WALKING THE (PARTY) PLANK

walk-the-plankPrediction:

In the coming months, you will hear much about internecine squabbles over the 2016 Republican and Democratic Party platforms. With much media fanfare, these mission statements (This is what we absolutely stand for but not necessarily…) are created every four years by party nobility during their national conventions to name a presidential ticket.

This year’s noise has already begun, amplified by Bernie Sanders threatening a floor fight should he not be fairly represented on the Dems standing committees that codify the party’s plank and convention rules (who will speak and for how long?).  And like a drum roll at a public execution, this low hum will build toward a deafening crescendo at nominating galas where media hordes will gather in hopes of witnessing mayhem.

Major media’s biggest nightmare: they spend big bucks to mobilize for pandemonium at each convention, and oh, m’God, orderliness breaks out.

As if platforms mattered, by the way.

Pop quiz:

Name one plank in the 2012 Republican or Democratic Party platform. Not the entire platform, one plank. C’mon, smarty pants, one itsy bitsy crummy plank. Even one itsy bitsy crummy sliver of one itsy bitsy crummy plank.

Can you do it?

Uh-huh. As I thought, you have no clue. Nor did I until consulting Google.

That’s because party platforms are meaningless throwaways. That will be the case even if the Dems, for example, do officially endorse Bernie’s call for a $15 federal minimum wage and sweeping campaign finance reform. The reality: platforms are obscure political footnotes suitable for archives, scrapbooks and lining the bottoms of bird cages.  They’re swept from memory as soon as they are officially rubber stamped by their respective parties. After which, off they go to the attic, where they sit in the dust beside other abandoned platitudes, as deprived of sunlight as Miss Havisham’s chalky wedding table in “Great Expectations.” In other words, you have to part the cobwebs to find them.

So why all the fuss? Because, with few exceptions, fuss is the adrenalin of this millennium’s Internet-driven, social media-nourished journalism. And conflict is the fuel of fuss.

So beware: if Trumpet and the GOP are somehow reborn as Mister Rogers Neighborhood and the Dems’ Band of Bernies discovers serenity, expect media to fill the conflict void with party planks fought over by party hacks.

******

SPEAKING OF CONFLICT…I had a spirited chat with a very bright conservative Republican about the toxic campaign atmosphere. Yes, he was distressed by his party’s farcical 2016, but adamant: if required to choose between Hillary Clinton and the GOP’s last standing kazoo, put him down for the kazoo.

No, he doesn’t like Trumpet, but would take anyone over Hillary, whom he really, really despises, echoing a visceral response to her shared by many others that is rarely based on anything rational or specific.

Which I find boggling.

Dislike her policies, dislike her judgment, dislike her troubling lack of candor, dislike her body language, dislike her voice, dislike her responses to her husband’s diddling, dislike her.  And boy, oh boy, the woman cannot tell a joke. I get all of that.

But flat-out hatred? As if she were the Lucifer of 2016? This level of animosity transcends partisanship and policy disagreements. Its origins are organic, a revulsion rising from deep within that only a shrink could comprehend.

As for revulsion, I told my friend that even if Trumpet were a Democrat who shared my lefty ideals, I would not vote for him. Not because he is intellectually lazy, which he is. Not because he is unprepared, which he is. Not because he is deceitful, which he is. Not because he’s predictably unpredictable, which he is. Not because he is a jerk, which, c’mon, you know he is.

cubanmissilecrisisBut definitely—slam dunk—because he is demonstrably, perilously unstable. I can envision many scenarios in which his presence in the Oval Office would be not just risky, but lethal. Flash back, for example, to the nail-biting JFK/Khrushchev stare-down during the 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Imagine if Trumpet had been President.

Kablooie!
A chilling hypothetical, right? Which is why I’d vote for anyone, anyone over him.

Anyone? My GOP friend, knowing my political proclivity, threw out some names as a test:

Ted Cruz? Yes.

Carly Fiorina? Yes.

Richard Nixon? Yes.

George W. Bush? Yes.

Dick Cheney? Oh, boy…but yes.

No one likes a spoil sport. What about Trumpet the entertainer and showman, his pithy tweets and crowd-pleasing monologues that have even many in the media slapping their knees? Do we not all look forward to them? And are they not just a hoot?

On his good days, sure, which, when you think about it, carries its own risk.

In 1985, the great Neil Postman published a prescient book whose warning is relevant now to Americans and media swooning over the fun value of a certain presidential candidate. Its title:

“Amusing Ourselves to Death.”

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Published by

Howard Rosenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning former television critic for The Los Angeles.

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