Weird Al-lection

I think we’ve probably all (And by “all” I mean the very small percentage of people who actually listen to Weird Al, filtered through the even smaller percentage of people who are still willing to think about the election) seen Weird Al Yankovic’s song about the debates. If not, here it is:

 

This is, of course, excellent. But I am prejudiced: not only can I talk about politics forever, but I have been a dedicated Weird Al fan for his entire career: my dad played me “Yoda” when I was about 9, and I bought “Weird Al In 3-D” soon thereafter. I have been a fan of his longer than any other band, any other musician, any other genre. I know pretty much all of his songs, most of them by heart.

So perhaps it should come as no surprise that as I listened to this, I realized that it wasn’t the only Weird Al song that was appropriate for this election.

In fact, Weird Al has created the theme song for the whole thing. I mean, all of it. Every candidate — and for some of them, two or three.

So, in honor of a man I do honestly consider a musical genius, who can do anything at all, from reggae to heavy metal to rap to country, and in hopes of adding a wee bit of levity to our long national nightmare (Which will end soon! Only a week! Don’t forget to vote!), I hereby present The Weird Al-lection.

 

Starting with the Republicans:

Governor Jeb Bush: For the third Bush to run for President, who based all of his policies on “Well my brother did this, so I think it’s a good idea,” and his appeal on, “Hey, aren’t a lot of you folks white men? So am I!” This is the only song:

 

 

 

Dr. Ben Carson: Sometimes it’s too obvious. Though I like how absurd the lyrics are, and if you imagine this parody of a surgeon actually doing this job on you, that’s pretty much how I feel about Carson being president.

 

Governor Chris Christie: Now, this seems like a cheap shot; but actually, the connection to the New Jersey governor is more about the attitude in these lyrics: “Just watch your mouth, or I’ll sit on you.//If you see me comin’ your way, better give me plenty space; If I tell you that I’m hungry, then won’t you feed my face!”

 

Senator Ted Cruz: This one bothers me because this is one of my favorite songs, and Cruz is one of my least favorite organisms. But it’s perfect.

 

Carly Fiorina: 1. It’s about computers, like Ms. Fiorina; 2. it’s a parody of a song about money, also like Ms. Fiorina; 3. While the song is a good parody, it is vastly annoying. Like Ms. Fiorina.

 

Governor Mike Huckabee: I know he wasn’t in the race long, but Governor Huckabee’s mixture of devout Christianity and political incompetence makes me think this would be the result of his election. Rick Santorum can share this song.

 

Governor John Kasich: Since his pitch seemed to be, “Well, you can’t vote for Jeb Bush any more, so how’s about me? I can swing Ohio!” he gets this:

 

Senator Rand Paul: My impressions of Senator Paul: he is a strange derivative version of his father. He is frequently angry for very little reason. He is extremely white. There are actually some things about him that I like, but overall, I can’t stand the guy. Which is how I feel about polka. I’m sorry, Mr. Yankovic; I find them amusing when you do them, but — it’s just such a terrible musical form!

For Senator Paul: The Angry White Boy Polka.

 

Governor Rick Perry: For the man who can’t count to three:

 

Senator Marco Rubio: Again, this seems like a cheap shot — and a racist one, at that — but I thought this fit because Senator Rubio tried to take advantage of his heritage while also trying to appeal to all the honkies in the GOP; that reminds me of someone who speaks only food Spanish. Hence this song. Plus the original is all about trying to be smooth, which Rubio tries but can’t pull off; and the singer, Gerardo, is only appealing on the surface. Like Rubio.

 

Governor Scott Walker: The man is nothing but a front for corporations. He is an empty suit stuffed with dark money. So, he gets to have another of my favorite Al songs — one that says a lot about our culture, while saying nothing at all. Like Governor Walker.

(I’m adding a second song because Gov. Walker’s treatment of teachers in Wisconsin makes him pretty much The Most Hated Man On My List. Other than the Big T, that is.)

(By the way: if you’ve never seen this first video, it is brilliant, as is the song, if you’ve ever worked in a corporate environment.)

 

Finally, in honor of the forgotten candidates, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore, and George Pataki, none of whom anyone can remember, because nobody cared about their incredibly short runs for the Big Chair, I present my favorite completely absurd Weird Al songs. Because these people, like these songs, make no sense whatsoever.

(The video for this one also makes no sense.)

 

 

Now we finally get to the Dems.

 

Governor Lincoln Chafee: The guy’s so cool. And so utterly not.

