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Richard Nixon Steve Gimbel for ePluribus Media brings his own wit to bear in his column The Last Laugh as he explains that "humor" is often times the best medicine -- even in politics.

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Forget "Soccer moms,"  "NASCAR dads,"  and "value voters," the operative bloc in the midterms were the "comedic constituents."  Stephen Colbert was right to proudly proclaim that every Congressional candidate who appeared on his show "Democrat or Republican, incumbent or challenger"  had been elected.  The power of the laugh should not be misunderestimated.


Richard Nixon's appearance on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In was the first time major televised comedy was used for political PR and was ultimately as important to his career as the Checkers speech. But the world changed with the Ray-Banned Bill Clinton on Arsenio. The image created the new notion of President as Celebrity-in-Chief.

Bill Clinton
Clinton's entertainment connections projected an image of Presidential glamour the country had not seen since Kennedy's Camelot. His prime time embrace of Aretha Franklin was seen as an act of R.E.S.P.E.C.T. to the African American community as whole, a bump they also got amongst the Jewish population from the first family's relationship with Barbara Streisand -- whose social relevance was in no small part rescued by Michael Myers' "Coffee Talk" bits on Saturday Night Live.  
 
It was in direct contrast to this that Clinton made the post-prime-time slot a necessary club in the campaign bag. Late Night and The Tonight Show were used to show that candidates had the levitas necessary for high office. "Boxers or briefs?," a question for Clinton from an MTv candidate forum, is now shorthand for the contentless fluff needed to by to connect with "real people" who cynically distrust anyone with ideas, much less an agenda.

This was the period where the comedic landscape was dominated by Seinfeld.  The show was not about nothing; its appeal was its narcissism, its ability to take trivialities, and by embedding them in the intricacies of lived lives,  pretend that they were tragedies.  To have involved the characters in authentic conflict would have been to kill the schtick -- there was never and could never have been "a very special episode of Seinfeld."   It had to be axiomatic that the upper middle-class lifestyle of Jerry, Elaine, George, and Kramer was never in danger, regardless of whether one got served by the Soup Nazi, could dispose of muffin stumps, or celebrated Festivus.  

And so it was with us.  There were no real threats to our peace and prosperity.  Congress could shut down the government and, like George losing his job, nothing changed.  It didn't matter if the President was trying to put gays in the military like a liberal or declaring the end of the era of big government like a conservative.  A semen stain on a blue dress could be elevated to the level of a constitutional crisis because we had the luxury of thinking that the most imperative issue confronting us was whether the Commander-in-Chief was master of his domain.  

The comedy was sarcastic in its smugness.  The worries of post-modern life were mere social constructions.  Political theater was "a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing."  Existential crises were, like, so 1960s.  And thus turn out for elections, especially among younger voters, approached historic lows.  
 
The election of 2000 featured a brainy, earnest Democratic wonk; a language mangling, ne'er do well Republican; and an anti-telegenic Green repeating hypnotically "there's no difference between the parties." And it rang true because there was precious little difference between Clinton's Dick Morris guided triangulation and the Bob Dole prairie-moderate branch of the GOP.  

But Gore and Bush were different -- in image. The vicious attacks on Gore came from a general cynicism among the pundocracy. Gore didn't get the joke. Nothing was at stake and Bush's playful nicknames and banter with the press showed them that he was in on the gag. We had no worries putting a gentleman's C student in the White House because the government was too big of a ship to be moved. Its inertia would carry it smoothly regardless of who was at the helm so we might as well spend the next four years with the one we'd prefer to watch Seinfeld with.  

"9/11 changed everything," we were told.  Of course, it is not clear exactly what it changed since any change could only be interpreted as a victory for the terrorists. But there was one thing -- Letterman was off the air and it was widely declared that "the age of irony was over."  Nihilism had lost its place.  We were hated and hunted.  Real concerns now replaced self-indulgence.

But irony's eulogy was also an unapologetically political shot across the bow of the good ship Liberal.  By declaring snark to be passé, it clearly argued that this was not a time to embody any progressive traits: cleverness, nuance, or empathy.  This was a time to be clear, tough, and burn with anger for revenge.  Careful consideration and concern for innocent lives are exactly the sort of namby-pamby softness the terrorists relied on.  They hate us for our freedoms and if you dare to use those freedoms, they will hate us even more and kill your children.  

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Read the rest of Steve's Column!

