Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Shot by Shot: Gather Your Armies

OK. First of all, we Californians are in no position to mock political loonies residing beyond the Golden State. At least we can't mock 'em too much. After all, we're the proud home of Carly Fiorina, the otherwise implausible candidate whose "Demon Sheep" spot helped secure her party's nomination for the upcoming California senate race.

That's right, voters in my home state met in solemn deliberation last week and concluded that a failed CEO with no legislative experience, a novice who portrayed her opponent as a creepy glowing-red-eyed animal impersonator, represents the GOP's best hope to beat Barbara Boxer this fall. That's why Left Coasties can't get too smug about goofy campaign spots running elsewhere. California is kind of a joke.

But whenever we get too despondent about the state of our politics, all that Mickey Mouse silliness, we can at least thank God for one small favor:

At least there's Alabama.

As you may have heard, Alabama is blessed with an earnest GOP congressional candidate named Rick Barber who has lately dragooned the Founding Fathers into his Tea Party campaign against Liberal Tyranny. His website adds that he's also challenging a Republican incumbent who represents the Old Establishment, but Barber's latest campaign spot ignores his immediate foe within the Right Wing. He's after a more insidious threat gathering from the Left.

Meeting in a tavern with Samual Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington (presumably having just arrived from plowing a Dodge Challenger into a terrified brigade of British Red Coats) Barber outlines the causes belli for a new American Revolution, this time against King Obama. Of course he must first get the oldsters up to speed. After all, Old-Old Establishmentarians can't be transformed into Republicans so quickly. They must first learn about the new enemy within.

Wearing an aw-shacks-plaid shirt that's unbuttoned at the neck, Barber begins with common cause, the fact that most of the men present have run bars. "Sam, you were a brewer," he says. "Mr. President, a distiller" (just in case Washington forgot). "You know how tough it is to run a small business without a tyrannical government on your back."

It's a smart strategy: reminding the Founders of their shared Main Street roots.

Then, with the rat-a-tat of drums pounding in the background, Barber warns his eighteenth-century brethren about the rising threat of ObamaCare.

"You'll love this," the candidate says, girding himself to drop the hammer.

Turns out, the IRS is poised to cram government-run health care down our throats, thanks to those stinking liberals in Congress. Our backs against the wall, we will be forced to swallow the slime of costly regulations and malicious audits; we'll even be commanded to spy on ourselves, sucked into abject subservience by Washington D.C.'s all-powerful bureaucracy. "Or else," Barber ominously intones.

The men listen, struggling to take it all in. Benjamin turns his gaze, pale; he's stunned at what he hears. Adams is quicker to understand, nodding with awareness of just how bad it's gotten in America. Silent but not entirely inscrutable, Washington taps his bony fingers, a pistol close at hand.

It's time for a decision. But what will the Founding Fathers do?

Barber reminds the men how he swore an oath to defend the Constitution, smacking a finger against a yellowed parchment copy atop the Stars and Stripes.

At this point, I should add that Alabama viewers have repeatedly heard how the candidate completed one tour as a Marine Corps data systems analyst in Japan during the 1990s. And while he now runs a billiards parlor (which is kind of like one of those revolutionary taverns, I guess), Rick Barber isn't afraid to affirm that he's armed for a new battle, this time with real guns.

So we return to the tavern. The drum beat revs up to a martial cadence as the candidate picks up the pace, nearly yelling at the troops. His frustration is personal; the cause is nothing less than biblical. They've waited long enough. We've waited long enough: "I can't stand by while these evils are perpetrated." Now comes the call to action.

"You gentlemen revolted over a tea tax." He spits those words out again: "A tea tax!"

"Now look at us!"

I don't know if Barber is more frustrated by how easy the founders had it against those tea-sipping Brits, or how hard it is to connect the Founding Fathers' Tea Party with his own. Either way, the 35-year-old GOP candidate for Alabama's District 2 GOP runoff stares those proud patriots down. He will brook no more delays.

"Are you with me?"

George Washington glares. The gravity of the man, his glum reserve, weighs on the room. The general's rock-hard chin is poised upon his hand. Our most eminent Founding Father considers his options, seemingly lost in thought. Perhaps he recalls another momentous decision back in 1791 when he levied taxes on spirits to help repay our nation's war debts, only to face the Whiskey Rebellion that followed.

Or maybe Washington broods on still darker times, drifting further back to those savage years of war against King George. All that ferocity, all those damnable decisions that cost so many lives. He served his time, he fulfilled his duty, and longs to return to his farm, a citizen before all titles. Yet he cannot avoid the obligation before him.

The time has come, bridging memories of those bad old days into modern times. End times, we might imagine. Our first Commander-in-Chief has taken the measure of princes and kings, and he is prepared to determine the fitness of a new warrior seeking to enter the ancient ranks of founding patriots. There's nothing else left to do, really.

At last the general speaks, his words conveying the steely menace of a man who led soldiers through hell and thereafter forged a nation of free people. Ever the meticulous Virginia planter, our nation's greatest planner, George Washington gives each syllable enough time and space to merit its own towering wall of granite posterity:

"Gather... Your... Armies."

Again, thank God for Alabama. At least California is not alone in plunging off the deep end of American politics.


Andrea said...

Yeah, I would say that does kind of beat the rabid-demonic sheep ad...and I would love to show it in my classroom, but I am afraid that the new Texas history standards would not let me. :) Too funny! And what scares me is that he is taking this and will actually win some people over with it? At least it gives me something to shoot for: educate my 8th graders enough that they will laugh at this, rather than be sucked into supporting him. Thank you for posting, Andy!

Andrew Wood said...

I think it'd be so cool for you to turn a few of this year's remarkable campaign ads - on both sides of the aisle - into teaching moments. I know you can make it "fair and balanced." :-)

Zaki said...

Great post, Andy. This is one of the most bizarre things I've seen in quite awhile as far as regional politics go. The staggering level of self-righteousness (and self-delusion!) it takes to presume the intent of the founding fathers is really something to behold.

Andrew Wood said...

So glad you liked the post, Zaki! While writing this, I imagined a bit of what you might be thinking.