 

Governor Martin O’Malley: You know, I don’t have much to say about Governor O’Malley. He seems like a pretty reasonable centrist Democratic candidate. I think this just wasn’t his year. Maybe that means it won’t ever be his year. So, he gets this one:

 

Senator Bernie Sanders: Such a mensch. Just listen to the first ten seconds, and you’ll see why this song. But the rest of it fits, too.

 

Senator Jim Webb: Senator Webb strikes me as being pretty much the guy who yells at kids to get off his lawn, if his lawn was a national debate stage.

 

Now for the big ones: those actual nominees who will be getting our votes in a few days. Please understand this post is not intended to endorse any particular candidate; please vote your conscience, wherever that leads you. Just please vote.

Don’t vote for Trump.

 

 

Dr. Jill Stein: I particularly like this one, because Dr.  Stein seems reasonable and logical and appealing at first — but the longer you listen to her, the less rational she seems. Let’s just cancel college debt? Anti-vaxxers have a point? Here you go, Doctor:

 

Governor Gary Johnson:  Mr. “What’s Aleppo?” gets two, one just because he was the governor of New Mexico.

 

Hillary Clinton: First, for all the promises she’s made, particularly the ones she’s made in exchange for a check:

And then, just because one song about mail is not enough for Hillary Clinton (Best thing about this is that the gist of this song is that people keep sending the same crap around the internet, and that people believe complete bullshit without any evidence. Perfect.):

 

Donald Trump: This is the way Mr. Trump actually lives. No exaggeration. It’s beautiful. Bigly beautiful.

And this is how we all feel about him.

 

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The Party’s Over

“Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Democratic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a cold-hearted Republican to lower taxes, brutalize criminals, and rule you like a king. That’s why I did this: to protect you from yourselves. –Sideshow Bob, “Sideshow Bob Roberts”

(This is the third installment of my political corruption series, and the last. For now.)

Let’s be clear (If you read my stuff, it’s probably already clear): I am a lifelong Democrat. I am the child of two lifelong Democrats: my parents voted for John F. Kennedy, for William McGovern, for Walter Mondale, for Michael Dukakis; I voted for Clinton, for Gore, for Kerry, and for Barack Obama, twice. I don’t understand why people can vote Republican: the wealthy, for whom it makes personal sense, have to be callous, I feel, in order to refuse to maintain the social safety net for those less fortunate than they, or unbelievably greedy in order to agree to destroy the regulatory state so that they can make even more money at the expense of our very world; the poor and middle class are voting for social causes, not for personal gain (Unless they believe in trickle-down economics, but in that case they are deluded), but I see two problems with that: first, they are on the wrong side of most social issues – anti-choice, anti-equality, xenophobic, and parochial – and their candidates don’t ever deliver on their promises. So if you’re wealthy, how can you stand to vote Republican? And if you’re not, why would you ever think to vote Republican?

I read an excellent book by Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter With Kansas, in which Frank examines how Kansas, his home state and, through the 1800’s and early 1900’s, one of the most radical and progressive states, became so very staunchly, unflaggingly, self-destructively conservative. What happened was that Republican candidates around the early 90’s started pushing a pro-life agenda as the only issue that mattered – you know, the usual “40,000,000 murders,” “Culture of life” stuff – and when elected, every Republican proceeded to lower taxes, kill social services, remove regulations on business, make sweetheart deals with corporations, and basically ruin life for the average person; and then go back to election yelling “We have to end the scourge of abortion!” Which got them re-elected, into majority after majority — and yet they continued to fail to do anything about abortion, simply pushing their pro-business agenda on the state to its steadily growing detriment. But the pro-life agenda, whipped into a frenzy every new election cycle, was so compelling that nothing else seemed to matter to the voters, who kept voting Republican until it put their state where it is now – essentially hollowed out, unable to provide even the most basic elements we expect of our governments, like schools – not that Kansas schools teach anything other than creationism and abstinence, according to the campaign promises of the Republican candidates.

That’s how I see Republicans: selfish, deluded, misguided, and absurdly optimistic– or, less kindly, willfully blind to the fact that their politicians don’t ever deliver on the things they promise that won their constituents’ votes: on the national scene, we still have Obamacare, we are still giving foreign aid to dozens of other countries, our veterans are still dying on the streets, abortion is still legal, gay marriage is now legal as well, and there still isn’t a wall between the US and Mexico. So why would anyone vote Republican?

