Letter from the Editor 

In the fall of 2004, I watched John Kerry on one of the Sunday-morning pundit-fests as he was asked a question about the "Swift-boat Veterans," who were then launching scurrilous attacks on his war record. It was a setup, a lob, a chance for Kerry to take a good, angry whack at his lying critics.

I remember watching in amazement as he hemmed and hawed, searching for the precise response that would display both his capacity for understanding his opponents' point of view and the proper degree of "outrage." I also remember thinking, "We've lost."

In American politics, nuance is for losers. The Republicans figured this out decades ago, when the politics of simplicity was fully realized by Ronald Reagan. They relearned it in 1992, when George H.W. Bush, a nuanced man if ever there was one, lost to Bill "It's the economy, stupid" Clinton.

In this American Idol democracy we've created, image is all. You create a brand, an avatar, and stick with it. You're a "maverick" or a "hockey mom." You create a disparaging brand for your opponent and keep repeating it. He's a "community organizer," an "elitist." Keep your adversary on the defensive, offering long explanations to simple accusations.

On his show this week, Keith Olbermann asked Barack Obama, "Is Sarah Palin qualified to be president?"

"Hell, no," I said, from my couch. "If she was, she'd be on television right now, instead of hiding in Alaska for two weeks learning foreign and domestic policy talking points." But Obama smiled. He was courteous and gentlemanly, reluctant to disparage the woman who had trashed him in a nationally televised speech five days earlier.

I wanted him to say, "This is a woman who would make your daughter carry a baby to term if she was raped by her brother. This is a woman who tried to ban books at her city's public library. This is a woman who continues to blatantly lie about how she said 'no thanks' to the 'bridge to nowhere.' In fact, Keith, I'd say when it comes to our country's future, Sarah Palin is the bridge to nowhere."

But nope. Obama stayed on the high road.

I hope to God I'm wrong — and I wish I had more faith in the American electorate — but in this country today, the high road often leads straight to Loserville.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Common Sense Pot Policy

      Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...

Blogs

News Blog

MATA Security Guard Placed on Diversion in Passenger Death

News Blog

Top Guns: Shelby Tops Tennessee in Handgun Permits

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Movies and Video Games Meet at the Cossitt Library

News Blog

President Jimmy Carter Discusses His Work with Habitat

Politics Beat Blog

Haslam, in Memphis, Suggests Calling Special Session

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Politics and the Movies 3: Olympia

Intermission Impossible

"Small and Essential," New Quark Theatre Company Offers Alternatives

Intermission Impossible

Disgraced Sets A Course for Conflict

News Blog

Pets of the Week

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Bruce VanWyngarden

  • Common Sense Pot Policy

    Unlike Bill Clinton, I've inhaled. So have 49 percent of all Americans, according to a recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Marijuana (medical or otherwise) has been decriminalized or legalized in 23 states, and measures are on the ballot to legalize it in five more states this November, including Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and California (where medical pot is already legal). A recent Gallup poll found that 53 percent of Americans think pot should be legalized and regulated like alcohol ...
    • Aug 25, 2016
  • Tales of New Orleans

    I'd reached the point in the evening when a gnat in my drink seemed more like a feature than a bug. I'd reached the point where that line seemed like comic genius, so I tweeted it. I'd reached the point where having a small dog walking up and down the bartop seemed perfectly normal. I'd reached peak New Orleans ...
    • Aug 18, 2016
  • Schadenfreude at the Polls

    • Aug 11, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • In Spring ...

    (such a sky and such a sun

    i never knew and neither did you

    and everybody never breathed

    quite so many kinds of yes) — e. e. cummings

    • Apr 30, 2015
  • Making Tennessee Great Again!

    I'm writing this from the restroom facility at Big Hill Pond State Park in southern McNairy County. On Monday, I commandeered the building, which contains the men's and women's restrooms, some racks of pamphlets, and two vending machines. There's no one here right now, but I plan to stay as long as necessary to protest the fact that the state of Tennessee is run by oppressive know-nothings who wouldn't know small government — or freedom, for that matter — if it bit them on their considerable backsides ...

    • Jan 7, 2016
  • A Letter to the Memphis City Council

    The council gets an “F” for its performance on the Greensward decision.
    • Mar 10, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2016

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation