a Libertarian (small or large “l”), or a progressive, traditionalist, ad infinitum, ad nauseum. What’s wrong is refusing to be an HONEST one of those things. The modern political party system, as practiced in the U.S., is two major corporations competing for sponsorship dollars.
Period. To say it a different way, the DNC and the RNC are like Ford or General Motors, competing for you as a consumer of their product, which is one of ideas. Brand loyalty is fine when it comes to soft drinks, sports teams, and clothing. It’s okay to be a “Chevy man,” or a “Binaca boy,” but to call oneself a “Yellow Dog Democrat” in the context of a modern information age is being willfully ignorant, something which, sadly doesn’t un-qualify a person to vote. My respect and admiration for FDR isn’t about to cloud my worldview concerning the gross and corrupt Vito Lopez of Brooklyn, just as my reverence of Lincoln and my appreciation for Reagan won’t blind me to the disappointment of George W. Bush, or the embarrassment of Sarah Palin and Todd Akin. Nor should they you.
Because I choose—when it comes to my voting franchise, anyway—to be willfully informed, I refuse to allow “brand loyalty” to inform my choice for president any more than it will impact my choice for dinner.
I “enjoy” (in the broadest definition of the word) listening to Limbaugh barn-burn his way to the fringe, because I “get” that he is, on some level, playing a part (as hatefully as did Father Coughlin in the 1930s), just as I get a kick out of the acerbic barbs of the more rational (to my mind) Rachel Maddow. But I understand it to be info-tainment, and I am more likely to make a voting choice based on something that the Economist said about the euro than something Kathy Griffin said about Romney.
The stakes for marriage equality, as well as ongoing efforts like the repeal of the bigoted and un- American Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the passage of ENDA (which even Paul Ryan— although not Mitt Romney— supported), and lingering concerns like the final vestiges of DADT, are too high to do otherwise.