Friday, October 17, 2008

The two McCains

Trey Parker and Matt Stone put out some of the best parody and satire around. The sad thing is that they would have never made it this far had they not been able to meld the two ingredients - lampoon and shock value - together to get a large number of eyeballs to watch the show. In the beginning it was more the latter but as they have matured so has the show particularly in its parody sophistication. Without the crudeness it would not have an audience anywhere near what it has now, and without the wit it would not be watched by people like me. What an odd combination of the two. But it works.

Which brings me to John McCain. He was on Letterman last night to eat crow about missing a scheduled appearance on the show. What struck me was how much I like John McCain when he is being John McCain. When he is in political mode – he makes me turn away. So there I was watching the two different McCain’s talk when it dawned on me why I am bothered by it. It doesn’t work.

The idea behind the straight talk express was for McCain to be McCain. It worked getting him the nomination because there is a lot of substance there. Not everyone in the Republican Party wanted him, but enough did to cause the others to drop out. But getting your Party’s nomination and winning the election are two different things which McCain soon found out would be his situation. He needed the Republican base and that base doesn’t want straight talk they want red meat.

Enter Sarah Palin. She is everything that McCain is not to the base. An evangelical-gun loving-gay loathing-conservative values-liberal hating-rhetoric spewing answer to what is all wrong with America. She is the artery-clogging red meat that was necessary to “energize” the folks that now make up the base of the Republican Party. These are the same ones that would have stayed home on Election Day because McCain was just not conservative enough for them.

So McCain parked the straight talk bus and tried to disguise himself as red meat too. Trouble is he is not. Parker and Stone can make South Park work because they understand both aspects of what their show has to be in order for it to be successful. When they are crude it is because they themselves think it is funny – they get it. And when they parody and lampoon - they get that too. They understand it because they can relate to it, and because they relate to it they can pull it off.

McCain does not understand or relate to the base he needs for support so when he tries to placate them it falls flat and the attempt turns me away. He is substance only and substance doesn’t sell to the Republican base that doesn’t want to hear straight talk. They want to hear and be fed terrible things about Obama – and McCain don’t play that – at least not very well.

Neither Obama nor McCain will win because of the votes from people like me. We are drowned out by the “kill him” mindset that makes up too many of my fellow Americans. They care little about the substance in the rhetoric thrown to them. This needs to change. Call me naive but I really do think straight talk and hope are tangible but only if their messengers believe fully in them.

"You know what, I've learned something today…"

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