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About the Author: Steve Gimbel is a philosopher at Gettysburg College.  He writes The Philosophers' Playground and is the editor of Defending Einstein: Hans Reichenbach's Early Writings on Space, Time, and Motion and The Grateful Dead and Philosophy.

ePluribus Contributors and Fact Checkers: avahome, kfred, cho, JeninRI and roxy



If you like what ePMedia's been doing with research, reviews and interviews, please consider donating to help with our efforts.

Originally posted to ePluribus Media on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 05:36 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Laughing is wonderful for the soul... (15+ / 0-)

    no matter WHAT the occassion...sadly we all take ourselves and circumstances much too seriously.

    Good diary, especially so darned early in the a.m.:)

  •  One more click... (15+ / 0-)

    take the plunge and read the rest of Steve's column.  You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll say "true dat".

    Wink, wink.  Nudge, nudge. Recommended.

    Claws beat Skin Take Back America

    by polydactyl on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 05:54:44 AM PST

  •  No more Republicans (16+ / 0-)

    on Colbert.

    We have only just begun and none too soon.

    by global citizen on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:01:27 AM PST

  •  Tricky Dick on Laugh-In....... (13+ / 0-)

    what a stroll down memory lane.............how naive America was then....but we were in love with Laugh-In.
    BTW.....I had no idea Nixon could smile and wave anything but the peace sign!!!!!!!!!

    Humor sure does cut to the quick......thank you SteveG for a terrific read!!!!!!!!!  Oh, excuse me....I must go back for a second read!

    •  Nixon may have been... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SteveG, Cho, BarbinMD

      ....a paranoid rascist anti-Semite, but, unlike Bush, he was actually a very bright guy.

      •  A lot of people liked him.......... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SteveG, Cho, roxy317

        The first time I was old enough to vote...which you had to be at least 21 back then.......my father took me to the polls and said this is who you vote for....
        Well, Nixon got elected then and once more (I didn't vote for him).

        I saw Dick and Pat Nixon in person once.  It was in the Terminal Tower in Cleveland,OH.  I was surprised at his lack of height!!!!!!!! He was a little dude.

        I wonder nowadays, if Nixon would have survived the scrutiny into his friendship with his buddy Beebe Rebozo...I seem to remember rumors about their closeness...and that Dick did not treat his wife very well.  Good thing the comedians of today didn't get their hands on that material!!!!!! But it would have been interesting.

  •  I wanna write like that! n/t (14+ / 0-)

    Seldom has Washington conventional wisdom been a more obedient handmaiden to historical illiteracy. ...... Joshua Micah Marshall

    by Granny Doc on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:14:20 AM PST

  •  The Truthiness Elections (17+ / 0-)

    I think this Administration will be further known as the Truthiness administration in years to come. And as the years when Comedy Centarl became a major news network.

    Reality has a well known liberal bias.-Stephen Colbert

    by pierredude on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:23:27 AM PST

  •  Too bad Al Gore... (10+ / 0-)

    didn't appear as a real human being on Letterman until after the defeat.  Same with Kerry.  They both listened to the inside the beltway consultants who have been horrible at advising Democratic Presidential candidates.  They stayed in their lofty "presidential candidate" towers and they LOST.

    Both Gore and Kerry should have gone on:  Regis and Kelly, Saturday Night Live (Gore went on too late), Countdown, Ellen, The View, Oprah, Celebrity Jeopardy, Jay, Conan, Dave, Deal or No Deal, a guest cameo on Boston Legal, a corpse on CSI, etc.

    In short, they should have gone on any popular show where they could come across as "real people".

    Listen up...Dem Candidate for 2008.  Go to the people.

    HotFlashReport - Opinionated liberal views of the wrongs of the right

    by annrose on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:24:05 AM PST

    •  And of course, Jon and Colbert as well. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SteveG, Cho, mjd in florida, atdnext

      HotFlashReport - Opinionated liberal views of the wrongs of the right

      by annrose on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:24:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I am afraid you are regurgitating false (7+ / 0-)

      I am afraid you are regurgitating false talking points.
      Too bad Al Gore... didn't appear as a real human being on Letterman until after the defeat.

      He was a full blooded human being with the same drive to make things better as he is now. Only, during the past 6 years, there has a been a reckless regime in charge doing mind-blowing to with the country; and Al Gore promptly rose up to oppose those actions (he has been one of the most strident and powerful critics, if not the most, of the Bush regime, when the likes of the Clintons, Edwards etc cozied up to Bush on the war and other matters).

      Back in 2000, the administration had his name on it; what was there to fight against? He couldn't have taken off on the media carelessly because he would need their help in the remaining part of the campaign (raking up a hornet's nest is tricky exercise). He did his best to make a case that he will take the country from the good point that Clinton and he worked hard to build to an even better state where the prosperity would be spread more evenly.

