Monday, April 23, 2012

But who is Gilligan?

James W. Ceaser--Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution--offers a fascinating analysis at the Weekly Standard of how the essential characters of Obama and Romney are perceived and how they can be packaged and sold to the general public. Though long, it's well worth the read.

Ceaser observes that Obama cannot run for reelection in the same way that he ran for election in 2008. Though widely touted as a great intellect in those days, the defining elements of his character, his nature, used to promote his candidacy were his ability to inspire and his potential to save us all, in a metaphorical sense:
In 2008, Obama was put forward as possessing a quality unique to him on the list of presidential candidates. He never cited his skill as a politician—he had only a scant record of service—and while he became known as a formidable orator, his rhetoric was not put primarily in the service of articulating a program or public philosophy. Barack Obama was celebrated as an inspirational leader, a charismatic in Max Weber’s sense of someone who gives birth to a politico-spiritual creed. Obama was a demigod, not only to many Americans, but to millions across the world.
Remember how the oceans were going to recede and the planet would begin to heal? Remember the Herculean pillars? But those days are gone. It's a well no longer available, since the President has had his chance to play the role of Hero. Now, it will be--according to Ceaser--Obama's intellect that takes center stage, like those of Thomas Jefferson and Woodrow Wilson. He is the Professor. And he is set to square off against the rich capitalist in the form of Mitt Romney, the businessman:
In essence, the 2012 campaign is shaping up as a contest between the businessman and the intellectual. Obama’s references to the “1 percent” and to Wall Street are targeted at Mitt Romney, and Romney has replied in kind, “We have a president who I think is a nice guy, but he spent too much time at Harvard.” Mitt Romney also went to Harvard, though he spent most of his time on what the intellectuals consider to be the wrong side of the Charles, where the business school is found. Both men can claim an academic record of achievement, but where Mitt Romney immediately gravitated to the world of business, Obama spent much of his time in the academy, teaching law, and produced a literary memoir, Dreams from My Father.
And as Ceaser notes, these two divergent natures also serve as reasons to not vote for the candidates, to vote against Obama because he's only concerned with theory, to vote against Romney because he only cares about money. The task for each candidate is to accentuate the positives as much as possible, of course.

But--classic TV-phile that I am--I can't help but see two very obvious characters in these divergent natures: the Professor and Thurston Howell, III of Gilligan's Island. It's obvious, isn't it? And Ann Romney slides right in as Lovey Howell, the millionaire's wife, who doesn't do anything but lounge around. Michelle Obama? Why, she's the movie star of course, Ginger Grant, since we're told again and again how beautiful and fashionable the First Lady is.

I'm thinking that Joe Biden is the Skipper, a lazy goof with a temper. Mary Ann? It's a bit of a stretch, but I guess it would be Sarah Palin. Of course, her apparent secret crush on the Professor leads to a lot of places here, but what can we do about it? That leaves Gilligan, the title character, the luckless and largely clueless chap who does all the real work and who seems dependent on the others but--truth be told--is probably the only one that could survive on his own. Ron Paul?

Or maybe, Gilligan is the American people, stuck on an island with people who presume to rule but, more often than not, aren't willing to do what it takes on a day to day basis. No doubt, someone familiar with the show will point out a flaw here: Mary Ann did her share on occasion, too. She didn't need to be coddled nearly as much as the others. And the Skipper didn't either, but only because he spent all of his time napping. But you know, I think it all still plays...

Cheers, all.


  1. Ron Paul and the American people both fit the same role because more than any other Presidential candidate in quite some time, Ron Paul is an "American People." He'd still be a full-time doctor if Nixon hadn't closed the gold window.

    He raised issues in the debates that were the issues real people were talking about, war, debt, and liberty, while the moderators and other candidates debated the number of angels on their pinheads.

    Ron Paul in his candidacy, like Gilligan on the island, is the only human in a cast of caricatures.

  2. I am picturing Mary Ann with glasses, and it works. It works.