Political Survivor: USA. This show plays almost continuously, with an ever-changing cast, on many shows and many networks.
I discovered the first season of Survivor (summer 2000) in its fourth episode, when they caught and ate rats, and I was hooked instantly by the elemental nature of it. A TV blog at the time played off the naked jungle vibe by treating the voted-off-the-island ceremonies as executions followed by cannibalism. An apt metaphor that tickled my basest instincts!
I’ve come to view our presidential campaigns as a game of Survivor, with the audience voting, then executing and consuming (sigh, only figuratively). This quadrennial series plays out its chapters in commercials, on national newscasts, and of course on every cable opinion-veiled-as-news show. Presidential campaigns are an industry now. And since we are the “free” consumers in this business model, the current paradigm correctly identifies us as the true product. Our votes, at least.
So how exactly is a presidential election like a season of Survivor? Right now, spring 2015, would be the first few minutes of a typical first episode. The players are gathered on the deck of a ship, trying to decide if they really want to jump into the water and swim to the island. And thus begin the adventure.
In Political Survivor right now, it’s a collector’s game: securing commitments from crinkly old capitalists such as casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, for the millions upon millions that a campaign will require. Even a losing campaign! And so right now on the deck of the Survivor ship, the candidates are bumping one another, sizing each other up.
Some are busy making shadow alliances—refusing to directly criticize the front runners so as to be a reasonable pick for the Vice President slot when the time comes. Others are busy making enemies—I’m looking at you, Ted Cruz—by immediately trying to sell themselves as a leaders. As any viewer of Survivor knows, players who position themselves this way are voted off the island quickly.
Cruz did further damage to himself, or his campaign did, by not paying attention. Go to www.tedcruz.com to see what I mean; the people running that domain aren’t his friends. Next, Cruz may discover that he can’t call his speeches Ted Talks, either.
Interestingly, www.jebbush.com isn’t even accessible and www.jebbush2016.com is actually for sale by owner. These early flubs—and the 21st-century cluelessness that they represent—are encouraging for anyone who wants to laugh about presidential politics. Crying may being the only alternative, when you look over the field of candidates, so let’s laugh!
Even though Cruz is the only player actually in the water, others haven’t been shy about acting like they’re wet too:
Poll front-runner Scott Walker executed a perfect foot-in-mouth act by comparing Wisconsin protesters to ISIS. This is politics noir: in trying to look Presidential, Walker instead revealed himself to be unprepared for a national stage. Winning three significant elections in a single state doesn’t necessarily scale upward in the way that numerous pundits claim.
But wait! Not to be outdone, Cruz immediately sided with Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law. Ain’t nobody gonna tack to Ted’s political right and stay there. Many followed suit, but he was first. As a jaded watcher of Survivor, IMO that only puts a bigger target on his back.
Despite his internet domain missteps, Jeb Bush leads all others in the single most important category: the fundraising. He’s following in the footsteps of his brother W, who sewed up the 2000 Republican nomination very early by capturing most of the money.
But isn’t Jeb just another Mitt Romney—well-funded but actually too moderate despite his claims to the contrary? Republican moderates keep losing. That’s what gets more and more extreme conservatives elected to state office. Cruz is right in asserting that it’s time for his party to either run a serious conservative or stop teasing them. I agree, but that’s because I think they need to learn how much worse they would do with a conservative like Cruz topping the ticket.
Read this sometimes believable explanation of why there will never be another Republican president … unless they embrace the country’s new demographics. On the other hand, each decade seems to have a moment where one of the two parties appears to be extinct. And then they aren’t.
More on the Republican race next time. There had better be, because there’s so very little on the other side. The boat “full” of Democrats jockeying for 2016 is Hillary and, um, who else exactly? There actually are a few challengers—Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, and Martin O’Malley—but none of them stand much chance of beating the Clinton machine. And Elizabeth Warren is way too smart to turn an invaluable ally into a rival.
The sheer lack of competition scares the hell out of some Democrats as “email-gate” drags on. I’ve read that Joe Biden is the official fallback. Yikes. Now I’m scared. But really, too many others have done too much that is similar. Best assign this case to Darrell Issa, to keep him off the streets for another year.
And speaking of Issa: with Benghazi judged a losing line of attack by the Republicans themselves, that leaves just email-gate and the “Clinton Dynasty” charge another pathetic weapon Republicans are trying to wield. Last time I checked, “dynasty” included only blood relatives. Quick fix: she just changes her name back to Rodham! But she won’t, and probably shouldn’t. The country did pretty well under the previous Clinton. Especially (as they keep forgetting) the rich.
I have no idea how frequent these posts will be, as I’ve never done a blog before. But I can guarantee you that one new episode of Political Survivor will play out, somewhere on TV, every single day. At least one!
Political Survivor #1