      To any person that paid attention to what he was saying and did research of their own on what was being said by scores of spinners and smearers, he was a wonderful candidate and a great guy. These two videos will shed some light on how and why:

      1. Gore on global warming in 2000
      1. Al Gore video by Spike Jonze

      They both listened to the inside the beltway consultants who have been horrible at advising Democratic Presidential candidates.

      Any presidential campaign will have consultants; some good and some not so good. From the convention onwards, Gore took charge of his campaign from what I can tell (had one or two excellent consultants that  helped him put together his "People not the powerful" campaign) and pulled out from double-digit deficits that plagued him since early 1999 (from Clinton fatigue and relentless media  smears) and won the popular vote (likely won FL too as well).

      They stayed in their lofty "presidential candidate" towers and they LOST.

      Gore was elected, but not selected. Please see here for more on 2000 if you're interested.

      Both Gore and Kerry should have gone on:  Regis and Kelly, Saturday Night Live (Gore went on too late), Countdown, Ellen, The View, Oprah, Celebrity Jeopardy, Jay, Conan, Dave, Deal or No Deal, a guest cameo on Boston Legal, a corpse on CSI, etc.

      You have a point here. I don't recall how many of these shows he did and when.

      Listen up...Dem Candidate for 2008.  Go to the people.

      Good advice, notwithstanding the false talking points you started with.

      Unite the nation, heal the planet: Al Gore for President, 2008!

      by NeuvoLiberal on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:55:39 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  False talking points? (5+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SteveG, KingOneEye, Cho, luaptifer, Dvalkure

        I disagree.  In 2000, Gore came across to the general public as "wooden" as "out of touch" as "stiff", as "stuffy", etc. etc.  And I do agree with you that Gore really won in 2000, but I think he would have really really won in 2000 had he gotten just a few more votes whereby he won Florida, or even his own home state Tennessee.

        These are not my talking points.  I liked Gore and I want him to run again in 2008, but he's done more in the past 5 years to humanize himself to the general public than he did during his election.

        I agree, he was a wonderful candidate and a great guy.  But, the general public only heard "I invented the internet" and "wooden" and other labels that his campaign was unable to refute.

        We've got to remember that those of us at DK are not the "general public".  We're generally more resourceful, more inquisitive, more intellectual, etc. than the rest of the public.  The public gets caught up in the spin and if the Dems don't spin back, the Republican spin will stick.

        Maybe Kerry should have worn flip flops...at least once.  Maybe Gore should have mocked his "wooden" image during the campaign like he finally did on SNL.

        Maybe, just maybe....

        HotFlashReport - Opinionated liberal views of the wrongs of the right

        by annrose on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 08:31:04 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  intellectual elite vs. Joe NASCAR (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SteveG, Cho, annrose, avahome

          All of that!

          How you sell to which market is the bottomline in our consumer society and so much of the left doesn't seem to get it.  

          The smoke'n'mirrors gang knows that it takes emotional appeal at the last minute to swing the margin.  Does truth really matter if you've not made the sale or won the election?

          Rove's message-mongers are masters of the direct-mailed, push-polled, astroturf-farmed tweakers of the emotional reflexes.  How else could they have saved the tobacco industry?

          The intellectual elite, on the other hand, relies too heavily on facts and not their package.  

          Clinton could bridge those two realms with a natural sense for emotional appeal to get people to listen to the facts.  I think his questioning of "What IS is" illustrates the understanding of such nuance.  The progressives really need to learn that lesson better and SOONer rather than as Gore did, after the fact.
           
          As much as I hate the fact, in this country, packaging matters.

        •  Gore's campaign sucked. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          SteveG, Cho, annrose

          I agree with you that Gore failed to present himself effectively. From the start his campaign made all the wrong decisions as he tried to distance himself from Clinton and 8 years of prosperity. The fact that we all know he won in 2000 is useless trivia. He didn't take the oath of office. And sqeaking out a tiny technical victory is not what we should be aiming for. Gore should have won that race in a landslide. Look at his fucking competition! It shouldn't have even been close.

          I abhor the celebrity focus on politics in this country, but I recognize its existence. When voters prefer a candidate because they'd like to have a beer with him, and reject a candidate who seems to intellectual, we are in serious trouble. I, for one, don't want a president is "like me." I want a president who is way better than me.

          But that's not America's view and we have to give the people what they want. That means sharpening your people skills, prospective candidates. And humor is a big part of that. If we don't play that game, we will just chalk up more losses and make manifest Mencken's prediction:

          "As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron."

