Thursday, October 4, 2012

Travels with Kevin Part 10: There is No Debating Washington DC is a Great City

Last Friday I started my ten day vacation throughout three cities in the United States, Washington DC, Harrisonburg, Virginia, and Austin, Texas.  The first stop on my vacation, Washington DC. was a stop over before visiting my friend Steven who lives in Harrisonburg.  While I waited for Steven to get off work I spent the day walking around the city going to the different museums, and seeing the different monuments.

This is my third time in DC, my first time there was on a family vacation when I was 14.  My family and I, along with family friends did everything, literally.  My favorite was a private tour from one of our state Senators aids of the Capitol building.  Seeing Arlington Cemetery was also a beautiful experience.

My second visit to our nations capitol was with friends on a road trip.  We had a friend who live in Baltimore and she took us around again to the different monuments.  I had just graduated college, and it was time to experience DC night life and party it up.  This was with my friends Keith, Monica, and Stephanie.  There are more stories to tell, but I will be leaving those out.

On my third visit as I waited for Steven I revisited some of my favorite sites, the Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House.  I have never been in the White house, as a history major I have always dreamed of being in the Oval Office.  I also hit up a couple of the different museums at the Smithsonian, like the National Air and Space Museum.  My favorite museum I visited was the Portrait Gallery, looking at the different paintings was like looking at a slices of our history, and being able to examine their impact on society then and now.

After a day of culture and history I decided to take advantage of happy hour at JRs Bar and Grille a local bar.  A few drinks later my friend Steven found me and we got to hang out for the first time since May.  Steven and I also enjoyed some bottom less Mimosas the next morning before we left on our journey to Harrisonburg...this part of the journey will continue in Part 11.

As I walk away from other aspects of my vacation, and think about my self guided tour of my nations capitol, I am struck with the feeling that we are embroiled within one of the most interesting, and negative elections in recent history.

Throughout the years popular culture has played an ever growing role in the Presidential election.  When did our elected officials become consumed in hitting the talk show circuit, or when did things like Saturday Night live poking fun at politicians start to resonate most?  There is no measurable outcome for this, but there are clear examples of when these things started to have a true genuine impact on our society.

My first memory of a President (well Presidential candidate) was everyone talking about Bill Clinton on the Arsenio Hall Show.  Clinton stopped by the show while campaigning playing his saxophone proving that unlike Bush Sr. he wan everyman that people could relate to, and this sealed the election for him.  Bill Clinton was not the first President to visit late night television, but his visit made this an important part of the campaign trail proving future candidates could use these forums, and even daytime television to reach out to their voting public.

John F. Kennedy went on The Jack Parr Show in 1960, and like Clinton this man appealed to the younger demographics, proving his good looks, charm, and intelligence helped win the election against Vice President elect Richard Nixon.

Nixon needed to prove his "Regular Joe" status in around his 1968 campaign, and went on Rowan and Martin's Laugh In, delivering that famous line "Sock it to Me."  Nixon was seen as a cold, stiff unlikeable guy (much like Mitt Romney) until he went on this program proving he could have fun with the best of them.

After the years past by, Saturday Night Live has become the go to place to not only mock candidates, but for them to show up, and poke fun at themselves.  From Chevy Chase's Gerald Ford, Dana Carvey's George H.W. Bush, Darrell Hammond's Bill Clinton, and Will Ferrell's George W. Bush, and Tina Fey's Sarah Palin these lampooned incumbents or candidates got more and more face time from this show and made their role in politics and popular culture infamous.

Candidates have started to actually on Saturday Night Live as well, John McCain hosted, Sarah Palin came on and was standing next to Tina Fey her dopple-ganger.  These drop-ins have always been great surprises, and have proved one way or another to engage people further and further in the political discourse.

Politics and popular culture can mix quite nicely from The Daily Show and Colbert Report to these fun pop ins on Saturday Night Live, and with Jimmy Fallon, Jay Leno, or the ladies of The View.  While I applaud our current candidates for engaging in a form of discourse that reaches out to people via different media, I often wonder if this takes away from the true process of governing.

With the first debate occurring last night between President Barack Obama, and former Governor Mitt Romeny, it's time to get down to business leave the talk show circuit behind, and get down to the real issues.  The economy, the problems in Syria, health care, education, and many more of the issues on the  docket,   People argue the President looked tired during the debate, wouldn't you if you had to handle all he has to? That's my only liberal comment I promise.

This debate proved a couple things, one people know who they are voting for, whether we want to admit that or not.  Two Mitt Romney wants Big Bird dead,  (alright last thing I promise).  Three, the role of popular culture has a larger impact on the election results than the actual debate that occurred last evening.

In this time of 24/7 news cycle, where people always have to be performing, candidates always have to be at their best and on.  Jon Stewart teases about moments when candidates are not on, calling then "Gotcha Moments."  These moments along with the role of popular culture prove politics has changed, and through this we have to suffer along with the change.

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