The Election Show

As the devil says in Doctor Faustus, “Why, this is hell, nor am I out of it.” While many Republicans may apply this line literally to their circumstance today, having awoken under the promise of further Obamanation, I think a paraphrase of Christopher Marlowe’s great line is more appropriate. We may replace the word “hell” with “show business” and have a more accurate picture of the American political climate. What this election result tells me is that the fiction of a liberal media is more than just another nonsensical conservative talking point. It’s a remarkably effective device, and one that has kept alive the GOP’s hopes far longer than the transparent lameness of its message and candidate would seem to warrant.

See, when you sell the idea that The Media has a liberal bias, you make it very confusing to consider that the bunch of liberals who run The Media (GE, Disney, etc) are actually the Republican leadership.  You also make it easy to throw your voice, using the very media that you own as an apparent ventriloquist’s dummy for the opposition, thereby making what you make it say seem to be true.  The message?  When you want to stop people from voting, you tell them their candidate has already lost. This is as old a trick as politics can boast. And when you want to maintain your candidate’s viability, of course, you act as if he has a chance.

Oh, I keep hearing, but Obama only took 25 states (maybe 26 if Florida looses the talons of corruption enough to allow a declaration to escape)! And even in most of the states he won, he only won with fifty-something percent of the vote. In terms of popular vote, he only won by a couple of percentage points! That’s half the country that didn’t vote for him! Well, yes, if you ignore the institution that actually elects our president. Predicated on an extrapolation of population data, the Electoral College makes very clear (303 to 206, again not counting Florida) that the election was not particularly close.

It would have been even less close if billions of corporate dollars hadn’t propped up the myth of Romney electability for the last several years. And where were those dollars spent? Mostly on television networks owned in many cases by the same mega-industrialists who funded the ads that pay the networks to run them. As it turns out, you can persuade about 50 million people to vote against their own interests, if you saturate their favorite media with hate-pander. But if you really want to be president, you have to convince the right 50 million, and the GOP simply did not try. The most populous state in the union wasn’t even contested. Nor was the vast majority of the Northeast. Why? It’s interesting to note that those ad markets are more expensive than most. To run a bunch of Romney ads in Los Angeles or New York City would have been an enormously costly charade. Because this entire election was a pageant, a very expensive one but in the long run strategically invaluable to the American Right.

If the GOP had allowed Obama to take this election uncontested, it would have appeared as the ideologically bereft lunatic fringe that it has become. So it had to put on a show. It also had to make sure that Democratic coffers were emptied, because they’re harder to fill (most of Romney’s fundraising came in donations of over $2500; most of Obama’s checks were for less than $200) and therefore more prone to exhaustion. Next time, middle-class Democratic checkwriters may feel that they have done their part to win a war that should now be over, while the Koch brothers will correctly view that “war” as a game only in middle innings; and they will still be billionaires. And maybe by then they’ll have manufactured a figurehead who isn’t a vulture-capitalist member of a bizarre religion, more of a Bond villain than a candidate.

Even the state that elected Romney governor ten years ago voted against him by twenty percentage points when he tried to run for national office. Romney was a sacrifice bunt, a place-holder while the Tea Party-ravaged GOP leadership pulls its act together and learns how not to lean on old saws like “less regulation” and “more drilling,” tropes that were guaranteed to lose them the half of the electorate who can read The Economist.

It was a show. We watched, we became enthralled, we were purged. But it’s not over. This show never is.

my theater review of Creation at Boston Court

my film review of Brooklyn Castle

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Jason Rohrer About the Author: Jason Rohrer's education includes New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, the Nikitsky Gates Theater in Moscow, Russia, the National Academy for Theater and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria, and Village Oaks School in Stockton, California. He reviews film, theater, dance, and music for stageandcinema.com. He tweets as @RohrerWrites. He is less intelligent than he thinks, but then, he would have to be.

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  1. Tonya Kehoe-Anderson says:

    “a figurehead who isn’t a vulture-capitalist member of a bizarre religion, more of a Bond villain than a candidate”

    my favorite line amongst many favorite lines. loved this piece.

  2. Jim says:

    Jason, you may be in the wrong line of work. I don’t think I’ve read any political commentary or analysis these last long months of this latest rilly big show more to the point. Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

    PS: Let’s just hope your favorite former elementary school principal doesn’t see that “bizarre religion” reference.

  3. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    ” When you want to stop people from voting, you tell them their candidate has already lost. ”

    Completely wrong. When you want to stop people from voting you tell them (a) their vote won’t change anything anyway or (b) there really is no choice (e.g. both parties are “the same”).