          Leave It To Blather
          • Wally and the Beav were TV pundits. See the video!

          by KingOneEye on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 09:37:44 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thank you KOE... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            KingOneEye, Cho

            Gore over Bush should have been a slam dunk.

            But ordinary American voters thought Gore was stiff and unfunny and they thought Bush was a regular guy.

            Education, intelligence, honor, etc. had nothing to do with the Bush vote.  Bush was presented to the American people as their kind of guy.  He was packaged better.

            Candidates need to get away from the policy wonks in the DC consultancy who churn out the same ole crap.  The same ole crap that has lost 2 elections that should have been won.  The next Dem Presidential candidate needs an Advertising Agency that can package him/her to be sold to the most number of Americans.

            HotFlashReport - Opinionated liberal views of the wrongs of the right

            by annrose on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 10:23:13 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  ann, by 'talking points' (0+ / 0-)

              I am talking about things that has been spun for 6 six years since that election by several people to place the blame squarely on Gore shoulders so that he wouldn't be a threat for them by running again, which has permeated and become "conventional wisdom", and most of which is false upon closer examination.

              Please see my response to KOE below.

              Unfortunately, when lies and mischaracterizations are repeated often enough, they end up becoming CW and many people (such as yourself) also take to them sometimes. Didn't the same thing happen with the false meme that "Gore said he invented internet" when he never anything close it. And Nader's "there is no significant difference between Bush and Gore"? several good people fell for those lies as well. When evidence to the contrary is presented (Gore has been and is doing other more important things than unspinning the spins generate originally by political operators) those perceptions will and do change.

              Unite the nation, heal the planet: Al Gore for President, 2008!

              by NeuvoLiberal on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 10:51:50 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  NL... (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Cho, NeuvoLiberal

                I never said I agreed with these memes.  I agree that repeating lies and mischaracterizations in the media is not good.  I was repeating them in a policy context in order to rebuff them, not to validate them.  

                Hey, Gore's my dude for 2008, but I'm afraid he'll still come up against the 2000 mischaracterizations so he'll have to do something to debunk them.  And I do believe that the things he's done since 2000 have helped in the debunkerization.

                HotFlashReport - Opinionated liberal views of the wrongs of the right

                by annrose on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 01:39:41 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  Ann, (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  annrose

                  he'll still come up against the 2000 mischaracterizations so he'll have to do something to debunk them.

                  I completely agree. We (I mean a potential campaign if Gore decides to run and volunteer supporters like us) basically have to find ways to get the message across debunking the memes. If we do it right, it will be a net positive. For example, on the internet  meme we just have to get these two paragraphs seen by everyone

                  Net builders Kahn, Cerf recognise Al Gore

                  But as the two people who designed the basic architecture and the core protocols that make the Internet work, we would like to acknowledge VP Gore's contributions as a Congressman, Senator and as Vice President. No other elected official, to our knowledge, has made a greater contribution over a longer period of time.

                  Last year the Vice President made a straightforward statement on his role. He said: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet." We don't think, as some people have argued, that Gore intended to claim he "invented" the Internet. Moreover, there is no question in our minds that while serving as Senator, Gore's initiatives had a significant and beneficial effect on the still-evolving Internet. The fact of the matter is that Gore was talking about and promoting the Internet long before most people were listening. We feel it is timely to offer our perspective.

                  How can we distribute this far wide? How can we keep media pundits and talking heads from recycling them in some fashion? That's something to sort through and put into action.

                  And I do believe that the things he's done since 2000 have helped in the debunkerization.

                  I think so. I think it gives clarity to who he is and where he stands, instead of being seen through shades injected by other people or from under others' shadows. That Bush regime was horribly off-track and Gore tracked and opposed the major blunders being made gives a stark contrast, I think.

                  Hey, Gore's my dude for 2008

                  That's great to hear, Ann. Hopefully, our encouragement will persuade him to run.

                  Unite the nation, heal the planet: Al Gore for President, 2008!

                  by NeuvoLiberal on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 03:09:55 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

          •  You've tacked on a talking point or two. (0+ / 0-)

            From the start his campaign made all the wrong decisions as he tried to distance himself from Clinton and 8 years of prosperity.

            There is overwhelming evidence that Clinton's scandal and impeachment badly hurt Gore.

            Clinton Fatigue Undermines Gore Poll Standing

            Clinton Fatigue

            The Clinton Factor: The effects of Clinton's personal image in 2000 presidential primaries and in the general election

            Clinton campaign effort could hurt Gore more than help, poll suggests

            From staff and wire reports

            October 24, 2000

            The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup tracking poll indicates 58 percent of Americans approve of the job Clinton is doing as president. But after surviving impeachment more than a year ago, Clinton trails Gore in the number of people who view him favorably.