Here’s the thing, though: why do I continue to vote Democratic? It was Clinton who ended the Glass-Steagall Act, which, more than anything else, precipitated the economic crash that happened ten years later, under George Bush but not – I repeat, not — because of him. It was Bush’s fault that our government wasn’t in a better position to help after the crash, because he gave away Clinton’s surplus in tax breaks and war spending; but the crash was because of the Democrats. Democrats who I voted for. And of all of my other causes, the most important to me is the reduction of violence and misery, and the improvement of equal opportunity for everyone; the largest obstacle to all of that is income inequality. Which Democrats conveniently ignore, not wishing to appear – gasp – Socialist. (I know, I know – Bernie Sanders. But he’s also pro-gun.) We have Obamacare, but without the public option, it is more of a burden than anything useful; my costs for health care are still going up, every year, while my wages are going down: I make less now than I did ten years ago. Unions are still dying, and women still don’t make the same wages that men do, and Guantanamo is still open and still incarcerating prisoners of war who have never been to trial, and guns remain unregulated, and schools remain unfunded, and everyone is still driving Hummers while we drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.

So who’s really the fool, here?

I think the answer’s pretty obvious: we all are. We have all been sold a bill of goods that doesn’t match what the grinning faces behind the counter are putting into our baskets.

This is the last form of political corruption I want to write about, and that I think I have a solution for: this one is the corruption of the entire system, through partisanship and self-serving deception. This political corruption is the two-party system.

I would love to go back now to when the two-party system made sense and worked well for Americans; but in all honesty, the two-party system has always been about helping itself. Having a clearly defined and well-known political party makes it easier for candidates affiliated with that party to get elected: the party label offers a certain legitimacy, and even loyalty, in that people often vote the “straight ticket,” picking the candidates affiliated with their party without knowing anything about them. The party also offers a political apparatus that makes it easier to get heard and therefore elected; you need staff, you need volunteers, you need access to media and to debates and the like, you need a platform that people can hear and understand and support. The political party that exists before and beyond one’s own candidacy offers all of that; unless you’re a billionaire loon like H. Ross Perot, bless his wrinkly, big-eared heart, you wouldn’t want to form your own party just for your candidacy, and you almost certainly couldn’t afford to. So political parties are useful, and they aren’t going away – more’s the pity; because by far the easiest solution here is just to ban them entirely. But then it would be too hard for anyone not an incumbent to mount a national political campaign, or even a serious state-wide one, and that would not be any better, as those in power – who already have political staff, legitimacy, and access to media – would get re-elected even more often than they do now. So okay, we’ll keep political parties.

Now, if that party represents a certain set of values that the voter supports, then well and good: but because there are only two parties with any real legitimacy in this country, those two parties become too large and unwieldy, their umbrellas too wide and encompassing such extremes, that voting for the party doesn’t really mean supporting one’s specific causes: is this Republican candidate an evangelical Christian who wants to put the Ten Commandments on the American flag and mandate both creationism and prayer in schools? Or is he a Libertarian seeking the end of the income tax and government reduced to only two services, international commerce and the military? Is this Democrat in favor of a path to citizenship, but also supports private prisons, or is she looking to legalize marijuana and strengthen the Second Amendment at the same time? We can’t tell based on party affiliation.

Now, the two-party system theoretically serves the middle: because the two parties have to have such broad appeal, they tend towards the center. And thirty or forty years ago, I think that was probably true: but it isn’t now. And before that – say, eighty or a hundred years ago – it also wasn’t true. Way back when it was formed, the Republican party was single-mindedly abolitionist, which was an extreme (albeit correct) position; the Democratic party, in response, was for decades staunchly segregationist and pro-states’-rights. Also not moderate positions. Today, we have one party – I’ll let the reader guess which one – that has discovered that it can motivate its base through extreme and inflexible positions on social issues; in other words, the more extreme and zealous and inflammatory the party gets, the more votes they turn out. The entire party is moving away from the center, and at the same time, becoming more successful, because of it. More successful, that is, at winning elections: they are certainly not more successful at governing, a profession they seem to have cast aside in favor of demogoguery. Meanwhile, the opposition party is trying to maintain its foothold in the middle; but as the other party keeps going farther and farther to one side, the middle drags in that direction – and rather than hold their ground and make the extremists come back, the moderate party is moving with them, and thus also becoming less moderate: while surrendering entirely the side of the political spectrum they were supposed to be watching. I feel like, any minute now, the Democrats are going to turn around and see that a Republican has captured their flag while they were all on the other side, trying to keep an eye on the Republican team – who were having a dance party around their own flag, completely ignoring the Democrats and the entire game, but subtly distracting their whole team so that no one was left to play defense. And somehow, Vince Lombardi was behind it all. Or Ronald Reagan.