    49% of eligible voters didn’t vote this year in the Presidential election. The method is quite effective. And articles like this aid and abet the cause.

  4. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    Both American parties have been screaming at networks for thirty years to stop calling states early, why? Because of the basic political theory that I delineate in the article, and which you so helpfully repost above.

    You know what’s completely wrong, Mr Delin? You. Posts like yours aid and abet the cause of quarrelsome stupidity.

  5. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    Well besides the fact that there IS clearly a liberal media bias and half of the eligible voters DIDN’T vote, can’t really argue with much else in this article, Jason.

    And frankly, I don’t want to. The election is over. Let’s move on and try and get some shit done together.

    The people have spoken. And half of the half that voted were not happy. That means something. Obama deserved four more years and he got it, but if he continues to fail to bring the country together – even in the face of the obvious obstructionism from the Republicans – I will be the first one to call his presidency a failed one.

  6. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    You don’t want to argue, but apparently you would like to just say I’m wrong and leave it at that. I expect better from you, Colin; and you know me better than that.

    I never said there was a big turnout; in fact my thesis is clearly predicated on a shitty turnout due to a lack of action on the part of the GOP where it really would have mattered. Smoke and mirrors, not turnout. As I said.

    And if you can find some evidence of this clear liberal media bias, in a nation where ClearChannel and Comcast and Disney and Rupert Murdoch and CBS (James Dobson’s got a daily message for you on KNX 1070!) control 80% of television and radio, please lay it out. Don’t bother with MSNBC, which was invented specifically to see whether there was a Fox News-esque market for liberal programming, and which Comcast is so happy to see fail that it fired its most popular broadcaster.

  7. Kevin Delin Kevin Delin says:

    It’s a small mind, Jason, that can’t discuss a topic without attacking a person. But if you want to insist on your transparently false politeness by addressing me with a title, do please use the proper “Dr.” rather than “Mr.” It is, after all, how I am addressed in Washington, DC.

    I’ll extend you a courtesy that you hardly offer anyone else here and not make a blanket assumption on your intelligence. Nevertheless, it was not 50% of the people in the country who didn’t vote for the President, as you claim, but rather approximately 75%. That fact, which implies something quite profound, derives only from simple arithmetic and a basic understanding of the current political facts. And while I’m sure it’s fun to string syllables together to create word-salad invectives, your claimed “basic political theory” doesn’t begin to describe this election cycle. But when someone offers vapid arguments like “You know what’s completely wrong? You.” I don’t expect much of an intellectual discourse, so I’ll simply move on.

    I leave you to your erudite cynicism which I’m sure will have quite an impact on providing key insights and improving things. Carry on.

  8. Jason Rohrer Jason Rohrer says:

    I happen to know how some people back east address you, sir, and I’m being more polite than they. If you think a person with a doctorate needs (via etiquette, protocol or anything else) to be addressed as doctor, you’re even less informed than I gave you credit for.

    I am very clearly speaking of the active electorate when I quote the ignorant people I keep hearing, who speak of half the country not voting for Obama; and in the post I disagree with them. Your math is doubtless better than mine, since you are a physicist and I could give a shit. But your reading ability is very much in question, and I wish you’d improve it before you make any more of a fool of yourself on my watch. I haven’t the time to school you in the many arenas in which you have failed to impress me. When you desperately wave your degrees, like a holy father swinging a censor, you don’t in fact win an argument; you merely stink up the joint.

  9. Colin Mitchell Colin Mitchell says:

    People usually do expect better from me. I’m always happy to disappoint.

  10. Yale Cohn says:

    If you truly believe that “articles like this aid and abet the cause” of people not voting, Dr. Delin, you’re wildly over-estimating Jason’s readership in addition to being laughably wrong.

    And should you chose to respond, please note that my official title is “His Royal Highness, Lord of the Sebouillia, The Grand Pubah Cohn, King of the Jews of Iowa.”

  11. Ira Menthol says:

    You know who doesn’t have a small mind, Dr. Sillypants? Me! My mind is incredibly large and vacuous with only a couple of thoughts buzzing around like particles in the Large Hadron Collider. One of those thoughts happens to be that you’re an awfully arrogant fellow to insist on being called “Dr.” I love academics but I hate hubristic twats.

    Whoa! The other thought has just buzzed around and it’s marveling at how ridiculous it is to say that there’s a significant difference between saying a candidate has already lost and saying a vote will have no impact! Man alive! Both of my thoughts hate you and your specious argument.