Friday, March 28, 2008

Politics on The Runway

By Cody Lyon

Each week, countless fans of Bravo Television’s smart reality show, Project Runway, get a kick out of hearing Heidi Klum, in her pronounced German accent say, “you’re out” to the losing contestant of the competition.

But before the final rendering, in the final moments on the program, viewers are treated to a fashion show, this being the moment when competitors parade their gowns, dresses or suits before the judges, often constructed under the most difficult situations.

The contestants represent, as models strut down the runway while Nina Garcia, Heidi and Michael Kors all take notes and then offer sometimes stinging critiques, building the drama for the commercial break, and when viewers return, Klum makes her final analysis and bids auf wiedersehen to one unlucky contestant.

At its very fundament, fashion is taking something ordinary and making it fabulous. Beneath all of that creation is fantasy and interestingly enough, it is fantasy that has bled into current day Democratic Party politics, fantasy that could potentially lead voters astray under the assumption that if you can’t beat them, join them, all in the name of party unity.

The beauty of Project Runway is that we the viewers get to watch, as contestants struggle with all manner of seemingly impossible obstacles to construct creations, utilizing everything from curtains to plants, sewn, stapled or taped together under what seem to be impossible time frames. The contestants argue, back stab or team up on each other often while dealing with personal drama, but in the end, they produce and dazzle or disappoint us with their end products.

Sometimes, these same patterns emerge in political races. But, at least on Project Runway, the final goodbye is saved for after the runway show. In the case of the contest between Hillary and Barack, the runway is still occupied and the show goes on, but, fantasy seeds of an already rendered final decision have been planted by some who would bid one candidate goodbye.

As has been widely witnessed, calls by pundits, some Democratic leaders and other people with platforms are being made for Hillary Clinton to step aside so that the prematurely anointed candidate Barack Obama, can have free reign over the direction of the upcoming general campaign against Republican John McCain.

According to a number of those calling for a Clinton departure, this longer than expected campaign is “dividing” the Democratic Party and hurting chances for a victory against John McCain and the Republican 527 machine of dirty politics sure to emerge in November.

Howard Dean, chairman of the national party, has called on both sides to stop being personal, to cool it with the bickering, yet, as anyone can read, the nastiness continues throughout the web and elsewhere as members of the media engage in what Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post called, “Open season” on Hillary.

But as Kurtz pointed out in his March 28 column, while 22 percent of Obama supporters say Clinton should leave the race, the same amount, 22 percent of Clinton supporters, feel the same about Obama, and that he should be the one who drops out, according to a Ramussen poll of Democratic voters.

In other words, while many in the media have given the Obama side a bullhorn in telling Hillary to hit the road, the reality on the ground seems to say otherwise, and apparently, that is what is keeping Hillary’s engines revved up for the prolonged battle in this truly close race.

Add that to what appears to be convenient lack of outrage over the Florida and Michigan delegate issue which would have closed any sense of a gap in the contest further.

One would think that whole issue was “settled”, at least according to the dearth of outrage from editorialists and pundits over what could prove to be one of the biggest cases of democratic party voter disenfranchisement ever, a case that has already sewn seeds of resentment in those swing states that will haunt Obama moreso than a loud Rev. Wright sermon, that is, if his supporters do indeed prevail in kicking Hillary out of the sandbox.

As Senator Obama told a voter this past March 20 who’d ask him when he’d get to vote for him in Michigan, a “re-do vote is very complicated.”

Indeed it would, but, what will prove more complicated is the convincing of those voters that you have their best interest in mind in November, especially after you did very little to see to it that their voices were heard in a Democratic primary, not some pre arranged caucus "arrangement" where the younger grass roots types prevail.

As some Democratic voters sit back and watch all of this unfold before their eyes, they wonder, should they too engage in the sort of shrill tactics being served up online and elsewhere over their displeasure at the sort of fantasy politics being sold them by some of the purveyors information?

Does the fact that Hillary Clinton won in big states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California, states that Democrats won in 2004 general election, serve as a realistic reminder that pushing Clinton out would do very little for party unity and that her victory in Manhattan serves as a note to the news folks, Clinton’s base also includes well read “latte liberals?”

Does the fact that Hillary won primaries in the crucial swing states like Ohio, and yes, Florida, give room for pause in the crusade to kick Clinton off the team?

And, what about Pennsylvania where she now leads in double digits?

The judges are still writing on their cards, the runway is still occupied with two models of American democracy and guess what, they both deserve to be heard until the final auf wiedersehen is pronounced by voters not pundits.

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