In a perfect world, all voters would have the time and intelligence to sit down and pore over a politician's background and stances on issues. But this is America, dammit, and we like our news the way we like our food: fast and kind of disgusting. That's why every election, politicians keep serving us up the same crap -- stuff that has nothing to do with their ability to lead. And we keep swallowing it down as if Burger King just released a new Frankenfood.
7Using Someone's Death To Advance An Agenda
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I graduated high school and college with a woman called Kate Steinle. If that name sounds vaguely familiar to you, it's because last year she was shot and killed by an undocumented immigrant in San Francisco. Since then, some politicians, particularly Donald Trump, have used her death to try to provoke fear in people that all undocumented immigrants are in fact rapists and killers, as if crossing a border without permission acts as the necessary serum to turn Dr. Jekylls into Senor Hydes.
The guy from Fantasy Island tried to warn us.
I'm calling bullshit. Now, Kate and I were not close by any means. We probably only said a few words to each other, ever. But I was in her orbit for long enough to recognize, for the first time, that the random name a politician was throwing around had been attached to an actual person, and not a cartoon character who came complete with "boing" sounds when she dropped things. It pissed me off, and even affected our class's ability to mourn:
Her brother wasn't having it either, going on CNN and telling Anderson Cooper, "Donald Trump talks about Kate Steinle like he knows her. I've never heard a word from his campaign manager, I've never heard a word from him. It's disconcerting. I don't want to be affiliated with someone who doesn't have the common courtesy to reach out and ask about Kate, and our political views and what we want."
It's especially upsetting because lost in the noise of using a pretty young woman's death as a political lightning rod is the fact that it might have been a tragic accident, not the cold-blooded killing it was made out to be.
But I can't be hypocritical about this. I support Hillary Clinton, so I was thrilled when the sister of Chris Stevens, the ambassador killed in Benghazi, came out and said that her family didn't blame Clinton for Stevens's death. But now I hope she never uses that to try to deflect any blame people try to place on her. He was just as real as Kate Steinle, and I'll never know how he would have felt. Or if he would have made "boing" sounds when he dropped things. Sorry, I've been watching a lot of Cartoon Network lately.
6Their Parents' Or Grandparents' Jobs
I'd like to tell you about my grandmother. She is a great woman, who was widowed young and raised three boys on her own in one of the poorest areas of rural Kentucky, all while holding down a job cooking meals at the local hospital and practicing her ninja spin kicks. This information has not affected my life in any real way, but if I ever decide to run for office, that shit right there is gold.
Politicians love to talk about their parents and grandparents. And that's fine, to an extent. After all, they shaped us into who we are, be it beacons of hope for America or bloviating turd-burglars. But there comes a point where it stops being about how proud you are of your family and becomes a competition to see whose relatives had it the hardest.
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"Cheer up, kid. Your son's probably a six-term senator."
You see this all the time in debates. One by one, the candidates will bring up the tragic backstory of a parent or grandparent, each one trying to outdo the other. Here's Ted Cruz from one of this year's many Republican debates, talking about how his father left Cuba with just a hundred dollars IN HIS UNDERWEAR and then took a job washing dishes for 50 cents an hour.
It's a good thing he included that underwear detail. Without it, how would people know what to think about Cruz's plan to balance the budget?
You have to walk a fine line, though. You want your relative to have been poor, but not on welfare or any other government programs. No being homeless or anything too tragic, either. Dignified poverty, if you will. And if you have a relative who actually did well for themselves? Unless you're a Bush or a Clinton or a Romney and can't get away with hiding it, don't mention those people. Apparently, there is a hierarchy of jobs that are more "American," with barely-above-the-poverty-line blue collar ones being the best.