For this election preview, I wanted to find something in popular culture that epitomized the current American political climate. Something where style mattered more than substance, something where every facial expression, gesture and action was analyzed, dissected and criticized, something where people compete for a prize that brings along baggage that no sane person would want.
The answer was obvious: The Hunger Games.
For those that don’t know, The Hunger Games was a book released in 2008 that sold millions of copies, leading to a blockbuster movie and a bunch of young girls enrolling in archery classes. The premise is simple. In the future, North America has collapsed and split into 12 districts. District 1, or “The Capital," holds power over everyone else. Once a year, the Capital forces the 11 other districts to send tributes to fight to the death for their entertainment. Of course, people rebel, things get blown up, and creatures like JabberJays are prominently involved.
I can’t think of a better way to preview the upcoming election than through a book where teenagers brutally murder each other, but no one gets to second base.
1) “It takes 10 times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.”
Dedicated to Barack Obama, who seems like a competent enough guy, but who was unfortunate enough to inherit an undeniable mess.
From day one, he should have started every press conference with, “I inherited two wars, a financial crisis, and a culture that turned a budget surplus of $236 billion to a deficit of $459 billion. I may not be perfect, but I promise not to burn the house down and I won’t crap in your hamper.”
I’m not saying Obama is perfect — he’s not. His handling of the financial crisis made the Monopoly Man blush. But are we really contemplating electing a guy with nearly identical policies of the guy that got us into this mess?
We’ve all dated girls like this: super hot, completely unstable, but still redeemable. Their last boyfriend wore a leather jacket, dealt drugs, and gained 80 pounds over the course of the relationship. All you have to do is not deal drugs and you are already 33% better than him So here’s Obama, wearing a dorky cardigan, with a stable job, and no drug sales to his name. Yet, everyone knows that the girl may go back to the guy with the leather jacket at any minute.
The moral of the story: Never wear a cardigan.
2) “So that's who Finnick loves, I think. Not his string of fancy lovers in the Capitol. But a poor, mad girl back home. ”
Dedicated to the Republican Party, who faced the easiest incumbent since Carter, and managed to come off 76%crazier than the last election. Here is a quick list of things prominent Republicans have said this election cycle:
“If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
''I will tell you that I had a mother last night come up to me here in Tampa, Florida, after the debate. She told me that her little daughter took that (HPV) vaccine, that injection, and she suffered from mental retardation thereafter.''
“By the end of my second term, we will have the first permanent base on the moon and it will be American.”
“There are 47%who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
“One of the things I will talk about, that no president has talked about before, is I think the dangers of contraception in this country ... Many of the Christian faith have said, well, that's okay, contraception is okay. It's not okay.”
3) “All right, I’ll make a deal with you. You don’t interfere with my drinking, and I’ll stay sober enough to help you.”
Dedicated to Joe Biden, who was written off by both parties until his complete destruction of Paul Ryan in the vice presidential “debate” swung the race back to Obama. Over the course of 89 minutes, Biden single handedly exposed the absurdity of Paul Ryan’s “academic” reputation, whether it was creepily smiling at Ryan’s lies, mocking his claims at bipartisanship or simply pointing out that his tax plans still doesn’t make sense to anyone who understands basic arithmetic. After the 90th minute, he threw Ryan into the trash like a used condom.
But here's my question: Are we sure Joe Biden is a good guy?
Sure, he was responsible for negotiating a debt ceiling compromise, reliably calls Republicans on their bullshit, and is responsible for some of the best Onion articles of recent memory. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a decent resume. But he’s also the same guy who pushed for the failed war on drugs and ran for president enough to be considered by every objective measure.
Plus, doesn’t he kind of look like Caesar Flickerman?
4) “I don't want you forgetting how different our circumstances are. If you die, and I live, there's no life for me at all back in District Twelve. You're my whole life."
Dedicated to Mitt Romney, whose potential post-election irrelevance teeters somewhere between awkward and embarrassing. Most runner-ups return to their elected office or get involved in academia, but Romney has ruled out politics and made so many policy contortions that it is nearly impossible for him to be seriously associated with any issue.
Meanwhile, Obama is sitting on international adulation, an invite to every political event for eternity, and a speaking career worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
5) “Katniss, the girl who was on fire!”
Dedicated to Chris Christie, whose performance during Hurricane Sandy made him one of the few likable Republicans remaining in the country. Not only did he praise Obama, but he did it so much that writers were treating his reaction like a guy making up excuses for his hormonal girlfriend. Phrases like “deeply emotional” and ”highly sentimental” were thrown around like Christie had just stormed out of a restaurant because no one complemented his shoes.
There are so many different things to like about Christie: His clear disgust for the religious right, his need to remind every one that he loves Bruce Springsteen, his open disdain for stupidity, and most importantly his weird confidence. (It'sborderline irrational.) I get the impression that he looks into the mirror and sees Ryan Reynolds instead of Louie Anderson.
