Barack is Sanjaya, Hillary is Omarosa, McCain is...

Nina May

3/12/2008 12:01:00 AM - Nina May

This title will mean nothing to those who don’t understand the world of reality TV. But, how could anyone in this election cycle not be totally familiar with the voyeur genre that has caused us to reduce every issue and every person to their basest level. Following the 2008 presidential race is a combination of watching a blow by blow of the NFL playoffs, and the final weeks of American Idol when the viewers vote on the winner.

Last season an attractive young man, Sanjaya Malakar, with little experience singing in public, somehow made it to the finals and as cute as it was when he was selected, his talent just was not cutting it, and as a result, the more gifted singers were being eliminated.

It was revealed that a rebellious segment of society, rejecting the concept of American Idol, decided to stuff the ballot box and give Sanjaya a helping hand. At first it was charming and cute, then it became annoying until a full-scale counter rebellion was mounted.

With both Obama and Clinton being Sanjayaed, switching rolls with each pulse of primary voting, it is like following the hopes of fans playing fantasy football. There are times when you place a wager on the team you hate most in the hopes that they beat the rival of your favorite team. When he is down, the crossover Sanjaya electorate decides that they should throw their votes to him to keep Hillary from gaining the lead. When he is leading as in the Texas and Ohio primaries, the opposite occurred. Even Rush Limbaugh played a part in Sanjaying the race for the specific purpose of keeping Hillary in to keep it interesting, entertaining and topical. That is pretty much what Howard Stern’s motive was when he called for his listeners to vote for Sanjaya on American Idol.

The irony in the entire manipulative maneuver is that Hillary always stands the chance of winning a primary, which causes almost every heart in America to stop beating. They immediately shift reality shows to the first “Apprentice” with the insufferable, self-absorbed, egotistical, inexperienced and over-confident Omarosa who reminds the electorate of Hillary . . . or vice versa. She was the rubbernecking fiasco that caused network TV to slow down and take a closer look. Even Donald Trump had her reappear in the final version only to verify, that yes, we were all correct in our first impression of her.

So as Hillary gives us jaw-dropping performances that go well beyond the boundary of shrill and catty, we have Barak who actually begins his speeches on a losing night with the word “change.” In the first five minutes of his speech he worked the word in at least 5352 times until it almost became a therapeutic mantra. “If I say this enough, even I will believe it, or come up with something else because I am so sick of this same speech, I could really use a change.”

It is only fair that John McCain, now the Republican candidate, be compared to some figure in reality TV since that is the theme here. It is tough since he floats between the “diplomatic” Simon Cowel and the very gracious Donald Trump who issues the edict of unemployment with the same charisma and ceremony that John McCain would.

So the United States of America, rumored to be the greatest nation in the world, and recently even making Michele Obama proud for the first time in her life, is reduced to having reality TV characters running for president. They all at least have one thing in common: They all serve in the senate, passing really bad laws that make people who really live in real America have to really deal with real reality. The rest of the country doesn’t have the luxury of fantasizing about being president after just being married to one. Or thinking because they served a couple of years in the US Senate they should actually be seriously considered as a serious, real reality candidate for the job. John McCain is a little different in that he got the senate seat himself without a presidential wife. He has served for more than 20 years, and no one . . . not even Gloria Steinhem can say a word about his service to this country. I really hope everyone is in agreement that serving as a prisoner of war, enduring torture and abuse totally redefines “reality”. But, there have been thousands of incredible men and women who have honorably served this nation, and we would all still ask them what they believe in, how they would lead, and why we should vote for them.

So here we are, sitting by our phones, ready to dial in our favorite candidate based on that last debate, that last speech, that faux pas that one liner, great quip, good comeback, or amazing nose blow. But the fingers are not dialing, other than to play games with the primaries and create a Sanjaya who will be the Omarosa and give Donald a run for his money. Other than that . . . what do we have and what does that say about us as a nation? We have asked presidents, on camera, what type of underwear they wear, while hearing under oath the color of tawdry dresses they helped stain. We see presidential candidates pandering in comedic lairs, groveling for laughs to prove they are hip and cool. We see them whack a sax, pluck a guitar and dance with Ellen to demonstrate their relevance to what . . . a shallow, self-absorbed electorate that is not trusted with a serious discussion of issues of consequence?

Well if they are one of us, then pick one of us to be president. There is no difference between them and the rest o the electorate, which says the distinction of mediocrity, is just not enough to lead this nation. Where are the people who will rise to the occasion, show maturity, humility, integrity and a foundation of standards? Are we reduced to choosing the best reality show candidate running for president and immediately begin vetting the contestants for the next show to air in 2012?

What makes this very interesting though is that because the qualifications to run for president have been so reduced to allow 95% of the population to be considered worthy candidates, John McCain is perfectly situated to bring his base back home by picking the most unlikely of VP candidates. He should look beyond the political backbench and pull in someone who has actually run a successful company and sees life from the other side of the glass. Because it has always been assumed, until now, that only infants raised by a political wet nurse, never actually having a “real” job in the only reality show that counts . . . life . . . are qualified to be president. We have never even entertained the idea that just a regular businessman could be considered as a serious candidate although the job they are seeking is the top CEO of the world. Since John McCain is considered stronger on national defense than the other two candidates, he could balance that appeal with a running mate who understands the workings of the economy, and how to run a country like a successful business where stockholders expect a profit, reject deficit spending, and like to invest in products with integrity that they can support with pride.

If Hillary wins, her running mate will be irrelevant, bland, lifeless and impotent. If Obama wins he would be wise to balance his ticket to gain a broader appeal and give the “good old boys” in his party a reason to go to the polls on Election Day.

The only way for any of these candidates to be taken seriously and win this election is for them to rise above the competition for mindless mediocrity and demonstrate that they are a real leader, operating in real time, not in the entertainment variety of reality TV.