The two-party system is also supposed to provide stability: because the parties are predictable, and centrist, and inclusive, and effectively share the electorate, they are forced to compromise, which isn’t terribly hard because their positions aren’t far apart, and so they can respect and agree with each other on most things; any one politician also realizes that his opposition is not going away, and so he has to work with them. Except our parties aren’t providing that, either: instead we get hatred and bile and petty partisanship that blocks everything useful, even stuff that shouldn’t ever be a question, like raising the debt ceiling, or providing for the 9/11 First Responders. Honestly, any government that can’t give those guys health care and a pension that would choke a horse is no kind of government at all.

So that’s what we have: no kind of government at all. The parties have lost their way: rather than improving our democracy, they are hurting it; because their goal is no longer to represent the will of the people, but rather to maintain and expand the power of their party. As long as their party wins, nothing else matters. Politics is become a team sport. The propagandists (You know – the cheerleaders. Though I can’t think of anyone on this Earth who looks less like a cheerleader than Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove.) have taken over, and they have realized that they don’t need to steer their parties towards what the people want; they can make the tail wag the dog, and the party can tell the people what they want. As long as they say they are in favor of what the people are in favor of – this side will ban abortion, that side will close Guantanamo and ensure that women make equal pay for equal work – they don’t actually have to do those things in order to maintain power. And as long as the person says they are a Democrat or a Republican, that’s a win, even if they don’t actually act like it: and so the Republican party will support Donald Trump if he wins the nomination, and the Democratic party will support Bernie Sanders, even though he is a Socialist independent.

I don’t even have to argue that the political system is broken: the race for President – which has already been going on for a full year – will likely come down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump or Ted Cruz. Bernie Sanders will likely not be in the running. (And I have to say: in that scenario, I almost wish that Ted Cruz would win, so that Mitch McConnell could stand up in the Senate and say that his first goal is to ensure that Ted Cruz is a one-term president. I want to see how well Mr. Cruz can do when he can’t blame things on Obama. Although of course he’d keep blaming Obama for everything, anyway.) If the system worked, then Sanders would run as a Socialist, Trump as the head of the shiny new Trump-Solid-Gold Party, Hillary Clinton as a Democrat, Ted Cruz as a member of the Inquisition, and probably Marco Rubio as the Republican. And then we’d have a race, by God. You’d have two actual centrists, Rubio and Clinton, one on the left in Sanders, one on the far right in Cruz, and Trump off on a tangent, somewhere far out in Nutsville.

So how do we change things to achieve that glorious outcome in the future? Well, there are a couple of ways. The first thing is we can bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which required opposing viewpoints to be presented on any television station that aired political views; that, with a certain minimum percentage of votes – say, 5% of the popular vote in any one election cycle – required to gain status as an opposing viewpoint, would allow alternate parties to gain media access, publicity, and a voice in the system. That would be the best thing: allow parties a chance to gain their own foothold, and stop this nonsense where everyone other than a Democrat or Republican is a “third-party candidate,” which is seen almost universally as a wasted vote.

We could also eliminate the one-winner-takes-all election system, and the single-representative system with it. Depending on whether we want more representatives in Congress, it could look like this: the Congress members from a certain state would all run in one general election, with up to as many candidates as there are seats from each party – so in a state with ten Congress seats, there would be ten Republicans, ten Democrats, ten Socialists, etc. – and the popular vote would be divided by percentage. So if 50% of the state voted Republican, 30% Democrat and 20% Socialist, then the state would get five Republican congresspeople, three Democrats, and two Socialists; you could either have the parties choose their reps by caucus, or have a run-off within the party for which candidates get the slots. Alternately, you could run the same system but with multiple candidates from the various parties winning a single “seat,” that is made up of several actual members; though that would greatly increase the number of Congresspeople, and still allow for districts to be gerrymandered. I like the state-by-state bloc voting, personally.

And one other thing is critical: term limits. It is absurd that we don’t already have these in Congress when we have them almost everywhere else, including the Presidency. I’d suggest about a decade for each seat: four two-year terms in Congress, two six-year terms in the Senate. Maximum twenty years in the legislature. And anyone currently past that is out at the next election.

All of us are unhappy with the partisan politics. I have seen this meme several times of late, and I expect to see it even more between now and November.

Screw  the Demopublicrats

We need to fix the system, because the people who are breaking it aren’t going to turn around and fix it, and breaking it even further is not going to magically bring it back around to a good place. Too be specific: Donald Trump will not make America great again. No Republican and no Democrat will.

We the people can. We will. We just have to do it. Now, please.