If Republicans Want Young Voters, Maybe They Should Just Stop Being Bigots
The Republicans want me to vote for them. The GOP hasn’t talked to me yet personally, but a couple weeks ago they released a long report all about their well-documented failure to attract young people to their “brand” (Obama had a 5 million–voter edge among Americans under 30) and possible ways to solve that problem. I’m likely one of the voters they want to persuade—I’m young, I don’t particularly like the Democrats, and I didn’t vote for Obama last year. I agree to some extent with a lot of stuff Republicans say they’re in favor of, like limited government, letting state and local governments make their own laws, and a simpler tax system. If a Republican candidate for president was, say, opposed to the war on drugs and government surveillance programs, and in favor of closing prisons, I wouldn’t dismiss him out of hand, as I think a bunch of my liberal friends would.
The report documenting what the GOP can do to attract young voters, titled “Grand Old Party of a Brand New Generation,” lists several ways that Republicans can reach out to voters. “Capture the brand attributes of intelligence, hard work, and responsibility” is one, “Focus on the economic issues that affect young people today,” is another; there’s also a lot in there about how the party needs to be better with technology and social media. Then there’s this:
“On the ‘open-minded’ issue, yes, we will face serious difficulty so long as the issue of gay marriage remains on the table. In the short term, the party ought to promote the diversity of thought within its ranks and make clear that we welcome healthy debate on the policy topic at hand. We should also strongly oppose the use of anti-gay rhetoric.”
A Girl’s Guide to Dressing for the Apocalypse
The first time I tried MDMA was by accident. I was 16, thirsty, and thought the bottle of water my friend had just handed me would quench my thirst. So I drank it all, proceeded to have the time of my life, and—a few hours later—ended the night in my hotel room sobbing uncontrollably, convinced that tomorrow would be the day I died, asking my friends to not let my mother choose my funeral outfit. Oh, and could they please put me in a strapless dress, because I was really proud of my shoulders at the time.
The moral of the story: Don’t even bother dying if you aren’t gonna look good doing it. Corpses are bad enough, but ugly ones go to hell. Now, considering the fact that a bunch of dead Mesoamericans from thousands of years ago reckon we’re all going to be extinct in approximately six days, you might wanna start thinking seriously about this.
The most pressing problem about the end of humanity and everyone you know and love dying painfully is that six days really isn’t a long time to prepare an outfit fit for an apocalypse, especially as no one has any idea exactly how it’s going to go down. Thankfully, you have us. And because we’re not flippant and oblivious like you idiots, we’ve compiled a sartorial guide to Google’s four most popular apocalyptic scenarios. Get reading and see you on the other side.
A couple of important things to remember now that the planet is blasting itself to shit: Forget your long-standing alliance with PETA, because everything down to your underwear is going to be made from the skin of some poor, mutated creature. Think Kanye West’s chinchilla collection meets Beyoncé in the winter, paired with a Slipknot-style gas mask (I guess we all knew that rap-rock would have to make a comeback some day). Even more crucial than fur is lead, because it protects you from isotopes and radiation and all the stuff that will eventually kill you. So some sort of lead-rimmed, wing-tipped sunglasses would work a treat, or you could acquire a couple of lead roof tiles and whip yourself up a protective it-bag-cum-helmet (everyone’s going to want one, trust me).
Chances are the planet will be thrust into a nuclear summer or winter, or just total darkness (or all three! Yay!), which means that your outfits are going to have to be adaptable to totally different weather types. Think about it like when you get on a plane from a cold place to a really hot place, except with less cocktails and more slow, excruciating death from radiation exposure.
As far as slaughtering your scavenging competitors on the nuclear wastes goes, layering is your best bet. Channel a mafia queen and tuck a different weapon into each strap: a machete in your suspender, rifle in your stocking, grenade in your bra. Definitely wear flat shoes, though, because even the most minor tumble in heels is going to end with you impaling yourself and/or exploding, which kind of defeats the object of dressing to stay alive even if it does submit to that old adage that fashion is something you must suffer for.
