Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What I'm Watching: MSNBC Decision 08

Ahhhhhh...Election News. Nothing like a big cup of Talking Head to tell me what's going on in the world of electoral politics.

Of course, these guys have the same amount of time to fill whether there are big developments or small developments, and that's why a little gaffe gets just as much coverage as a global economic meltdown.

I confess to getting way more interested in politics once every four years. Something about the horse race aspect of a presidential election appeals to me. The fluctuating polls, the slips of tongue, that big colorful electoral map identifying the delightfully named "battleground states," the massive amounts of money on display, the head-to-head debates, and the promises-- Oh, the promises! Promises of universal health care, of alternative energy, of a cessation to war. Every four years, a little bit of me believes that there's a candidate on the table that will deliver on their promise of a brighter tomorrow.

It's like Christmas, but with two Santa Clauses instead of one.

MSNBC is new to me this election cycle, but it has all the bells and whistles I need to shamelessly indulge in the theater of politics.

Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow ruthlessly jump on every failing by McCain and Palin. They're a little smarmy, sure, but I find them to be infinitely more digestible than blowhard Bill O'Reilly over at Fox. McCain doesn't know how to use a computer? Palin has strong ties to a secessionist group in Alaska? I love it.

Then, when I've had my fun, Chris Matthews comes in with his Hardball segment. Before this election season, I knew Chris Matthews only from parodies of him on SNL, which are spot on. Still, Chris is not only objective and fun to watch, he does his best to knock his partisan guests off of their talking points, sometimes to great effect. The best thing about him is that when a guest feeds him a party line, he makes no effort to conceal his disgust, which rarely fails to make the guest look a little aChris Matthews at presidential debate in Dearb...shamed.

Next up? Analyst Chuck Todd with his magic electoral map. Remember that movie "Minority Report," where Tom Cruise shuffles through computer files by interacting with 3D holographic images? Todd's display is like that, and I find myself mesmerized as his magic fingers zoom us into the latest electoral hotspot.

There are also some straight-up news segments and interviews to round things out, but they're a little more generic.
Chuck Todd, writer for National Journal and ed...
The funny thing is, as much as I immerse myself in the minutiae of the campaigns, at the end of the day, I'm not any smarter. Even on the most superficial level-- the issues being debated-- I receive almost no substantive education from these sources. Exciting? Yes. Thoughtful? No, not really.

And on a deeper level, I know that the only candidate radical enough to speak all truth, all the time, isn't on the stage at all. Ralph Nader's the person I'm thinking of, but you could say the same for any number of fringe candidates who don't have a prayer of winning.

The smartest people in the world are discussing things in terms that make the differences between Democrats and Republicans seem small. Radically overhauling society by implementing programs that actually make holistic sense from a philosophical perspective-- well, it sounds like a pipe dream, doesn't it?

It's a strange world we live in when those who devote their lives to learning wind up with beliefs that are so far-fetched and impractical.

The best politicians are those who straddle these two worlds. They can operate within the silly rules of the game of politics, but they are also smart enough to keep their eyes on the prize-- moving society towards a more enlightened future in the best possible way.

So anyway, watch MSNBC's election coverage. It won't make you smart, but it's very entertaining theater!
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