Having read The Way to Win last night, a refreshingly apartisan account of the political strategies of the two “geniuses” of our time, Clinton and Rove, I was pleased that the authors summarized the nature of modern politics so succinctly with the phrase “Freak Show.” Their contention is that we’ve evolved the campaign from mudslinging to an outright technological media arms race. One by one, the failings of Gore and Kerry’s strategies to defeat a foe that seemed less articulate, less capable, less experienced, and less ambitious than them are expounded.
The brilliance of Rove’s polls-be-damned approach, or Clinton’s muddling of party loyalties, how they succeed despite our preconceptions of how a political campaign should work, how what we think is a right-wing media contra was actually an old guard manipulated by Bush’s neo-conservative movement, it all makes for an engaging read. Whether it’s Clinton or Rove you consider a malevolent architect of corrupt administrations, or both of them in my case, you can’t help but appreciate the the wealth of knowledge and understanding embodied in these two forces of 2400 Penn.
In the end, nothing is new about Freak Show politics, only its migration from a blunt tact to subversive science. For us, the chess pieces caught in the whirl of Washington’s gambits, the stark, existential playground of this independent one-man game Limbo feels so familiar. Watch the teaser, its abject desolation, its blacks and whites and greys, its determined abstractions, is rife with hope. Come the next election, perhaps a candidate will rise from the dark and seize on that hope. Until then, the throngs grow more disenchanted, and I expect voter turnout to drown in the wasteland.