            Overall, 17 percent of all voters say they would be more likely to vote for Gore if Clinton were to campaign for the vice president. But 40 percent said they were less likely to vote for Gore with Clinton stumping for him, and 40 percent said that would have no effect.

            Among independent voters, the net loss for Gore could be far greater: Gallup's survey indicated that 45 percent of independents would be less likely to vote for the vice president if Clinton were to campaign for him, while only 10 percent said they would be more likely to support Gore. Another 37 percent of independents said Clinton's efforts would make no difference.

            [The Clinton Factor: The effects of Clinton's personal image in 2000 presidential primaries and in the general election
            Mark J. Wattier http://www.findarticles.com/...

            Abstract

            This article examines the effect of the Clinton Factor on candidate choice in 2000 in both presidential primaries and the November general election. The Clinton Factor--negative personal feelings about President Clinton--is examined with Voter News Service exit polls for 11 Democratic primaries and with National Election Study data for the presidential election. The predictors are Clinton's job performance, candidate images, Clinton's image, party identification, ideology, and electability. The results suggest that Clinton's image had a significant effect on primary voters and, in the battleground states, on general-election voters.

            ...

            (73) The billboard the Republican Party placed next to Vice President Gore's Nashville headquarters illustrates how Republicans made sure potential voters would "never see one without thinking of the other." According to the Republican Party press release issued on November 29, 1999:

            The billboard will show Bill Clinton hugging Al Gore along with Gore's famous quote, "One of our Greatest Presidents," made at Clinton's post-impeachment pep rally. The advertisement is intended to emphasize the drag that Al Gore's support of Bill Clinton has had on his presidential campaign.

            Gore should have won that race in a landslide.  Look at his fucking competition! It shouldn't have even been close.

            How? By magic? Gore started the race with double digit deficits in poll after poll.

            Gallup/CNN/USA Today Poll

            12/20-21/99 42 53
            12/9-12/99 42 55
            11/18-21/99 40 56
            11/4-7/99 40 55
            10/21-24/99 43 52
            10/8-10/99 40 56
            9/10-14/99 39 56
            9/10-14/99 40 56
            8/16-18/99 41 55
            7/16-18/99 38 55
            6/25-27/99 41 56
            6/4-5/99 40 56
            5/23-24/99 40 54
            4/30 - 5/2/99 40 56
            4/13-14/99 38 59
            3/12-14/99 41 56
            1/8-10/99 47 48
            5/8-10/98 46 50

            You want to know why? Clinton Fatigue Undermines Gore Poll Standing

            Here is how describe the 2000 election briefly:

            The 2000 election: short take

            Clinton had a BJ, lied, got impeached, made Gore pay the price with double-digit deficits, media screwed democracy over, Nader lied/mischaracterized and allowed himseld to be used as a GOP-pawn and forced Gore to write-off south in the final weeks.

            Still Gore won the popular vote, and won Florida, fought for 35 days to get all the votes counted, withdrew in disagreement when no recourse was left following the supreme court verdict and the DNC chairman called on him to concede, and nearly 80% of Americans wanted Gore to concede should the Supreme Court rule against him.

            Esseentially, starting as a double digit underdog, Gore fought back to score a popular vote victory. Had Clinotn not handed him an scandal/impeachment, Gore would have started with double digit leads and THEN he would have won by a landslide victory. Not the way the 2000 election was posited.

            Before you respond, please check all the links above, and read all the comments by stardate in this diary.

            Unite the nation, heal the planet: Al Gore for President, 2008!

            by NeuvoLiberal on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 10:39:56 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  It seems to me that you... (0+ / 0-)

              ...are hyping the talking points: Clinton Fatigue?

              Also, your poll numbers conveniently stop in December of 99, before the campaign has even begun. If you look at the poll numbers from August of 2000 forward, you will see that Gore was ahead following the Dem convention and stayed there, or close, for the remainder of the campaign.

              I think Gore has been an inspiration the last few years and would make an outstanding president. But we have to be realistic and not repeat past mistakes. If Gore runs again and campaigns the way he and his idiot advisors did in 2000, it will get ugly. If he cleans house and gets an aggressive, insightful team for the 21st century, and presents himself as he did in his movie, we could just have a President Gore.