Put it this way: I couldn’t be more delighted if the Republican ticket for 2016 was Christie and Huntsman.
Random Note: We both went to Seton Hall, and he regularly attends basketball games. One game, after showing the lone remaining starter from the 1952 title team, they cut to Chris Christie on the jumbo-tron. The second he hit the screen, he was double fisting hot dogs and had mustard dripping from his mouth. Highest of comedy, and sadly the highlight of Seton Hall’s season that year.
6) “We could do it, you know." "What?" "Leave the district. Run off. Live in the woods. You and I, we could make it.”
Dedicated to Ron Paul supporters, who gave it their best shot at popularizing their childish philosophy, only to see the Romney camp quash it in a way that would make the Capitol jealous. Has there ever been anything like what happened in Orlando? Romney’s people literally just rewrote all the rules and everyone seemed to be cool with it, except for the Paul people, who returned to their life of listening to Alex Jones and reading Hayek by candlelight.
But let’s be honest. There's a decent amount of Paul's rhetoric which is appealing in the same way running away is when you are little. Running away because you can’t eat fruit snacks for breakfast is great, until it rains and you'recold. Privatizing Social Security is great, until the 2008 crash wipes out 50%of everyone’s retirement fund. Tying money to gold sounds reasonable, until you get a basic understanding of modern finance or commodity-based currency.
7) “So it's you and a syringe against the Capitol? See, this is why no one lets you make the plans.”
Dedicated to Gary Johnson, who convinced the depths of the internet that he’s a moderate alternative to both Romney and Obama. In reality, he has two or three good ideas and a whole slew of shitty ones. Supporters gush about his crusade against the drug war and support of gay rights, but are strangely silent about his plans to reduce the corporate tax rate to zero, cut the federal budge by 43%, expand private prisons, and allow unlimited campaign contributions for corporations.
Let’s let him speak for himself, “I view government in the same way as philosopher Ayn Rand.”
8) “Because when he sings .. .even the birds stop to listen.”
Dedicated to Nate Silver, the New York Times blogger who has become a pseudo-election oracle after correctly predicting 49/50 states in 2008. The University of Chicago graduate scares old guard pundits (because they are becoming increasingly irrelevant) and conservatives (because he has an “effeminate demeanor”).
9) “At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever wants you dead. The hard thing is finding the courage to do it.”
Imagine you are Obama. You go out of your way to be bipartisan and sell your core constituents in the name of compromise. In return, Republicans block nearly 58% of your judicial appointments (GW2 was at 13%), set a record for cloture votes, turn a routine debt ceiling vote into an international incident, and are quoted as saying, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.”
Someone get Haymitch on the phone.
10) “Remember, we're madly in love, so it's ok to kiss me whenever you feel like it.”
I’ll just leave this here.
11) “Poor Finnick. Is this the first time in your life you haven't looked pretty?”
Dedicated to Clint Eastwood, whose Republican National Convention speech was such a staggering train wreck that Lindsay Lohan thought it was a bad idea. Nothing about it made sense, which is why it was delightful political theatre for everyone involved.
What was their thought process? Did they really think an 82-year-old guy would resonate with the electorate? Did they recently re-watch Space Cowboys on TNT and were blown away? Did they think the election was taking place in 1978? This idea even sounds absurd on paper, like a movie staring Kate Hudson, or a golf club that doubles as a porta-potty. Seriously, get out a piece of paper and make a list of possible speakers for a presidential convention. Does an aging action star appear before or after Ron Popeil?
I want to meet whoever approved this, along with a person who intentionally and un-ironically bought pajama jeans, someone who maintains an active profile on Redtube or YouPorn, anyone involved in this, and a girl who uses this only as a massager.
12) “No! I volunteer! I volunteer! I volunteer as tribute!”
Dedicated to Hillary Clinton, who fell on the Benghazi situation quicker than it takes to complete a P90X workout.
13) “But collective thinking is usually short-lived. We're fickle, stupid beings with poor memories and a great gift for self-destruction.”
Dedicated to Fox News viewers, who somehow bought the idea that the Benghazi situation was a devious, negligent, plot from Barack Obama to weaken American power abroad and impose Sharia law.
14) “You know, you could live a thousand lifetimes and not deserve him.”
Dedicated to John Huntsman, who is a rational, consistent, business-oriented Republican, with a history of financial conservatism, extensive international experience (he speaks fluent Mandarin), believes in global warming, and doesn’t think gay people are destroying America.
Of course, the modern Republican Party wants nothing to do with him.
15) "I don't want them to change me in there. Turn me into some kind of monster that I'm not."
Dedicated to Elizabeth Warren, who may be the last hope of the progressive movement. If she falls apart, she could take Whole Foods down with her.
16) “Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor.”
Dedicated to us, the millennial generation, who are going to have to repair all of this.