Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Super fun Tuesday


We’re deep in this circus again, although maybe not for much longer after today. I’ll tune in tonight for the results, but not because I care who wins. Even though these elections decide the fate of my body, my country, and – in many ways – the global community, I can’t take them seriously. November may change the world, but everything up until then is just for the laughs.

On a chilly day in January 2004, the New York Times reported on the New Hampshire Democratic primary from Manchester. Describing the scene of a street corner filled with sign wielding supporters, reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal wrote, “As the numbers in the Kerry crowd swelled, panic set in on the Dean corner. T. J. Knobloch, a teenager with spiked multicolor hair from Arlington, Mass., quickly got on her cellphone to headquarters.”

I was 14, nobody ever called me T.J. in real life, my hair was green and pink, and the Howard Dean campaign for presidency was the most important thing in my life.

It was my first experience on the campaign trail, but the combination of adrenaline, coffee, pundit banter and youthful enthusiasm had already melded into a fierce addiction for the political process.

We knocked on doors, consumed polling numbers, and argued with opponents. During lunch time, I glimpsed Rudy Giuliani climbing onto a tour bus, looking as plastic as a Ken doll.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ ploy for publicity was running a giant anthropomorphic carrot for president, and at one point I caught him cruising in a red convertible next to his vice presidential candidate, a smiling ear of corn. Vermin Supreme, who apparently runs every four years, greeted me on the main drag of downtown Manchester, equipped with boot on his head and promises of ponies for all Americans.

Dean lost to Kerry in New Hampshire, and what little hope I had left over after the infamous scream died. It crushed my little 14-year-old political heart. But my experience in Manchester left me with one other indelible impression: American politics are wack.

This would be confirmed over and over again by my ongoing participation in our grand ol’ system. At the 2004 Democratic Convention, I got stuck on a subway with a bunch of LaRouche supporters singing in perfect harmony before I watched – from a press box I snuck into – up-and-comer Barack Obama recite what would become his stump speech.

In 2006, I participated in the recently cut Congressional Page Program and watched Rahm Emanuel follow Nancy Pelosi around like a puppy while Republicans tried to strip funding from PBS with a giant poster of Big Bird in a top hat and monocle. The year 2008 brought Sarah Palin winking during the debate, Tina Fey winking at America, Joe Biden being his loose cannon self, the press calling Mike Huckabee McCain’s “special friend” after Iowa, a never-ending Democratic primary and enough absurdity to actually result in history.

Now we have two percent of Americans thinking Mitt Romney’s first name is Mittens, Herman Cain’s stance on Libya, Rick Perry’s gaffe-a-thon, whatever Michelle Bachman was doing with her face, and everything – from the bottom up – to do with Rick Santorum. From the definition of his name to the mosaic of his face made from stills of gay pornography, Santorum is the best part of this election cycle. For entertainment purposes, I hope he goes all the way.

Many folks more hyped up on justice than I lament the current political process. The two-party system leaves us trapped between Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum. The Electoral College mucks about with the concept of majority rule. The media foams at the mouth in its own race for ratings as reporters become pundits and pundits become football fans, screaming and red-faced, ready to lay dignity and career on the line for the sake of their team.

Candidates hurl themselves at one another, desperate to one-up their opponent until everyone is flailing atop a mountain of rhetoric and buzz words. As Hunter S. Thompson said all the way back in 1972 in “Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72”:

“It’s come to the point where you almost can’t run unless you can cause people to salivate and whip each other with big sticks. You almost have to be a rock star to get the kind of fever you need to survive in American politics.”

Sure, a massive makeover of our electoral process might bring respect and honor to our government. If the media, the public and the candidates all got together, committed to courtesy and honesty and promised not to call anyone a socialist until they call themselves a socialist, maybe we would all have the chance to sit back and think about the lives at stake, both foreign and domestic.

But let’s be real. The way things are going, we’re strapped to a rocket hurdling towards Crazytown, USA, where elections are gladiatorial matches, pundits are jesters and the American public runs about screaming, naked in the streets until not even the most patient, citizen-minded politico will listen to them.

I am riding that rocket, whipping my cowboy hat in the air, singing praises to Vermin Supreme. A serious, logical, reasonable election would lead us to face our worst fears – that America ain’t doing so hot. It doesn’t matter if Jesus gets elected now, we’re still bogged down in debt and war and discrimination.

I’m not saying elections don’t matter. My reproductive and sexual rights are put at a lot more risk if Santorum wins, even with Congress blocking each other like multi-player Tetris. And rage does coil in the pit of my stomach over various outrageous proposals.

But after years of feeling impotent and developing welts on my forehead from where it meets the desk with force, I’ve come to the conclusion that laughter is the solution. As a culture, we’re just like 14-year-old green haired me: addicted to the cycle. Change may never come, but hilarity always will. It’s taking a grim situation and making it palatable. That’s not cynicism, it’s politics.

Victoria Knobloch is the Op/Ed editor. She can be reached at [email protected].

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