As we all know, election season is now upon us. Like Christmas, it begins earlier each year, much to the dismay of those shopping for cereal and end up finding stockings, exclaiming, “For fuck’s sake, it’s July!” Yes, the beginning of the GOP primary debates. One moment you are waiting for your nightly Law and Order to soothe you to sleep, and then next thing you know, you are bombarded with lights, Americana streamers, and someone talking about nothing that makes any sense. But I just wanted some bad crime drama to lull me to sleep! Instead I got the ex-CEO of Godfather’s Pizza talking about 9-9-9, Michelle Bachmann turning it upside down to 6-6-6, and Rick Perry having no qualms about having a ranch called “N****rhead.”
This is why I usually spend an inordinate amount of time during the election season watching cartoons. Cartoons exist not only as a gentle placebo to disconnect me from the reality that is our ridiculous political spectacle, but also as a way to better deal with it. I spent most of the Obama-McCain election cycle watching Spongebob Squarepants because the absolute positivity of the show balanced out the perpetual state of fear I was living in by the possibility that Sarah Palin would actually become our first female vice president. During the Bush ““Kerry election cycle, I found myself glued to episodes of PowerPuff Girls, Scooby Doo, and any other animated faux realities that would distract me from the fact that people were going to willingly voting in a man who couldn’t properly pronounce “nuclear,” and the only other choice was a man who highlighted his snowboarding hobby. That was a bleak year.
This year, the candidates running on the GOP ticket seem to have come out of every crack and corner, at one point, only cutting off Governor Chris Christie’s chances to a circumstantial deadline (also, he was deemed “too fat” to run). At this point, I can’t help but expect The Hamburglar to appear on stage and start pontificating on a broken, elite Washington, “illegal” immigration, and single moms having abortions just to spite America. Of course, I tried to do the responsible thing last Tuesday and gather up the spoons to hunker down and watch the GOP debates in Las Vegas. I somehow convinced myself that this is what all politically engaged people do (fact: this is not true). What began as an exercise in patience quickly turned to the usual masochistic three-ring circus of seeing how long I could go before I began yelling at my TV, whisking through all five stages of the Kubler-Ross model within a matter of forty minutes
I crawled back to Netflix’s animation section as soon as I could for an unhealthy yet necessary dose of cartoons. I began The Wacky Races, an old show from 1968-69. The plot is simple: 11 outlandish characters racing for the glory of becoming “The World’s Wackiest Racer.” Each character had their own car and platform, and worked to boost themselves to the pinnacles of power and glory. All were competing with each other in schemes of one-uppance, yet all seemed equally united against the evil Dick Dasterdly and his dog Muttley, both characters who would go to any lengths, whether from cheating or lying, to win the title. It was only after three episodes that I realized my most recent choice of cartoon was actually the perfect metaphor for what I was seeing now in the primaries. Let me break this down.
Our Brave Lineup:
Mitt Romney as Red Max in the Crimson Haybailer: 70th Governor of Massachusetts, Republican and Mormon, Romney seems to be the most probable of the candidates. Much like Red Max, Romney is a “high-flying ace who wants to rule the Wacky Races road” and has the best chance to do so. However, Red Max always enters with high hopes, but usually ends up crashing out before the finish due to faulty support. Romney faces similar conservative skepticism due to his past as a left-leaning moderate.
Gary E. Johnson as Lazy Luke in the Arkansas Chuggabug 8: The 29th Governor of New Mexico, Johnson has struggled to gain attention in the primaries. Not only was he not included in the the most recent Republican debate in Ames, Iowa, but he barely registers in polls and seems to be only appealing to libertarian online poker players. Much like Lazy Luke and his partner Blubber Bear, Johnson doesn’t have the same cutthroat ambition as many of the other candidates and is content to let the coal stove-powered Arkansas Chuggabug do the work.
Buddy Roemer as equal parts of the Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe: A bank executive and former governor of Louisiana, Roemer is more wild card than anything. As a man who has been out of politics for nearly two decades, Roemer exists more as a sidelined character known for kookiness than being taken seriously. Like the Gruesome Twosome, his campaign is more about bells and whistles anecdotes, much like a car boasting bats and a dragon in the belfry, than actual hard line plans. While not accepting contributions above $100 is a nice detail, it doesn’t seem to be getting him invited to any actual debates.