I Don’t ‘Get’ Instagram
Hey, you know what’s not actually a new thing and that people can all stop going crazy about? Having a phone on your camera. I mean, my phone cost £11.99 and it’s got a fucking camera on it. Getting excited about having a camera on your phone is a bit like getting excited about having a takeaway coffee or playing a song off your laptop. It ain’t no thing.
Still, half the adverts I see on TV are for cameras and phones with cameras on them. There’s usually a smiling mum photographing her snowboarding child in the ultra zoom and capturing their soul in a Twitpic forever, and we’re all being told we should be doing this. We’re told that life is passing us by and that if we don’t take pictures of every banal moment in our lives – like Guy Pearce in Memento – these moments will be lost to us forever. It’s like we’re being told not to trust our own memories.
We’re not just being encouraged to be the official club photographers of our own existences, either – we’re also being told that we should be documenting every meal as if we were preparing for a retrospective at the Saatchi gallery. This idea finds its epitome and is perpetuated most fervently by something called Instagram. You might have heard of it.
I don’t know what it was about the turn of the century – maybe we all got carried away and thought we were the “chosen ones” because our lives spanned two different millennia? – but something in the atmosphere at that time seemed to make us fall in love with ourselves. Our inflated sense of self-esteem is probably why we were complacent enough to allow Travis and jeans that looked like tents to pass as youth culture and why we all bought into the myth that there was an artist in residence within all of us. No longer did we have to be constructive members of society to survive its wilderness, we could all make a living designing logos for juice bars and running our own coffee shops/galleries/grime labels. Don’t have the requisite money, talent, intelligence or motivation to do that? It’s cool, just get a bank loan or win a competition, or something – we got you, B.
Think I’m generalising? Well, in 2001, I rode my micro scooter into school one day to be told by my art teacher that I’d been commissioned by the council to design a mural for a local underpass. This confused me, partly because I was 12 and partly because I was old enough to realise that I was a shitty artist. I declined, went on to achieve a G-grade at GCSE, killed my art teacher’s dream that I had my own suburban version of Guernicaburied within me and spent the rest of my adolescence telling posh girls that I wasn’t appreciated by the heathens at the exam board and that Van Gogh never sold a painting either.
In the cold light of the dole queue, most of us now realise that this was a complete crock of shit, and it’s probably the reason why anyone under the age of 30 is an insufferable bastard with a sense of entitlement equal to that of an exiled Nepalese prince (myself included). The age of Blair begat the culture of rampant self-obsession and bullshit aspiration that brought us Olly Riley and Emmanuel Frimpong rather than the next Issac Newton.
Then there was Banksy, who proved that all you really needed to make it as an artist was a series of ill-informed, left of centre, political metaphors and a rudimentrary understanding of graphic design to get Alan Yentob and Alain De Botton calling you “The Shoreditch Goya” or some shit.
Of course, this has been going on for a while and you only need to go to any South London art college’s graduate private view to see that the vast majority of modern creatives should’ve just taken that job at Snappy Snaps. Recently, though, this ludicrous idea that anybody can be a doyenne of self-expression has found its cruddy conclusion in the unlikely guise of a free smartphone app.
On October 3, Barack Obama gave a performance at the first 2012 Presidential Debate that many perceived as inferior, uninspired, and lacking in energy. The next day, a scattering of stationery notes was found in Mr. Obama’s hotel room by cleaning staff:
On the Road with Obama and Romney, Part 1
I’d been traveling on the Greyhound bus for a full 24 hours, and I’d just left a nice apartment in New Orleans that I shared with a nice girl, because it wasn’t working and because I’d quite nearly run out of money. I’d spent half of my remaining $173 on a bus ticket home to Cincinnati, where I was about to show up as a grown 25-year-old with no home but the one my parents raised me in, and—lacking better options—I had accepted a frankly exploitive offer from VICE to file dispatches from a handful of states that I happen to know well (Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina) and that happen to be particularly important to the outcome of this election. To get the thing rolling VICE arranged for me to cover a Romney event at the little airport outside Dayton, Ohio. And, because I badly needed the money, I’d agreed to a sleepless night on the bus.
