14 May 2007

Presidential Candidates and Popular Culture

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Dean Barnett, in the Weekly Standard, notes that John Kerry did himself a lot of political harm with Packer fans when he spoke of “Lambert Field.”

Barnett clearly thinks that Howard Dean should have identified Stairway to Heaven as his favorite song, instead of Jaspora, an esoteric piece of Haitian reggae by Jean Wyclif.

Imagine what a candidate could get done if he achieved fluency in pop culture. Picture a candidate who could effortlessly segue from paying homage to Dale Earnhardt’s #3 to saying how much High Noon has always meant to him. Conjure up a contender who could unashamedly admit that if owning every George Strait record makes him a square, so be it, and then quickly pivot to the many times tears welled in his eyes when sports heroes like Curt Schilling or Willis Reed rose above pain to perform in an almost super-human fashion.

That guy wouldn’t just have a lot of admirers who wanted to have a beer with him. He’d also eventually be known as Mr. President.

But Professor Bainbridge rejects the proposed Barnett test.

That’s not pop culture. That’s rural Southern culture. Nascar. The opiate of the good ol’ boy masses. Gary Cooper. A great movie, but hardly au courant. George Strait, gawd help us.

Between Clinton and Bush 43 we’ve been ruled by Southerners for the last 4 presidential terms and Barnett wants to foist yet another good ol’ boy on us. Not that there’s anything wrong with Southerners, per se, of course. But maybe it’s time to let a Yankee city boy have a chance?

Personally, if I wanted to choose a President based on his or her fluency with pop culture (which is about the dumbest criteria I’ve ever seen anyway), I’d look for somebody who:

Can effortlessly segue from paying homage to Merlot Clone #3 to saying how much The Matrix has always meant to him. Conjure up a contender who could unashamedly admit that if owning every Bruce Springsteen record makes him a left-leaning pinko, so be it, and then quickly pivot to the many times tears welled in his eyes during the second quarter of Super Bowl XLI.

And proposes the following instead:

Knows which wine to match with the foie gras-stuffed quail being served at a state dinner

Won’t wink at the Queen

Doesn’t hunt, fish, or go with girls who do

Smokes cigars

Is sometimes accused of having a metrosexual streak

Only drinks beer with foods that would score at least 10,000 on the Scoville scale

Can credibly debate the relative claims of The Matrix, Star Wars, Bladerunner, and Star Trek II to be the greatest science fiction movie of all time

Can credibly debate the relative claims of The Who and Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band to be the world’s greatest rock and roll band

Came from a state that didn’t secede

Can recite at least one Monty Python skit from memory

Can credibly debate the relative claims of Blazing Saddles, The Producers, and Young Frankenstein to be Mel Brook’s best movie, while explaining why Spaceballs is a candidate for the worst movie ever

Has never sat through an entire Woody Allen movie, an entire Nascar race, or an entire Dixie Chicks concert

Wouldn’t camp out 5 days to get Garth Brooks tickets even if s/he was camping at the time

Went to Germany on vacation because s/he couldn’t find a highway with high enough speed limits in the US

Prefers football to basketball to baseball to soccer

Doesn’t play golf

Doesn’t bowl

Has no kids to foist subsequent generations of politicians on us

Has a spouse with no political ambitions

Lives with at least one golden retriever

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