              Leave It To Blather
              • Wally and the Beav were TV pundits. See the video!

              by KingOneEye on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 11:38:16 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  asdf (0+ / 0-)

                Clinton fatigue did start Gore off to double digit deficits (don't know of you've checked the link in my "short take" or npt). Eventhough Gore didn't have a campaign very early, Bush did. He started his in March 99, and the attack campaign started from then onwards (the internet meme surfaced around then).

                Eventhough campaigns generally don't get seriously underway until the primaries (Gore had a credible primary challenger), the pre-heat numbers handicap the candidates, showing how much they need to overcome.

                I actually think that Gore trailing by huge deficits in 1999 was one of the reasons why the media turned on him (it's easy to make fun of him when his chances don't look great; isn't it). Media bashing I think kept him down througout 1999 and that continued up until the convention.

                Gore turned his fortunes precisely with his strong convention speech. He entered it trailing 10-16 points and came out with a small lead.

                Pollster/Date/Bush/Gore

                CNN/USA TODAY/GALLUP   8/12   55   39   2   0   16
                NBC/WALL ST. JOURNAL * ^ 8/11 44 41 5 2 3
                NEWSWEEK * 8/11 48 38 3 3 10
                CNN/TIME 8/10 53 39 4 2 14
                ABC/WASHINGTON POST 8/10 50 42 5 2 8
                DEMOCRACY CORPS (D) ^ 8/10 48 39 6 3 9
                FOX/OPINION DYNAMICS 8/10 46 40 5 1 6
                U. OF CONNECTICUT * ^ 8/9 43 38 4 0 5
                CNN/USA TODAY/GALLUP * 8/7 45 43 4 1 2
                CBS * ^ 8/6 50 34 5 1 16
                REUTERS/ZOGBY ^ 8/6 49 32 6 1 17
                NEWSWEEK * ^ 8/4 49 38 5 1 11
                NBC * ^ 8/3 47 36 6 1 11

                Once the convention bounce settled he fell back a few points, but it was essentially a back and forth till election day with a slight edge to Bush.

                Do you know why I think the convention speech gave strong results? Because it was one of those rare opportunities for Gore to communicate directly with the public without media spinning things out of shape.

                His debates were strong on substance, but his minor stylistic errors (no one noticed the sighing in real time) were bent out of shape by the media in the post-debate spin by talking heads (probably prodded by Rove constantly). So, even there, he didn't get a fair and balanced access to communicate with the public.

                Take his movie, where he made a direct appeal to people, and the reaction has been amazing. Basically that's what it comes down to for Gore. If he doesn't get smeared by the brokers standing in between, he communicates very powerfully.

                As such we now know how biased MSM can be. Fortunately, DKos, netroots etc is at least a partial resistance force against their spins (as we showed in the midterms), which was absent in 2000.

                If he cleans house and gets an aggressive, insightful team for the 21st century, and presents himself as he did in his movie, we could just have a President Gore.

                ditto that.

                Unite the nation, heal the planet: Al Gore for President, 2008!

                by NeuvoLiberal on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 12:10:52 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

      •  clear case where levitas did not equal gravitas (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        SteveG, annrose

        Overall, I hear you loud and clear, NL. But I also think this diary and the previous post are an extraordinary moment for us to focus on the real and pragmatic value of disarming an opponent's assertion and attack with wit and humor. Sadly, we allowed the dark side to define our candidates, and they became caricatures of their true selves. But, NO MORE!

        "Where, oh where, do the levitas match the gravitas?"

        by sundancekid11 on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 09:14:08 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  A corpse on CSI. I love it. n/t (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SteveG, Cho, annrose

      Is the victim moral? -- Nietzsche.

      by oxon on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:14:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Fantastic Diary! (7+ / 0-)

    Sometimes, we just gotta laugh! ; )

    http://atdnext.blogspot.com I'm keeping California blue... How about you? www.precinctcaptains.org

    by atdnext on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:33:55 AM PST

  •  I heard one wag ... (6+ / 0-)

    ... say that, "Michigan is now proudly Dickless" following the gubernatorial race.

    We like our politics with a splash of yawk.

  •  ironically, (9+ / 0-)

    it seems that the antithesis of all things funny - none other than the Dick himself - restored humor to the national political stage. There's not anything quite like this vice president shooting someone in the face on a bird hunting trip, and there is nothing that can be done with the story that doesn't involve humor.

    Truthfully I don't know of a much more effective, time proven strategy for persuasing people. Compare my stern warnings about source credibility to using Colbert's report on wikipedia to dissuade students from using it as a go-to reference site; or using discussion prompts vs. Stewart's trend spotting piece on social networking to kick off debate on the development of relational communication online, it works exceptionally well as a teaching tool. We cover humor in courses (oddly enough, just up the road and over the hill from Ardentsville, so close to Steve) ranging from rhetoric, persuasion, gender and comm (rec'd reading: Mary Crawford). My sense is that, when it comes to politics and younger Americans, the use of humor to exposing inequities and hypocrisy is as potent a device as any available.

