Referring to JFK, Hubert Humphrey warned “Beware of these orderly campaigns. They are bought, ordered and paid for. We are not selling corn flakes or some Hollywood production.” Fifty-two years later, Pat McCrory sold lots of corn flakes. Regardless of the benefit of sugar-free cereal to obesity-stricken voters, McCrory shows that politics-as-entertainment must be reined in.
There’s no denying that Mayor Pat made a great ad man. Unlike Walter Dalton, he looked loose and likeable in front of the camera. He delivered lines like “we need a trustworthy government that treats us like customers” like the uncle you wished was your father. Nor has he lost his touch. McCrory, who sometimes golfed at Myer’s Park Country Club (join-up fee: $40,000), really does seem like the he’d shun the fashionable set to talk to middle-class parents.
Just like Arnold Schwarzenegger, this compelling actor has made a remarkably bad governor. He’s let bureaucracies run out of control. Like Ronald Reagan, he struggles to distinguish fantasy from reality, fudging the facts to make them a fun story. He contradicted a previous casting to become a new, “family” (“values”)-friendly character. In the McCrory administration, the cinematic collided with the real, and real people lost.
Republican infotainment exacts the heaviest public toll, but the sin is bipartisan. For example, no one but the most hard core “Obamaniac” could watch the “Yes We Can” video and turn it off with a settled stomach. Yet Obama for America’s glamour entranced many, leading to disillusionment that strained our coalition.
I know Xbox and Americans’ shrinking attention spans have made political communications tough. Has it worked, though, to turn politics into pop culture? Not that I can see–voters pay barely any attention. If only to keep lightweights like McCrory out of office, we should consider making politics boring again.