Wednesday, October 23, 2013

An Act?

In the world of entertainment, a longstanding tactic for getting the audience on your side is to not appear to be very smart. I can't say where or when it started, but Shakespeare used it in certain stress-relieving scenes in his tragedies. In our day, Jerry Seinfeld played the dumb-guy-trying-to-seem-smart role to perfection, and today's cable schedule is jammed with characters who make a good living appearing to be dumb. Larry the Cable Guy, The Duck Dynasty folks, and other neo- fools doing things like repo-ing cars, shooting gators, hunting razorbacks, or digging for gold all appear dumb as dirt every week when we tune them in.
And, yes, there seems to be less and less separating political figures from other celebrity genres. Reagan didn't become California governor based on his leadership of the Screen Actors Guild, and the list goes on and on. I'm not even saying these folks were bad public servants. I am saying that, in certain times and places, Larry the Cable Guy has a better chance of being elected than the local Nobel Laureate who bagged the prize for his stunning economic analysis. The tactic didn't quite work for George Wallace (though he did win electoral votes in deep Southern states in 1968), nor for Herman Cain, who's probably no less brilliant than the average pizza company CEO. In a crowded field, someone is likely to play the "dumb, but lovable" card.
That brings us to Ted Cruz. It's hard to remember someone becoming so well known so quickly while appearing to make so many enemies, even within his own party. People who have known him professionally more than a short time all say the man is darn smart. I believe that, because, unlike stupidity, smart is something you can't fake, at least not in the long term. And, truthfully, Cruz' public persona isn't so much "I'm just a dumb old boy.". It's more like "I'm like Jimmy Stewart in that movie. I know those other guys here are crooks, and I don't care what they think of me. If YOU think they're crooks, too, then join me! You don't know it yet, but I'm running for president. I'm against anything ever endorsed by Barack Obama, and I know you are too, whereas these GOP squishes and RINOs around here only pretend to hate him. What am I for? Who cares! I'm just saying join me, or someone will be taking your gun and throwing you in jail if you try saying something nasty about Hillary. And I'll tell you why my brilliant plan for shutting down the government didn't work. My own party turned out to be gutless wimps! All you non-wimps, join me!"
The message looks like a long shot for carrying Senator C. to the White House, but, hey, doesn't everyone start as a long shot?  No, I don't like the guy either, but I think I see a little method to his madness. And it's not as though the GOP is crawling with presidential types these days. Cruz might be smart enough to fool part of the people all of the time.      


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