These are the politics of my personal discontent—which I thought might be worth sharing just because we’re so frequently reminded that the challenge in this election has been to win the hopes of the discontented voters, and because we’re so infrequently reminded that discontent, for all the ways we’ve found to count it up, has always been singular in its inward expression.
Because now it was becoming clear, at nine in the morning, that I was going to be late for the event. Three detectives from the Louisville Police Department, with two leashed Belgian Malamuts between them, were holding up the bus. Two of the detectives, with one of the dogs, had pulled our luggage out of the undercarriage and were inspecting it. One had come over to mingle with us in the smoking area, 25 yards away. He was sly: He came over with the dog and said “Hey, anyone want to pet him? He’s friendly,” but the dog wasn’t interested in being petted, and the detective seemed mostly interested in those of us who moved away when he came over. I had some pills—legally prescribed, but not prescribed to me—and I couldn’t remember what I’d done with them, and I wasn’t sure whether or not drug-sniffing dogs are trained to look for pills, and I was trying to look quickly through my bag. The dog came over. I glared at the detective.
Over by the bus they were searching an old black man, on his way home to Michigan from Clarksdale, Mississippi, where—he told us smokers at a stop in Bowling Green—he’d gone to bury his younger brother, the youngest of nine. He was protesting that he held a medical marijuana card given to him by the State of Michigan, and that they couldn’t arrest him even if they did find anything in his bags. The smokers watching discussed whether or not this was true. The detectives opened his suitcase.
The Malamut stuck his nose in my crotch and I asked the detective to move him away. He asked where I was headed. I said I was going to cover the election. He looked incredulous. He directed the dog to my bag.
The problem with a politics of discontent is that pure discontent is so personal that politics can’t really be expected to address it. But in this moment it occurred to me that the highest purpose of anyone running for president of this country ought to be to eliminate bullshit like this from the lives of his constituents. Not the dogs, so much, or these brutes with guns and crew cuts, because there’s no reason to expect they’re going anywhere. But none of us there would have been on the Greyhound at all, in the position of being forced to consent to this ridiculous search, if we had any other travel option. And it does seem at least possible to create a country where people are less likely to need to use this transport of last resort. Or, for that matter, where they’re less likely to shop at the retail outlets of last resort, or to rely on the emergency room, or on any of the other points of public interface of last resort where we’ve come to expect maltreatment and suspicion. Or even where—and this is hardly our biggest problem, just one I’m thinking about—where kids like me are less likely to fall back, as a last resort, on the security of our parents’ already-diminished retirement accounts. It seemed suddenly reasonable to ask for a country where people feel like they’re treated better. I suppose I’ll be voting with that country in mind.
The dog passed on. They didn’t find anything on the man with the medical marijuana card, the one who’d just buried his brother. The smokers around me murmured their surprise and pleasure, and we got back on the bus.
So now there I was, half an hour late for an event at the Dayton International Airport, and if I have a thesis on this campaign it’s that very few of the issues we’ve been told to watch have much at all to do with the discontent that’s driving this campaign. This thesis would be quickly, if only partially, confirmed.
At the edge of the field closest to the road there was a fat little man in a windbreaker selling stickers, five dollars apiece. I told him that seemed a little steep, for a sticker. I asked what it said. He handed me one. It read: “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012.”
The Debate, Decoded
As you know, the first of three presidential debates happened last night. While it wasn’t a sporting event where anyone was keeping score and there’s no objective way to determine who won or lost, Barack Obama definitely, definitely got his ass kicked. He stumbled over his words, kept talking in professorial, abstract terms, and sometimes jumped from topic to topic in jarring ways that made what was already a fairly wonky debate about tax policies and health care even more difficult to follow. Mitt Romney, on the other hand, appeared relaxed and confident, calmly scoring points and even cracking a few jokes. Agreement that Obama lost was so widespread he dropped seven points on the InTrade betting market. Meanwhile, moderator Jim Lehrer constantly got trampled on as the candidates both ignored his pleas for brevity and came close to telling him to shut up.
