Friday, January 27, 2012

The GOP's Bugs Bunny Problem

The GOP’S Bugs Bunny Problem

I have a confession to make.  I’m getting bored with all these debates.

Yes, it’s true, I am a junkie, and I spend an inordinate (and possibly unseemly) amount of time reading every possible scrap of news and opinion.  I get email updates from The Hill, and eagerly await the latest punditry from Larry Sabato.  I revel in gaffes, worry about finger-pointing confrontations, check the polls as if they were returns on a stock portfolio.  I even look at the Iowa Electronic Markets, which runs a Presidential futures exchange.

But, at some point during the second Florida debate, my mind began to wander to Bugs Bunny.  And, while I love Bugs Bunny, that’s not really a good thing for the GOP.

I would vote for Bugs.  He’s smart, he’s resourceful, and he’s verbally and physically agile.  He’s got a sense of humor, but he’s not going to accept abuse (“of course, you realize, this means war!”)

The campaign might be difficult.  I’m not sure he could get on the ballot. Certainly, there would be demands for his long form birth certificate, and an admittedly not completely academic question of what the word “person” meant. There are some who worry about his Brooklyn accent as being too regional, but I think it adds to his authenticity.

I’m assuming Bugs would run as an Independent, which poses challenges for strategists of both parties.  He can be pugnacious when pushed, which might appeal to the neo-con wing of the GOP.  Democrats would also be concerned, because the Right would paint him as a product of Hollywood and a vegetarian, cutting into two critical constituencies.

But, when you compare Buggy’s intellectual prowess and his leadership skills to all the current candidates, I think he poses a real challenge.

Bugs isn’t just clever and resourceful, his foils heighten his appeal.  Daffy Duck is a hyper-competitive and greedy ego-manic.  Yosemite Sam, although strong on the Second Amendment, has some anger management problems that might not show well in a debate.  Elmer Fudd has multiple disabilities; while a hunter, he’s a terrible shot, and he’s conducted a symphony orchestra, and appeared in “What’s Opera Doc” and “Rabbit of Seville”, which calls into question his willingness to end funding for the National Endowment for the Arts.  Elmer did once score a win over Bugs, in 1955’s “Hare Brush” as “Elmer J. Fudd, Millionaire,” but to do so he had to feign madness so as not to get taken to Alcatraz over tax fraud-which may not be a perfect message for this year’s elections.  Finally, mere intellectual firepower may not be enough.  Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, had his customary bruising failures in 1952’s “Operation; Rabbit” and the Evil Scientist in “Water Water, Everywhere” ends up without Bug’s brain for his robot and with an ether hangover.

All these images came to mind as I watched Newt, Mitt, Rick and Ron go for the early bird special last night.   And I think that’s a problem for the GOP, because the debates are beginning to blend into each other.  All their policy points are well known (Obamacare, bad, tax cuts for the wealthy good, marriage good, gay marriage, bad, etc. etc.)   And we know about all their personal miscues (which pretty much seem to cover all seven of the deadly sins.) 

If substance doesn’t matter, because Rick, Newt’s and Mitt’s substance is so similar, and Ron’s is so out there, all we are left with is the gut reaction we have from these folk on any particular night.  Is Mitt going to be cool and unruffled, or is he going to go after Newt?  Will Newt be clever and erudite, or just a hectoring, overbearing bully?  Just how much does Rick have to scowl and slash to get any attention?  And will Ron’s many moments of brilliance be overshadowed by a trip into the odder alleyways of his mind?

Elmer, Daffy, Yosemite, and Wile E. aren’t just cartoons, they are one-dimensional caricatures of particular human frailties.  You can laugh at them, you can even feel sorry for them, but sooner or later, you know something is going to blow up (sometimes literally) in their face.  That’s what all this overexposure is doing to the remaining GOP candidates-they are becoming cartoon cutouts of themselves. 

Perhaps it was fatigue, and perhaps it was my sister’s (who adores the rabbit) upcoming birthday, but at the conclusion of last night’s festivities, I couldn’t help but thinking of Yosemite Sam in “Ballot Box Bunny” (1950).  Sam is running for mayor of a small town and promises to rid the town of all rabbits.  Bugs, needless to say, takes up the challenge, and runs against him.  Sam and Bugs (without the help of Superpacs) engage in continuous one-upmanship.   They try channeling TR, army ants at a picnic, exploding cigars, and booby-trapped pianos.

As you might have guessed (spoiler alert!) there’s an October Surprise. They both lose to a (real) dark horse who becomes the town’s “New Mare” and Sam mutters to end the cartoon, “I hate that rabbit.”

So, as to the future, the next time there’s a debate, spend a few minutes first on YouTube enjoying some cartoons.   And let your kids watch with you-they will have a blast.

Happy Birthday, Meesh