Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election Humor 2014

Malloy and Foley
One thing that was conspicuously absent in both the national and local election campaigns this year was a sense of humor. Back in the eighteenth century John Wilkes, a notorious, radical writer and troublemaker, was running for a seat in the British House of Commons. During one campaign speech h heckler interrupted him and shouted: I would rather vote for the Devil than for you! Wilkes calmly replied. “Since your friend is not a candidate, may I have your vote?”

Humor was one of Ronald Reagan’s great qualities and certainly helped him attract support from all over the political spectrum. His humor helped him attract support from Democrats even though he never hid his love for the Republican Party and what it stood for. Even though he had a strong message, he always won huge majorities because he was such an attractive messenger.

It is hard to imagine two more humorless candidates than the two contestants this year in Connecticut’s race for Governor. One commentator pointed out last night that both the incumbent Democratic Governor Dannell Malloy, and his Republican opponent businessman Tom Foley had very high negative ratings in polls. It was not just the attack ads that no one pays any attention to anyway. Neither candidate seemed likable.

It’s not just a matter of hiring some joke writers, or phony gestures like taking off your tie and jacket and rolling up your sleeves. Humor and likeability ultimately springs from humility, a quality that allows one to look at oneself and realize that the whole world does not revolve around you. When one of his followers once asked St. Francis why they should listen to him, he replied paradoxically that it was because he was the last person in the world that anyone should listen to. He knew his limitations.

This lack of humor and humility is really evident in the incredibly long and boring speeches that candidates, whether victorious or defeated, give to their assembled partisans and the TV audience once the outcome is known. Is it possible that they really believe the words they are uttering ad nauseum? I pity the poor wives, who know all their husband’s foibles and weaknesses, as they stand by having to endure the avalanche of bullshit. The defeated candidates are even worse in their remarks. When do they ever admit that their game plan might have been deficient or that they made errors of judgment or execution? 

As of this writing although a Republican wave seems to have swept over the country and propelled the Republicans into control of both houses of Congress, Governor Malloy seems to have won a narrow victory over Republican challenger Foley in my home state of Connecticut. I thought that there was plenty of opportunity for Foley to inject some humor into his campaign and make his own image more attractive to voters. 

Malloy made Foley’s personal wealth the central issue of his campaign. Rather than take this charge seriously during the debates, I think Foley could have deflected this charge with a little humor. At one point Foley did offer a moratorium on personal attacks but Malloy refused. Foley could have then attained a Reagan moment by declaring that he would honor the moratorium himself, but ignore all of Malloy’s venom. He could have pointed out that he was a relative piker compared to Connecticut's Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal or popular Democratic Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro.

Anyway, the election is over but politicians and pundits will still provide much material for humor. Last night watching the election commentary on PBS, it was hard not to laugh at the sad faces of the reporters as news of one Republican victory after another came in. They could hardly conceal their disappointment.

Of course, few provide better material for laughs than Vice-President Joe Biden. Again, as news of the loss of Congress came in, he claimed that the Obama Administration is now willing to compromise. What a joke!

P.S. On a local note, Republican Connecticut State Representative Tony Hwang won election to the State Senate. Hwang ran a serious campaign but at the same time he exuded enthusiasm, a positive attitude, and likeability. In all humility I have to say that the endorsement of the Weekly Bystander was not responsible for his considerable margin of victory.
Tony Hwang


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