I’m from Jersey. So, strangely enough, are a lot of my best friends from college. So it stands to reason that my Facebook news feed and I have been seriously mourning the crisis wrought by Hurricane Sandy upon our homestate shores. But a story from one of my Jersey friends really got me thinking.
With all the hubbub about who won what round and Libya and binders, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that seven ordinary Americans got up there during last night’s debate, bared their political souls to two presidential candidates and, fundamentally, represented the entire electorate in the process. By signing up for the spotlight, these folks basically guaranteed themselves and their questions the public scrutiny that accompanies any far-reaching display of political engagement. In light of which, I’d like to take this opportunity to give last night’s town hall-ers a brief performance evaluation, based on a few simple criteria. Let’s see how the first five of these everyday Americans measured up to the task of vetting our future leaders succinctly, specifically, and with a depth of political understanding and investment. Marks will be awarded on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being there’s just no excuse for that; 2 meh; 3 sure, ok; 4 right on; and 5 pure glory.
There is an argument to be made that, in this day and age, the cultural preference that most reflects our deepest impulses, personalities and opinions is television. A hundred years ago, sure, probably books reigned supreme. Seventy years ago, definitely movies. But today, we watch so constantly that what we watch seems necessarily to be bound up with ourselves, our goals, our ideas. And according to the New York Times, it’s also bound up with our political beliefs.
First of all, it’s not your fault. Well, no, it is your fault, but it’s not entirely your fault. For all our talk of free, fair and open elections (and we do looove to talk about them in this country, don’t we?), it can be surprisingly difficult to ascertain in this freaking huge county of Philadelphia whether or not you are actually allowed to vote for your future President. Identity crises can be provoked; you may suddenly find yourself wondering if, according to the great and terrifying bureaucracy, you are actually a resident of Pennsylvania, you are actually over the age of 18, and you do actually have a sound enough mind to work a voting booth lever.
Toward the middle of Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart’s “Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium” on Saturday, O’Reilly dropped a surprising truth bomb on an already heavily truthed-out audience. Referring to the presidential debates, he said, “I would just rather have them like Stewart and me, up here.” Well I wasn’t sure I’d ever say this, but me too, Billy. Me too.
Does anyone remember four years ago? You know, when all the 18-to-20-somethings were taking time off from school to move to Iowa and canvass door-to-door for a presidential candidate? When non-registered voters were the social equivalent of lepers, and every college student in the nation was declaring residency in whichever swing state happened to be closest?
Recently, hell froze over, Wile E. Coyote finally caught up with the Road Runner, and it was announced that Taylor Swift will play Joni Mitchell in an upcoming biopic. And yes, most unfortunately, of these factoids, the latter is the true one.