  •  So does this mean,,,, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, ilona, Cho, godislove

    we'll be seeing George on Ugly Betty?

    Perhaps Total Request Live?  

    Ugh.

    "But your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore"--Prine Pay attention Georgie - 2875+ dead Americans. Jesus Christ, make it stop already.

    by Miss Blue on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:55:19 AM PST

  •  Humor and politics... (6+ / 0-)

    Hasn't really changed much since Aristophanes...It works, we need it, and it's so much fun.

    I'm doing two independent study courses next term on comedy - one on political humor in Ancient Greece and the other on humor and parody in Hebrew Biblical and extra-biblical texts. I can't wait!

    •  Outstanding (4+ / 0-)

      I'm finishing up one of my favorite courses now that I call "Einstein in Wonderland: Physics, Philosophy, and Other Nonsense" where I pair Alice in Wonderland with modern physics.  Humor is not taken seriously enough...well, you know what I mean.  I'm so glad there are others treating academic subjects with the requisite levitas.

      The playground is open -- Philosophers' Playground: One part sandbox, one part soapbox

      by SteveG on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:10:50 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Pretty funny, ain't it? (3+ / 0-)

        Now, it's always easy to find all this while studying it millenia later, I suppose.

        I think our great political comedians are actually much kinder to the world than writers like Aristophanes. I do wish audiences were overall more like the Greek audiences were in terms of intellectual appreciation of the medium - but seriously, I have some major questions about audiences and audience reaction in antiquity. I'm just compiling my bibliographies now - so recommendations welcome!

  •  It certainly helped that the Republicans... (8+ / 0-)

    ...utterly, completely, totally did and said every stupid thing that was humanly possible.  Never before has a political party imploded so thoroughly without realizing it.  For comedians, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.  They screwed up absolutely everything and deserve every arrow that gets shot into their butts.

    It also helps that there are so many buffoons in the media (O'Reilly, Miller, take your pick) who are themselves ripe for ridicule.

    -

    "Judge me on the content of my character, not the underwear on my head."

    by Bill in Portland Maine on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 06:56:15 AM PST

  •  Fantastic article, Steve, (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, ilona, Cho, BarbinMD

    and a real pleasure to read. Thanks for crossposting.

    "I will make a bargain with the Republicans. If they will stop telling lies about Democrats, we will stop telling the truth about them." -- Adlai Stevenson

    by sbdenmon on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:03:23 AM PST

  •  'Slowly I turned, step by step...' (4+ / 0-)

    Fabulous piece.

    I hadn't heard about FAUX News trying to do a conservative Daily Show.  That should be about as fun as watching Bill O'Reilly fuck.  They'll probably have Dennis Miller rehashing his old Weekend Update schtick, with some jokes from Ann Coulter thrown in for good measure.  How lame...

    I don't know why we think, just because we're mighty, that we have the right to try to substitute might for right -- Wayne Morse (D-Ore), 1964

    by John H on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:34:59 AM PST

  •  Why is this man laughing? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, Cho, avahome

    Your vote doesn't count if your vote isn't counted.

    by nightsweat on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:37:03 AM PST

  •  What?!?! (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, Cho, jenifera, standingup, roxy317

    Forget "Soccer moms,"

    As a soccer mom, I resent that.  ;-)

    Great job, Steve.  

    Its just another day, and I'm still breathing...

    by Barbara Morrill on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 07:56:56 AM PST

  •  Brilliant! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, Cho, kfred, avahome

    I'm glad I went and read the whole thing. This is excellent!

    While I was reading, I couldn't help but think of Keith Olbermann's "Countdown", which is also not a traditional news show, and which also has a generous measure of humor, ranging from goofiness to snark to black comedy. It seems to be a kind of bridge between the "Is this really serious or not?" comedy of "The Daily Show" and the "Colbert Report" and what has come to look like self-parody on the network and cable news shows. Yet, Olbermann leaves us in no doubt: It is serious. Very serious, indeed. Which is a truth we've all known and have been waiting for some time to hear from someone, anyone, in a position of leadership.

  •  Irony (6+ / 0-)

    I'd like to point out that whatever else 9/11 changed, it didn't kill irony.

    Irony died when all those Republicans who were impeaching Clinton were revealed to be adulterers.

    Just thought I'd mention it...

