Saturday, September 23, 2006
WHO'S YOUR DADDY?
I know I’m not the first to make this claim, and there are those who are far better informed than I to explicate it, but: We, Americans, are in the midst of a pandemic known as the “daddy” trauma. And we need to get help—quickly.
This can be scene in the best show in town: the 24/7 political theater, which is quickly going into warp drive as we jet into October. Just look at the political advertisements here in CT. Those congressional republicans who face a serious challenge from democratic opposition have the “daddy” fever like no one else. What’s the “daddy” fever? It’s quite simple; it’s the rhetoric of “fear not little ones, I am here to protect you simply because my party and--regarldess if I'm truthful or not--I have said so.” I wish I could say that there was more to it, but that’s the gist of the message and what’s even more frightening: it works.
With one part smear and four parts fear, both Nancy Johnson and Rob Simmons, better known on this blog as Washington Rob, have launched commercials that look like they were produced by the likes of Jerry Bruckheimer of the Armageddon genre—you know, the action-packed, testosterone laden, special effects extravaganza that bedazzles the eyes and does nothing for the mind?
Let’s face it: Johnson takes the academy award for this one. Her newest commercial shows the map of the world, with “phone-links” allegedly between her opponent Chris Murphy and some random-ass terrorist in Pakistan, suggesting that Murphy talks to the terrorist, when in reality Murphy merely supports the federal FISA law as written: to do random phone-tapping, the federal government needs to get a court order within 72 hours of initiating such a program. Let me break it down for you: Murphy supports the law whereas Johnson does not, as does our favorite little chimp, W. But this is not about truth; this is not about reality. This is about who’s your daddy. Put simply, it’s about perception management, and, our gal Nancy looks like a better, stronger, ass-kicking Daddy. And poor law-abiding Chris looks like, well, a whimp.
Washington Rob, whom my republican friends keep insisting is a nice man, jumped on the Daddy Wagon recently with gusto. I have been telling the Courtney campaign that they need to turn aggressive and stay aggressive. But no. Albeit Joe Courtney gave a respectable performance in his debate with Washington Rob on Monday evening and can easily come off as a bulldog, Rob has got that formidable “daddy" fever that transfixes and controls. From the get-go, Rob cleverly conflated the war in Iraq with the war on terrorism—surprise! surprise! He then quickly referred to the McCourt mother and child, New London residents, who lost their lives on 9/11, with a grieving paternal tone, a despicable, disgraceful move on this part. And then he discussed how he has been responsible for saving the sub base from closure. This was just in his opening remarks; and you can see and hear the “daddy" fever all over the place. Who cares that time and time again, the links between Iraq and the 9/11 have been disputed, disputed, and disputed? Who cares if people invoke the deaths of 9/11 for political gain and exploitation; they’ll just say they are paying homage to those who lost their lives? Who cares if it was a delegation of Connecticut politicians, both state and federal, both republican and democrat, who were responsible for saving the sub base? Washington Rob and Oedipus Lieberman, another “daddy" fever addict, just want to claim it for themselves, regardless of the facts that both Electric Boat and Pfizer, Inc., have been laying off left, right, and center. Simmons, quite frankly, only got better as an “our father” in his closing remarks, when making one claim after another he turned to Joe Courtney, and in a condescending tone rhetorically asked if Joe could do a better job. While Simmons’s television ads pale in comparison to Daddy Johnson's, the message is the same. What’s slightly scarier, though, is Daddy Washington Rob is seen outside EB, shaking workers’ hands, as they leave the yard: only if people were focusing on the real truth that hundreds of workers have, in fact, really left the yard due to layoffs. A sad reality. But Daddy Washington Rob makes it all look better.
What is it with this daddy trauma? Reports have abounded that W. has had a long history of daddy trauma of his own; everyone knows that it was Jeb whom Momma and Daddy Bush had pegged for the White House, not chimpy. Everybody knows that chimpy was a big fuck-up pretty much all his life until he was reborn. Everybody knows that W. likes to look tough, masculine and…a bit like Tom Cruise in Top Gun to make such declarations that our missions are accomplished. But just like with Cruise, we all know deep down, an enormous disparity exists between the surface daddy and, well, the daddy in the closet. And let’s not even consider the strange, surrogate daddy relationships W. has with Darth Cheney and Lunatic Rummy. It’s daddy trauma overload!
Don’t mistake me: I think the “daddy” thing works for republicans. This is why I suspect that there will not be this tsunami wave of democratic take-over in November; it isn’t going to happen. There may be some gains. But the “daddy" fever taps into peoples’ unconscious fears and desires to blind them to the truth. It lulls them into feeling safe, secure and aligned with people who look like they know better simply because they claim to know better.
But there’s something enormously problematic about the “daddy" fever, and we can only sustain this cultural headache for so long. Just take a look at Jodi Rell’s political ads to know the difference: unlike her republican colleagues, Rell comes off as the good witch from the west. She uses no fear; she seems like you want to invite her to your house for tea; she refers to being “part” of the team that saved the sub base; and, well, she makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. That’s right: I am predicting a big Rell win in November. DeStefano doesn’t stand a chance. But what’s interesting here, though, is for all the dark and negative attributes of “daddy" fever that Daddy Johnson and Daddy Washington Rob have, our beloved Jodi has gone to the opposite pole--the good mother—and it works.
Because we’ve nursed the “daddy" fever for so long in American politics, because we’ve been like that speaker in Sylvia Plath’s poem “Daddy”—symbolically living in a black shoe seeing enemies all over the place, because the “daddy" fever has become so epidemic and has caused seismic rifts in the electorate, I can’t help but think if and when the paradigm will ever change?
Plato believed that a state was in part a direct reflection of those who lead that state and served as a paradigm for those who followed. In light of this consideration, are we doomed with more “daddy" fever because W. can’t appropriate his “daddy issues”? Are there too many “daddies” around him to swing the pendulum back to the center? Or is it that just maybe we need different daddies and some good mothers in the mix so that the center can and will hold?
Posted by sptmck at 8:23 AM