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As you well know by now, the host of NBC’s “Meet the Press”, Tim Russert, died quite suddenly of a heart attack on Friday the 13th. two days before Father’s Day. To say the news came as a total shock would be quite the understatement. No noticeable outward signs of any chronic health problem to prepare us, and his own father still alive at age 89, for the MtP host to suddenly drop dead of a heart attack while at work at age 58 caught everyone by surprise, and I’m not ashamed to admit getting a little choked up listening to the numerous broadcasts memorializing him. Amazing since I really wasn’t that big a fan. Oh sure, I watched him ritualistically every Sunday morning for over a decade, but I deplored the way he rarely asked follow-up questions or often let obvious lies go unchallenged. I attend The Church of Sunday Morning News Talkshows, every week, praying at the altar of NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s This Week, squeezing in some of CBS’s Face the Nation… opposite MtP… when the subject turned dull, and even woke early to watch Fox News Sunday (seeing how the Right spins things and ignores subjects they’d rather not deal with is a sight to behold). Politics is to me what sports are to athletes. The Primaries are my playoffs and Election Night my Super Bowl. The sudden death (no pun intended) of Russert in the middle of “the playoffs” would be like Jim McKay dying in the middle of The Triple Crown (what? he did? yikes!) A bad month for newscasters.

But this weeks column isn’t about Russert. My father is a Conservative. Listens to Rush Limbaugh every day, collects guns, has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, and voted for George Bush twice (and though he hates the man now, will probably still vote for McCain). When I asked him if he heard about Tim Russert, he simply shrugged and didn’t understand what the big deal was. My sister, with little care for politics or political matters, is recently divorced from an alcoholic redneck Republican (that *still* defends George Bush), and being seeped in that culture for a decade, my sister is a “passive-Republican”. She repeats the GOP Party line, forwards attack emails smearing Barack Obama with innuendo… racial and otherwise… about how he is a secret Muslim, and the huge crowds he draws are reminiscent of Hitler… you know the drill… but doesn’t vote (not that I’m aware). She had to take in a border last April to cover her rising expenses, with a new house, rising energy bills, and rising food costs, but doesn’t connect any of it to the people she supports running Washington. She’s an Evangelical, and supports the warmonger because the Democrat wants to kill babies.

During the 1980 Presidential election, two-time loser making his third run at the Presidency, California Governor and former Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan posed the quintessential question that every election now boils down to:

“Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”


 
While I’ve always thought that was a great line, I never truly understood its significance until now. Republicans don’t like detail. Keep it simple. Just boil it down to the most basic principle possible: “We’re good, they’re evil.” “We’ll cut your taxes, they’ll raise your taxes” and “We believe in God, they want to let gays perform abortions on Flag Day.” Republicans don’t want to hear about “policy” or “why we need to do X because of Y”, they want something as simple as they are that can fit in a Greeting Card. Like a caveman, “Taxes bad! He cut taxes while HE raise taxes! Me vote for guy #1.” If caveman had his way, the tax rate would be zero. Then when his streets fall apart, his bridges collapse, and the police or fire department don’t come when he calls, he blames the Democrats because they’ll go into “detail” on why you need to give “them” more money, allowing Republicans to swoop in and tell them exactly what they want to hear… “You can have low taxes AND 5-star quality government services. We’ll just add it to The Debt.” “Deficits don’t really matter, right?” Don’t bother trying to *explain* to a Conservative just *why* deficits matter. You might as well be Charlie Brown’s school teacher, for all they hear is: “whut whaa, wha whaa-whaa, whaaa”.

Over the weekend, I saw the first half of a mediocre 2007 movie entitled “Idiocracy“. The premise of the movie was something we’ve all been noticing in recent years: society seems to be getting dumber and dumber. The opening three minutes of Idiocracy sums up the plot nicely: basically, intelligent responsible adults plan their pregnancies and have only as many children as they can support, while unintelligent, irresponsible morans have eight and nine kids without regard for the circumstances. As per the movie’s premise, quickly, the number of children born into poor dumb families outpaces the number of children born to intelligent responsible parents, resulting in the dumbing down of the global population. A dead-average military slacker (played by Luke Wilson) is made part of an experiment in cryogenics (freezing) and finds himself 500 years in a the future, now the most intelligent man on the planet, in a country populated by morons.

The path of least resistence is to be spoon-fed what to think. Learning about the issues takes work. Understanding them requires still more. Republicans know this, so they live & die by the “sound bite”. Everything is boiled down to three monosyllabic grunts: “Guns, God & Gays”. Think about all the times you’ve heard Conservatives rant about “elitist” “Latte sipping” Democrats. They complain about “Liberal colleges” that “convert” students into dreaded “Liberals“. And this works because Conservatives that “don’t like detail” probably didn’t go to college either and resent those who do. Growing up in a Conservative family, I considered myself a Republican, though if you had asked me, I probably disagreed with them on most every issue (the power of branding). College didn’t “convert me” into a Liberal, becoming educated and paying attention did.

Barack Obama will win the November election, but it will have less to do with people understanding his policies or agreeing with him on the issues than it has to do with people that ask themselves Reagan’s famous question:

“Are you better off today than you were four years ago?”

That’s a concept even Republicans can understand.

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