I was riding in the car last night with S. when she turned on the radio. My heart sank - it was NPR, her favorite radio station, and the announcers were in the middle of their evening news report. Don't get me wrong - I think National Public Radio does a commendable service of bringing parts of our culture to light that might not otherwise get a voice.
What kills me is the Dramamine-sounding voices, in a timbre and cadence that begins at cloying and escalates to mind numbing, as if the news readers are telling after lunch stories to a bunch of preschoolers who they are trying to lull to sleep.
Last night, the announcer and his cohost recapped the presidential campaigns in an effort to analyze what went wrong for John McCain and what went right for Barack Obama - a subject that gets my blood pressure up when on-air personalities use poor analysis to build specious arguments or make unfounded assertions.
The announcer ascribed McCain's loss to several factors - not defining who he was to the public properly, not hammering the alleged precondition faux pas Obama made at a debate during the primaries, and not appealing to enough "UFP"'s, a designation I never did fully understand, although I took it to mean "undecided for president".
I looked at S., my eyes glaring at the radio speaker in the dash. "This is just bad information. I can't STAND when somebody who should know better uses bad information to reach a conclusion."
I get home, and what do I see - channel after channel full of people saying, "if only the McCain campaign had done this", or "if the election had been held in September, McCain would have won - he was ahead then."
Then I pop on the internet, there is more of the same old story, the same old "woulda coulda shoulda."
Are these people for real? Does someone actually pay them to spin this nonsense out of whole cloth - because there are very few empirical facts to back up what they are saying.
A guy walking down the street can have the internet in the palm of his hand. There are nine hundred and seventy eight channels on my TV, including one that seems dedicated to showing "Dog The Bounty Hunter" reruns in perpetuity. And I'm sure that between Google, Alexa, Yahoo, and MSN, ten thousand new pages of information have been indexed in the time it took to write this sentence.
In a world where the traditional has been turned inside out and upside down, in a world where marketing campaigns have to calibrate their efforts to adjust for the amount of savvy the average man on the street has about being sold to, it is more than amazing that we continue to rely on a structure like this for information, a structure that seems to willfully ignore what is going on around it.
The Obama campaign took a full court approach to a game that is normally played as if it is a half court one. Instead of bulking up with wide bodied players who could throw elbows in the paint all day long, they went with a squad that could run the fast break for forty eight minutes.
Instead of a twelve man squad, they had the Verizon network on their bench, giving them an inexhaustible supply of reserves.
Salary cap? Didn't apply to them. They could pick up anybody they wanted.
They had the Pat Riley of politics, disguised in his "Colombo" costume, who was going for the black candidate "three peat" - Chicago's City Hall, Illinois Senate seat, and now the presidency of the United States.
If they had called these campaigns on ESPN, the announcers would have stopped caring about the Clinton campaign in May, and stopped laughing about the McCain campaign in January.
There was no horse race this fall, not even close. The debates are practically irrelevant, the ads superfluous, and the nightly pandering to whatever locale a candidate is in by drinking a beer, eating cheesesteaks, or wearing a cowboy hat at a rodeo has gotten to be as ridiculous as the footage on America's Home Videos.
I can't take this pablum anymore!
We have trillion dollar problems that will take several, as in more than one, trillions to solve. We've got an economy that has one foot stuck in the fifties and one foot stuck in the door of the new millennium. We've got a population that needs to see beyond the end of their own experiences, but is mighty, mighty comfortable with the labels we allow ourselves to be stuck with.
I challenge my fellow political scribes to think big. If you want to compare Barack Obama to someone, chose someone like Steve Jobs of Apple.
Because the difference between Apple and Microsoft is what the challenge of an Obama presidency is going to look like if you believe he will really attempt to change the way we see government in America.