Primary Colors...Will Tuesday really be Super?

John J. Hopkins Feb. 2, 2008, 5:15am


In the election season 1996, the parlor game du jour was guessing the true identity of the author of the runaway best seller, "Primary Colors," originally listing mysterious "Anonymous" as its author.

By the time the movie came out in 1998 it was revealed that Newsweek contributor Joe Klein was the nom de plume responsible for this lightly fictionalized account of the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton.

With dead-on performances by John Travolta, Kathy Bates, Emma Thompson, and especially Billy Bob Thornton as the James Carville character, the movie was a terrific piece of political satire, which unfortunately, came out right at the outset of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, dooming it to box office famine, perhaps the earliest recorded case of so-called, "Clinton fatigue."

The story deals with the presidential quest of one Jack Stanton, aka Bill Clinton, the sitting governor of an unnamed southern state. (Side Bar trivia question: While the actual state is never revealed, there is one clear and unmistakable hint at the very end of the film. Guesses anyone? E-mail your responses).

Governor Stanton decides to run for the White House, gathering a staff of advisers, headed up by his long suffering wife Susan, aka Hillary. Governor Stanton's excess appetites, culinary and sexual, are brought out repeatedly by Travolta in Stanton complete with the gravelly voice accent, the one that all Clinton imitators like to employ.

But the movie really belongs to Emma Thompson in the Susan/Hillary role, as she goes through all the ranges of emotion -- true pain at the revelations of the candidate's multiple infidelities, the rage of "Hell to Pay" for the staff, to finally, the face of Machiavellian ruthlessness as the campaign must deal with dirty laundry dug up on a political rival. While the movie ultimately ends on a high note, the overall tone is of a political machine that stops at nothing short of total victory.

Super Tuesday, the closest thing to a national primary that we have, descends on America Feb. 5 -- Mardi Gras day. Let the Good Times Roll! Fitting, I guess, that after we indulge the political sweet tooth we must pay with 40 days of Lenten sacrifice.

Unfortunately, it seems that many voters are suffering from what one commentator called "Electial Dysfunction," the inability to get aroused by any candidate.

What was once thought to be an open horse race, is now down to two contenders on both sides of the aisle. Long shot candidate John Edwards has given up the ghost. Somewhere, a very expensive barber sheds a tear.

Long time early front runner Rudy Giuliani is also out, the day after the third place showing in Florida.

Put the chip on Number 17, and let it ride. Sorry, Mr. Mayor, you're busted.

So it is down to Clinton/Obama for the Democrats, the choice between the Ice Queen and the Fresh Prince, with the once (and perhaps future) King on the sidelines leading the cheers. Clear choices it seems between action and dreams.

While I may drift in the General Election, I will be taking a Demo ballot this Tuesday, my choices being limited as they have been.

From my perspective, this is a rip, a cheat, a poor imitation of the promised sensory overload for political junkies.

The vast, vast majority of Americans have not had the opportunity to express their desires, the chance snatched away by an unrepresentative group of farmers in Iowa, cooks in Nevada or retirees in Florida. Despite moving the date up more than a month, it appears that the Illinois primary will not shout about the nominee, but just whisper.

Perhaps a better way, if things are going to be so front loaded, would be to couple up a few of the early ones -- Iowa and Missouri, North and South Carolina, for example.

No matter in the long run, as the 2008 race is about leadership, in reality the public's hunger for true and realistic leadership, the kind that delivers on promises made, a rare and all too scarce commodity. The desire for a hero, a real hero, one who's metal has been tested in the crucible of fire, is the search for the political Holy Grail.

In this thinned out herd, the real thoroughbreds can be easily spotted. In this primary season, one in which racism -- voting FOR a candidate because of race, and sexism -- voting FOR a candidate because of gender, have been most rampant, it might be wise to look beyond the superficial, to look again into what Dr. King called the "content of their character."

It is by such analysis that we all are best served.

Closer to home and to the selected profession, the race for the Appellate Court is a micro version of the Experience vs. Change theme on the national level, and it is likewise a false dichotomy.

Incumbent Wexstten cites his years on the bench and claims that challenger Cates, having never worn the robe, is less qualified.

The truth is that some of the best justices of the court, to wit, George Moran, Sr. and Joseph Goldenhersh never spent one day on the bench prior to their respective elections to the 5th District.

Conversely, Cates alleges the undue influence of politics in the race, citing Wexstten's endorsements by political organizations are the hand of the "power brokers" in the Court, a charge that is also false, as such event only represents the flaws of a scheme that elects in the first place.

The flaw is not in the Man, but the system. The focus of reform should shine therefore where it belongs.

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