October 16, 2002

The Real Family Circus

Hello again, friends and all my other readers! What did you do this past Saturday? Went out on a date, or maybe hung out with friends at the usual dive? Perhaps you preferred to stay home alone and hop around to Kris Kross’ “Jump, Jump.” Yes you do, admit it!

Well, you can keep those boring activities. I partied at the polls!

Yes, we local hicks just enjoyed another (albeit late) round of Louisiana elections™. Three recent events--the uncertainty of the 2000 presidential election, the delayed New York City mayoral election of 2001 and that prissy Hurricane Lili--led me to think that “election day” should be renamed “election delay.”

Even when elections do manage to be held, the lingering trend is for less than half of registered voters to even consider going to the polls. And that’s for presidential elections! The last time we had a local race, I swear I saw cobwebs on my voting lever; even the spider was long gone.

Maybe it’s the commercials that keep people away. Along with everything else an election cycle entails, it brings forth the usual cesspool of well-meaning, yet disturbingly similar, campaign advertisements.

For the past 20 years, political commercials have kept pace with the devolution of regular TV spots. Back then, most commercials were straightforward and informative, not to mention somewhat bland.

Narrator: “Mary Johnson, do you use the leading brand of floor wax?”

Mary: “No, I use Slip N Span! It’s not the leading brand!” Cue the jingle. And now back to the Dukes of Hazzard.

Now, however, thanks to such attention-deficit-distributing channels such as MTV, commercials tend to be very fast, saturated clips. Fortunately, political ads have not quite yet stooped to this level.

“Vote Cooksey for Senate. He’s extreeeeme! Wooooo! Put him in your head!” Cue Pantera.

Quickly following that ad would be the inevitable “Mary Landrieu. Get some!”

But I digress.

Until the early 1990s, campaign advertising and literature generally focused on the candidate’s name and a list of key issue stances. That was before the “re-elect Bush, please?” campaign of 1992 wheeled out the lovely phrase “family values.”

Positive sounding and completely indefinable, “family values” proved to be the perfect political buzzword. It set off a fad that still infects political spots today. Of course, the as-yet-unanswered question is, whose family are we talking about? The Partridge Family? The Manson Family? The Brady Bunch?!! But that’s just nitpicking, right?

“Family values” means that you can look forward to seeing the requisite picture of the candidate’s family in every single ad. Take notice, for this is a bold statement:

“Vote for me. I have a family! Look how they’re all together wearing nice clothes! And my kids are better than my opponent’s!”

Another disturbing tendency these days is to parade the word “conservative,” even if the candidate is so liberal he or she makes James Carville look like a Nazi. The only time you hear the word liberal is when it is used as the worst kind of insult …“his opponent is a LIBERAL!” Oh no, one escaped the concentration camp!

Using the above types of commercial conformity, just about anybody can look good for any position. Hmmm….

“Vote for Ian McGibboney! He’s the product of a family! With 22 years of experience in judging people, he sure knows how to wield his gavel! Ian upholds the exclusively CONSERVATIVE family values of justice, tolerance, apple pie and FAMILY VALUES!!

“His opponent’s family sucks! Just look at those wrinkles in her children’s shirts! Not only that, but her right-wing voting record betrays her LIBERAL beliefs! If you want God to bless America, vote for Ian McGibboney!”

This column paid for by the Committee to Re-Elect Ian McGibboney (CREIM).

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