But hey, what about the actual content of the debate—the words that got said, the policies that were argued over? Well, honestly, that stuff doesn’t matter. If you’re the kind of voter who cares about whether Medicare should go to a voucher system, the strengths and weaknesses of the plan proposed by the Simpson-Bowles commission, and how specifically we should reduce the deficit, you already know how you’re voting and don’t need the TV’s help at this point. The job of the candidates was to sound convincing and presidential enough that the mythical undecided voter is like, “Boy I like that fella. Straight-shooter all the way, mmm-hmm. I like the cut of his suit. Jobs and so on—I’m for that and so is he.” Appearing to have a substantive debate about policy is good, but you don’t actually need to have that debate; it’s better to just confidently assert your version of reality while cracking a smile, and Romney did that way better than Obama.
What’s more important than what they said is what the candidates meant and who they were talking to (Lehrer put on his marriage-counselor hat and told the candidates to talk to each other directly a few times, but they mostly ignored him, of course). What were they thinking and what were they saying with their words? I’ve translated a few key quotes below for those of you who don’t speak fluent Candidate.
What he said:
“Tonight’s 90 minutes will be about domestic issues, and will follow a format designed by the commission. There will be six roughly 15-minute segments, with two-minute answers for the first question, then open discussion for the remainder of each segment.”-Jim Lehrer, starting things off.
What he meant:
“The candidates will say whatever they want, because I am not going to be able to tell the president or the guy who might become president to shut up. Hang on, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.”
What he said:
“Now, it ultimately is going to be up to the voters, to you, which path we should take.” –Obama, in his opening statement.
What he meant:
“It is going to be up to you, the voters of Ohio, which path we should take. Almost nothing else matters, which is why I’m not going to be too worried if the next hour and a half is really bad for me.”
What he said:
“Virtually everything he just said about my tax plan is inaccurate.” –Romney, responding to Obama accusing him of wanting to cut taxes by $5 trillion and hurt the middle class.
What he meant:
“I’ve been vague enough on specifics that I can deny whatever anyone says about what I want to do and you have to do a lot of work to prove me wrong. And if I get into a childish ‘Yes it is! No it isn’t!’ argument with the president, it makes me look like I’m his equal. Boom.”
The Most Depressing Things in the Democratic Party Platform
Last week I went over the Republican Party platform and made fun of some of the craziest bits. There were a lot to choose from, because portions of that thing were clearly written by ultra-conservative Christians and conspiracy theorists. But it would be unfair to point and laugh at the GOP’s policies and beliefs and then ignore the Democrats’ platform, so last night I went through it searching for similar wackiness. (The full platform can be found here.) The problem is, the Democrats aren’t as crazy as the Republicans. Maybe that’s my blue-state bias talking, maybe that’s because I feel like it’s obvious that gay marriage and abortion should be legal, but whatever the reason, I didn’t find as much to mock in their platform.
The most notable stuff in the 59-page document is what isn’t there. As conservative bloggers have pointed out , the word “God” doesn’t appear anywhere in the platform, which is proof, I assume, that the Democrats hate Christianity or something. On the other hand, when the man upstairs gets involved in public policy, the positions he turns out to be in favor of are stuff like, “Commit genocide against the Canaanites” and, “Wander around the desert for 40 years.” So maybe it’s a good thing he wasn’t consulted when the Democrat bigwigs got together to write this thing.
What’s more of a bummer is that the word “marijuana” doesn’t appear on the platform at all, despite more and more Americans being in favor of it being legalized, and despite numerous states putting legalization on the ballot. You’d think it would be something to mention, at least, even if all the platform said was, “The issue of marijuana legalization deserves more study and consideration, as do questions of how to best tax and regulate it should it ever become legal,” or some dodgy bullshit like that. Instead, the platform just follows Obama’s longstanding policy of pretending that marijuana doesn’t exist and that people aren’t getting arrested and being thrown in jail for smoking, producing, and selling it. If the Democrats actually said what their policy on marijuana is—the War on Drugs is fine and dandy and we’re OK with putting smokers in jail—they would alienate a lot of young voters, so they’ll just keep their mouths shut. (Making videos where Kal Penn is high, LOL, is fine though.)