This year Jordan Carlos and I covered every rocky pothole of the road to the White House. It certainly was an educational experience! I'm not sure what Jordan learned (I think he tries to block a lot of it out), but this is what I learned.
THE REPUBLICAN PRIMARY
I learned that sometimes everyone loses. It's simple math.
* Herman Cain represented all the overly-ambitious pizza restaurant managers who are eventually fired because they get inappropriate with one of the servers in the parking lot. (0.0009% of U.S. population)
* Rick Santorum was the symbolic champion of every unlikeable student council secretary who's bragged about his ACT score during a break at Mock U.N. (0.0010% of U.S. population)
* Michele Bachmann gave voice to all the women in America who accidentally marry gay men because they’ve never taken a theater course. (0.0016% of U.S. population)
* Rick Perry was popular with fans of George W. Bush. (0%. Literally nobody at all.)
* Jon Huntsman was popular among United States diplomats. (0.00007% of U.S. population)
* Newt Gingrich was a big hit with fat, angry, rich white guys who have been married a bunch of times and treat people like shit. (11% of U.S. population)
* And then there was Mitt Romney. He positioned himself as the candidate for people who were for or against various things at certain times depending on where you are and… well, let me ask you: where do you stand on the issue? (Unquantifiable. Infinity? Negative fifty percent?)
In retrospect, the Republican candidates were much too focused and specific in their appeal. Perhaps one of them should have aimed for a wider demographic, like "Latinos" or "dog owners."
￼THE REPUBLICAN NATIONAL CONVENTION
Watching the speeches, I learned that Republicans are perversely proud of being inarticulate. Mike Huckabee was so stiff on stage he appeared to be an animatronic mannequin from Disneyland's Hall of People Who Will Never Ever Be President.
From Clint Eastwood I learned a very special lesson. Never let an 82-year-old man talk for as long as he wants about whatever he wants on the biggest night of your life. We don't let my grandma do that at Thanksgiving. She'll say something like "We used to have a word for Italians. We used to call them–" and we just stuff a spoonful of cranberry sauce in her mouth. I guess Mitt Romney didn't have any cranberry sauce.
THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
I learned that one time a kid was sick and/or died and two or three speeches about sick/ dead kids is de rigueur at a political rally. It's not just a cheap bid for sympathy. It is totally relevant.
I learned that if you’re going to put a movie star on stage, Scarlett Johansson is more aesthetically pleasing than Eastwood, if not quite as entertaining. Turns out looking good in a skintight leather catsuit means you get to voice political opinions! (I have started working out.)
I learned from Bill Clinton's speech that he still wishes he was president. There was a subtext there. He almost screamed "I'm BACK, BABY!" at one point. It's kind of sad. Being president of the United States is a horrible, unrewarding, psychologically-damaging job. If Clinton's life sucks more than having to hang out with Vladimir Putin, it must be dismal indeed.
From Obama and Biden's speeches I learned that it's possible to segue right from saying you love your wife into reminding everyone that you helped murder Osama bin Laden. Impressive! The Democratic ticket is salty and sweet.
I learned that a candidate can alienate 47% of the entire population of the country and still win a presidential debate.
I learned from the first debate that Barack Obama will not resort to cheap ploys like smiling, showing emotion or acting like he wants the job.
I learned the main criterion for picking people to ask questions in a town hall debate is: "Does this person look like he or she is living through an economic meltdown?" The secondary criterion is "Can this person look like he or she is living through an economic meltdown?"
I learned you can lie in a debate and nobody will call you on it. Nobody will even agree whether or not you lied. I learned there is no truth! There is only a web of lies!
I learned I might be depressed. I'm looking into it.
I learned that people are still looking for something new, even if something new is four years old.
Photos by Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images; Washington Post/Getty Images; Washington Post/Getty Images; Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
Tags: Barack Obama, Democratic National Convention, Democrats, Indecision Delegates, Mitt Romney, Republican National Convention, Republicans