I was really into Dave Matthews’ music in the 90s. Last night my wife stayed up and crushed on Matthews’ youthful alter ego Phillip Phillips and his music on YouTube. (Ever read a dead white male–Churchill–while someone sang Superstition, a cappella, in your ear? We don’t watch American Idol live but we both watch it on YouTube.)
She finally got my attention when she turned on our mutual all-time favorite Carrie Underwood–we’re all crushing on her, including our two-year-old. Watch and tell me you if you don’t find her irresistible:
American Idol is a fascinating cultural phenomenon. The concept is both simple and sheer genius. Say what you will about Phillip Phillips but that boy can perform. And to think before this he was just some kid who worked in his dad’s pawn shop in Georgia. Carrie Underwood herself is a marvel. How could that voice be tucked away in some small town in Oklahoma. Then there’s this guy:
I would encourage you to watch the whole interview. It’s breathtaking. But I digress.
The fact is we live in a great country full of remarkable inspiring people.
Our president is one of those people. It is inspiring what he has accomplished. The fact that I want him to lose in a big way in November doesn’t take anything away from his achievement.
On this note of inspiration, I started thinking about Phillip Phillips and the 132 million votes that were cast in the Idol competition and decided to look up how many votes were cast in various presidential elections. Did you know that 129 million votes were cast in 2008? In 2004, Americans cast 121 million votes for George W. Bush and John Kerry. And in 1980–a year which is drawing lots of (highly debatable in my opinion) comparisons to 2012–only 85 million votes were cast for Reagan and Carter (and remember John B. Anderson?).
The turnout in 2012 will be a closely watched bit of data. Obama managed to energize a huge chunk of his base in 2008, while also drawing independents, who in my opinion were naively drawn to some vaporous hope for change and betterment of their lives, as if it were ever in the power of a mortal, much less a product of the Chicago political machine, to bring about such change.
Meanwhile McCain probably ran the single worst presidential campaign that I have ever witnessed. The moment he invigorated his base he would follow by cutting his own knees out with one of his capriciously incoherent proclamations or actions. (The fact that his handlers have spent the last three years trying to hide their own ineptitude by trying to focus people’s sights on the easy game from Alaska is evidence itself.) To be clear I, along with a host of others, admire and respect John McCain the man. My father was a Navy vet too and I grew up with a steady diet of the honor that should be accorded such men. But he was an abysmal candidate and, while I voted for him and would do so again, had he been elected I have no doubt that we would be looking at a landslide this year for Hilary (which, by the way, when contrasted with the possibility of Obama winning in November, would have been a much preferred series of events).
2012 should be a very different election. Neither candidate inspires much emotion on either side, except that the driving animus on both sides of the aisle this year seems to be “well I just can’t vote for that guy.” The professional political strategists can tell you which candidate this favors, but from my layman’s point of view I think an anti-leviathan-government-incumbent bias prevails over the anti-perfectly-parted-elitist-milquetoast-dude sentiment.
The bottom line is that whichever candidate can secure anywhere close to the number of votes that the pawnbroker’s son from Georgia got last night will win.
Long live American Idol.