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Unbearable lightness of elections

Our society functions on one superbly simple lie: Sh-- does not exist.

To writer Milan Kundera, society’s denial of sh-- — that is, the objectionable — is what we call kitsch. (Note, even in this column, the censorship of the word, which further speaks to our attempt to deny its existence.)

This concept gives rise to everything from totalitarian regimes to mawkish melodramas like Grey’s Anatomy.

The point Kundera makes with kitsch is the danger of sentimental omniscience: “Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession.

The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass!

The second tear says: How nice to be moved together with all mankind, by children running on the grass!”

Kitsch can inform on our current political climate. It explains:

1) Republicans win elections.

2) Republicans impair political process

First, Republicans are masterful kitsch campaigners. George W. Bush made it to office through his uncanny ability to make us want to drink beer with him. The fact that we so enthusiastically equated “good drinking buddy” with “best possible person to lead the free world” speaks to kitsch’s core tenant: Don’t think.

Thinking is bad. Feeling is good.

This is the essence of kitsch and of Republican election strategy. Gut reactions — not serious deliberation — most often influence our ballot-box decisions. Furthermore, we elect politicians who base their decisions on what “feels right.”

However, kitsch politics works for running campaigns, not countries. Since how politicians campaign translates into how they lead, this makes kitsch campaigners dangerous.

If politicians run on a platform of happy families and evildoers, you can be sure all they will have to offer is ego-based leadership.

With no real thoughts to speak of, kitsch politicians can’t talk about tangible ideas and have only his or her egos to add to the decision-making process.

What’s the problem? If everybody thinks their ego is the most important, there’s no one left in the room to be right. Nothing, therefore, gets done.

With respect to the current kitsch campaigning, look no further than John McCain. Interestingly, Republicans once loathed the senator in part because he refused to partake in kitsch politicking.

In those days, McCain didn’t talk about being a maverick; he simply was one. For instance, he offered an immigration bill pieced together by bipartisan compromise and reasonably argued against the use of torture.

However, McCain’s insistence on walking along the informationside of politics didn’t bode well for Republicans who walked along the kitschside. Republicans looked at McCain and — to their horror — saw a liberal.

McCain has since wised up. He made the ultimate kitsch move. Opting for warm and fuzzy over substance, he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. Then, at last week’s presidential debate, he oozed kitsch when he spoke of Eisenhower before D-Day and the army bracelet given to him by a grieving military mom.

Who, but the most vile liberal, can’t help but feel teary-eyed?

But as our hearts swell, our minds empty. We forget, once again, just what muck we are knee-deep in.

If locks on the bathroom stalls negate the acceptability of creation, Rosie happily affirms her unacceptability. E-mail her at

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