Ron Paul as Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car 3: Professor Pat is the incredibly smart yet off kilter brains of this operation. Much like Pat, Paul is the lone outsider who you find yourself agreeing with on liberal drug policy and certain foreign/monetary policy and about as soon as you say, huh, you know, he’s kinda right, he’s off talking about genocide as a “no biggie” and a hundred other issues that make you think, oh hell no. This is a highly contentious candidate, greatly defended by Paulgressives: progressives who insist that Ron Paul simply makes sense without really understanding Ron Paul’s policy positions outside of very selective portions of his foreign policy and drug legalization. (See also libertarians, brogressives.) Term coined by the lovely STFUConservatives.
Jon Huntsman as Perfect Peter in the Turbo Terrific 9: Former ambassador to China and 16th Governor of Utah, Huntsman is the only candidate who might argue conservative politics without swerving into the realm of spectacle. Much like Perfect Pete, Huntsman has a strong popularity vote and glossy magazine-like looks, but his popularity will probably not win him the actual race. It also should be noted that Huntsman’s father is billionaire business man, Jon Huntsman Sr. of Huntsman Corporation, and Huntsman, Jr. is the great-great-great-grandson of early LDS Church leader Parley P. Pratt. Huntsman is also the third cousin, once-removed, of politician Mitt Romney.
Michelle Bachmann as Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat 5: Considered the southern belle on wheels, or really, that whole pitbull with lipstick thing, Bachmann has got the token woman candidate in the bag, relying on her image of heteronormative white girl looks to blanket a whole mess of extreme politics. Both Penelope and Bachmann harken back to archaic representations of women, relying on the co-opting of women’s “empowerment.” Michelle Bachmann as a candidate is seemingly progressive in the nature of representation in politics, yet is nowhere near the same as having someone who stands with women and believes that they need to all be relegated to ’50s era roles.
Rick Santorum as Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon 10: Santorum, like Ruffcut, while popular, lacks in serious resources and is seen as a more extreme outsider candidate than anything. A tough, muscle-bound lumberjack (or a former Pennsylvania Senator and Fox News contributor) Santorum is all about co-opting the blue collar work ethic while making life incredibly difficult for anyone but wealthy Republicans. This has earned him the alternative usage of the word “santorum,” as explained by Spreading Santorum.
Herman Cain as the Slag Brothers in the Bouldermobile 1: Cain is a character. The former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza and a radio show host, Cain is quite possibly one of the more confusing candidates. Cain hammers his way through most of the conservative rhetoric, though is no stranger to offering his own bizarre commentary. Quoting Pokemon: The Movie, an apparent flirter with birtherism, and apparently the final authority on how black Obama actually is, Cain, like the Slag Brothers, is more confusing than anything.
Ricky Perry as Sergeant Blast in the Army Surplus Special 6: Birther. Racial slur ranch owner. Mess talker. Most likely “misunderestimated.” Rick Perry is probably one of the worst candidates, another man from Texas who is proud of the fact that he wants to change the Constitution and is okay with crowds cheering about how many people he has killed since governing Texas (234 to be precise). Like Sergeant Blast, he’s a shit talker blasting out orders, with little to back him up.
Newt Gingrich as Dick Dastardly and the Mean Machine 00: Cracker Von Patriarch of course gets the villain. How could he not be? Have you seen this guy’s skeletons? It’s like hypocrisy went on a bender and threw up all over your nice carpet. Family values, my ass. Newt has been at it for YEARS trying to mess up everyone’s game to get a nice squared seat in the highest of power. The former House Speaker and one of the Tea Party’s favorites, Gingrich always tries to sabotage and scheme his way to victory in each of the Wacky Races. Or the election.
So while last Tuesday was just a taste of what’s to come, just remember, the cartoons are always there and they don’t judge. Much like the best episode of the worst reality tv show, the GOP primary lineup is like waiting to see who gets voted off the island first or who decides to say the most bizarre thing for just another 15 minutes of fame and glory. The only actual problem with all this foolery is that just like good folks in the wacky races say, these candidates are all whizzing to Washington, with some potential in becoming our next leader.
Help us all.