Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Many Faces of You, America

I've tried to refrain from commenting here upon the complete train-wreck that is ("surprise" Senate primary winner from Delaware) Christine O'Donnell, but a self-respecting political blogger can only be reasonably expected to hold out for so long. We're all aware of the catalog of crazy things that have somehow made their way out of Christine O'Donnell's mouth, without any apparent vetting by political handlers, close friends, rational principles or cultural sensitivity. For the most part, I would characterize O'Donnell as a bit like a kinder, gentler version of Sarah Palin... but she's giving the Grand Dame of Illiterati a real run for her money in the crucial right-wing categories of Uninformed, Self-Righteous, and Cuh-Razy. I'll leave aside for the moment her Victorian-cum-medieval views on masturbation, her idiosyncratic-cum-ignorant understandings of evolution and socialism, her personal campaign communiques from God, her insider knowledge of the dark arts, and I won't even touch that remark about how SCARYSCARYSCIENCE has managed to produce, miraculously, genetically-engineered mice with "fully-functioning human brains." (Fully functioning, she says, for real.) Any one of these bon mots would provide a lifetime supply of grist for my mill. But instead, I want to focus on O'Donnell at her best, by which I mean, you know, when she's being like me.

What?!, you may be saying to yourself, Christine O'Donnell is like Doctor J?! I know, I know, I was surprised to learn so myself. But then I saw O'Donnell's campaign ad (below) where, lo and behold, our commensurability was confirmed, straight from the witch's mouth:

As it turns out, O'Donnell isn't just like me, she IS me. And she is you. Or, rather, "you"-- the "you" serving as a vacant placeholder into which we can all insert our precious individual personhood. Because O'Donnell is me, she promises to go to Washington and do what I would do. Nevermind that a few of the crucial things that I would do involve "believing in science" and "not bothering with other people's auto-affection rituals" and "having at least a grade-schooler's understanding of civics." None of us are perfect, after all.

All snarkiness aside, though, here's the thing that really chaps my hide about this ad: it seems that the whole "I'm you" pretense has come to serve the same function for female political candidates that the "I"m someone you can drink a beer with" pretense did (and does) for male candidates. The Beer Quotient was a crucial variable in the "likability" algorithm during the last couple of Presidential elections, an American political oddity that continued on even past the otherwise expectedly insane campaign seasons. (Remember the Obama/Biden/Gates/Crowley Beer Summit?) Being able to drink a beer with a male politician means that he's not only a real person, but a real man, that he won't embarass you with some fey or professorial affect if you take him down to your corner bar. In sum, "you can drink a beer with me," if delivered in a sufficiently baritone voice, is nothing other than a perfect translation of the otherwise girly sentiment "I'm you."

Of course, the ladies can't say "I'm someone you can drink a beer with." And not only because voters (if they could get the Freedom Fries out of their mouths long enough to pronounce the French) would find it très gauche, but also because the woman's "I'm you" actually carries more meaning than the man's "I'm you." When O'Connell (or Palin) say "I'm you," they don't simply mean that we are equally interchangeable, rational, conscientious but in the end anonymous co-signatories to an abstract social contract. They mean something much more personalized, more caring, more Oprah-esque, more mommy-ish. They mean that you are a precious little snowflake, absolutely unique and valuable and important in the grand scheme of things, unlike any other... AND, bless your heart, they are precious and unique and important (and underappreciated as such), too. So, despite the logical impossibility of two perfect, unrepeatable idioms being exactly equivalent, they are you.


God bless YouTube, the parodies of O'Donnell's ad have been rolling forth like a river with righteousness like a never-failing stream in recent weeks. Here are some of my favorites:

For what it's worth, readers, this blog is written by a woman. And you should keep reading, because I'm you. Now, be sure to brush your teeth before you go to bed, honey.

UPDATE 10/12/10: The hits just keep on coming! Here's a couple more O'Donnell parodies:

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