    "...the big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart." -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

    by Roddy McCorley on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 08:14:54 AM PST

  •  I love the way you Yanks say "OUTSTANDING" (8+ / 0-)

    ..and this diary is.

    So I'll say it : Outstanding.

  •  Long Live Colbert! n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, Cho, roxy317, Dvalkure

    "I belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat. -LightningMan

    by LightningMan on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 08:43:32 AM PST

  •  Borat for President! (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, Cho

    Bush's playful nicknames and banter with the press showed them that he was in on the gag.

    Exactly. It was the press equivalent of Borat singing anti-Semitic ditties in a redneck bar. Bush got the press to go along with the joke.  What they didn't get was that Bush was laughing at them all along. And at us.  

    Left. Because it's right.

    by 4thepeople on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 09:26:54 AM PST

  •  Interesting that Richards destroyed himself (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    SteveG, Cho, avahome

    by treating the n word as a triviality..
    ending is rant by saying something like  "words words, the power of just words".  
    Earning celebrity status from playing a superfical twit can be hazardous to one's humanity.

  •  Excellent article. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cho, avahome

    Cry "Mandate!" and let slip the hounds of accountability.

    by sagra on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 10:26:20 AM PST

  •  Humorless (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cho

    The show was not about nothing; its appeal was its narcissism, its ability to take trivialities, and by embedding them in the intricacies of lived lives, pretend that they were tragedies.

    "Pretend they were tragedies?" Huh? What the hell show were you watching? Did any show take itself less seriously than Seinfeld?

    I'm sorry, but this article comes across as something written by a struggling student in one of your classes desperate to impress the professor as opposed to an actual academic.

    •  Max.....you protest too much!!! Chill-out! n/t (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cho
    •  suggestions? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Cho

      Maxentropy, I'm sorry you didn't like the piece.  I've just started writing for general audiences having been trained to write the worst sort of technical philosophy.  Any stylistic suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

      You are exactly right that Seinfeld was what it was because it took itself so nonseiously.  I suppose I should have put "tragedy" in quotation marks to be clearer.  Of course being caught peeing in the shower isn't a real tragedy, but the fun of Seinfeld was how they could take such a non-tragedy and blow it up and treat it as if it were.  

      The playground is open -- Philosophers' Playground: One part sandbox, one part soapbox

      by SteveG on Tue Nov 28, 2006 at 11:54:35 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Detailed criticisms (0+ / 0-)

        I agree that you can trace some relationship between popular culture and political climate, and in that respect I can follow and agree with the basic premise of your essay.

        I guess what rubbed me the wrong way was your extremely broad blanket generalizations, and the attempt to turn Seinfeld into a metaphor for what was wrong in the 90s. I personally always found it a funny show, and I still do - I'm also a big fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which has been one of the funniest shows on TV, and watches like Seinfeld on steroids. And yet, your essay tells me that shows like those celebrate self-absorption, exaggeration of triviality into importance, and a justification of sorts for what the Gingrich-led Congress tried to do in shutting down the government. When I read that, my jaw dropped - I was apparently complicit in the phony Republican Revolution, all because I liked Seinfeld.

        Well, at least that seems to be the spirit of your piece. It seemed clumsy to me to make that comparison, and when it is buttressed by statements like this:

        But Gore and Bush were different -- in image. The vicious attacks on Gore came from a general cynicism among the pundocracy. Gore didn't get the joke. Nothing was at stake and Bush's playful nicknames and banter with the press showed them that he was in on the gag. We had no worries putting a gentleman's C student in the White House because the government was too big of a ship to be moved. Its inertia would carry it smoothly regardless of who was at the helm so we might as well spend the next four years with the one we'd prefer to watch Seinfeld with.

        I sense more guilt-by-association and glossing over details than actual argument. Maybe it's just me, but I'm pretty sure that the reason Bush was elected (or selected or whatever) had nothing to do with the popularity or humor stylings of Seinfeld. But even if it did, your piece doesn't really do anything to make the case. Where is Friends in your analysis? Or Frasier? How do those shows help explain the zeitgeist that you're trying to portray here? They were certainly as popular as Seinfeld, yet he is clearly the focus of your scorn. I suspect you'd have a harder time trying to shoehorn an explanation for them into your thesis juxtaposing 90s fatuousness with 00s political edge and satire - especially when your thesis seems to be that it was Stephen Colbert et al. who turned the country against Bush and the right.

        I agree with the idea that satire and humor are precious commodities, but picking Seinfeld as your strawman to casually beat down in comparison to Jon Stewart is just facile and comes across more as cheerleading than cogent argument.

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