We’re in the second presidential campaign of the reality show era, and it’s only taken a few years for professional politicians and their strategists to have absorbed the lessons of American Idol producers and Survivor contestants. If you’re going to outwit/outplay/outpoll, you need storylines. You need gimmicks. You need heroes and villains and twists.
Previous election campaigns have had their minor scandals and October surprises, but hoo boy! nothing like this. Right from the season premiere, you’ve got the two most promising candidates scrapping in the same half of the bracket, tussling over every Immunity Challenge of a primary. And tacitly making alliances based on race and gender, like it’s Survivor: Cook Islands all over again.
Pick up the remote. Over on FOX, Sarah Palin is the surprise week 10 game-changer: “Contestants, we’re shaking up the rules!” Cut to shocked-looking faces in the firelight. And the scandalous bombshells, straight out of a Real World hot tub! The narcissistic guy cheated on his terminally ill wife! The Evangelical super-mom’s daughter got knocked up by her mulleted boyfriend! Actually, neither of those seem all that surprising in hindsight, but you get the idea.
I can’t stress enough how dangerous this is. Once you’ve gone here, you can’t go back. People are going to assume, from now on, that this is how you win campaigns. After all this craziness, voters are going to be disappointed if 2012 is an off-year, a Jordin Sparks snoozefest, and turnout will be low. We can’t have that. But look out, because reality shows didn’t get more tasteful as time went on. They got trashier and added midgets.
Whoever wins the election, I just hope they’re sworn in with “the most dramatic Rose Garden ceremony…ever!”
And, from the newly versatile Rick Chandler, finally unshackled by Leitch's departure, at Deadspin:
Although Barack Obama's acceptance speech on Thursday was impressive in many ways, I can't help but feel that political conventions officially jumped the shark when the Democrats booked Invesco Field for the final day of their big party. It can only get larger and sloppier from here. What's McCain going to do now; give his speech while dangling on a bungee cord from the Metrodome ceiling? How long before we start getting conventions with guys doing this? Listen; large outdoor stadiums were meant for football, soccer rioting and Celine Dion concerts, not politics. Please stop this trend now.
Chandler doesn't mention Reality TV by name, but you can tell that's what he meant.