Presidential elections are a funny business. Every four years, the two parties trot out their candidates, armed with a simple story, which they tell over and over, in various forms, in the hope that the middle class will deliver them to the White House. One of the parties gets their wish; the other capitulates, eventually. The losing party promises to work with the next administration to solve the nation’s problems and then spends four years trying to sabotage everything.
This is how politics works. After five presidential elections as a voter, I thought I had it figured out. But a funny thing happened on the way to the polls this year. One of the two major parties stopped making any sort of sense… at all. Here’s a hint which one. It’s the party that decided to challenge a sitting president with a spoon and a banana.
Mitt Romney has a big spoon, made of silver, that lives in his mouth, at least when his foot isn’t there. And he loves to remind us of this fact every chance he gets. Whether stroking the job creators or slagging the 47%, whether calling corporations “people” or using them to put other people on the unemployment line, he’s really just telling us that his spoon is too big. He doesn’t eat from the same bowl as the rest of us. He doesn’t get it.
Middle class credentials aren’t a prerequisite for equitable governance. Some of our best presidents — JFK, FDR and a few other less acronymous types — also had really big silver spoons. But each of them had a morale compass. This man is a weather vane with no earthly idea which way the wind blows in middle class America. Nor does he care enough to find out. As Romney-logic goes, what’s good for the rich is good for everyone else. And his policies, were he to propose any, would surely reflect this. Unfortunately for him (and maybe us), trickle-down economics doesn’t work.
Paul Ryan is a banana, or at least he and the rest of his party claim he is. Crowned as a policy wonk by those who brand politicians, this big thinker with the big ideas goes around proposing policy based on everyone’s favorite high school intellectual: Ayn Rand. Never mind the last 80 or so years of economic thought. Never mind his own history of living off of inheritance and government handouts. Never mind that his proposals on everything from the budget to social security rely on some sort of super secret math that only lines up if you squint at it through a kaleidoscope.
Mr. BA in Economics has all the answers, and everyone keeps telling us so, over and over. But when pressed for details, he gets a little slippery. He hems and haws and pivots, like any well trained politician. Because his actual answers don’t matter; they don’t even exist. The desired takeaways for voters are that he’s smart and has it all figured out. We should just trust him. And so the Republican mantra goes out to the world:
“I am a banana.”
“He is a banana.”
“The banana said this.”
“Did you see the abs on that banana?”
Say something enough times and it becomes true, even if it’s not. Repetition works. Why do you think the Republican party is so lockstep with all of its messaging?
So there we have it, the curious case of spoon and banana. I don’t know how this election will play out next week. Maybe we’ll get four more years of decent Democratic leadership that keeps us going in the right direction. Or maybe spoon and banana will drive the country over a cliff. Who knows? That’s why we vote.
Anybody for a rousing verse of “America, Fuck Yeah”? No… okay.