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Fifteen Things Political Junkies Should Be Thankful For

Politics is a serious business. Despite the best efforts of some, it’s not a form of reality television. Instead, it’s the way that we distribute the costs and benefits of our collective life; it’s an opportunity to express and fight for our deepest values in the view of our fellow-citizens; and it’s … uh … what was that third thing? Oops.

I’m sorry; I know that particular joke has long since passed its sell-by date. But my excuse is that, for better or worse, a lot of us, no matter how seriously we take politics, are also completely guilty of being fascinated and amused by the events and personalities, the candidates and the spinmeisters, the pundits and the network anchors and correspondents. Face it: We’re politics fans, the way some people are sports fans or movie buffs or weather fans (yes, they exist). And thus nothing thrills us quite as much as a presidential candidate turning into a punch line, live and direct, in front of our eyes.

We all know, too, that this has been a great year for our chosen sport. So, with one last caveat that, of course, there are terribly important things at stake and we shouldn’t really just sit back as passive spectators, here’s the list of what political junkies should be thankful for:

Vice Presidents. All of them. Well, okay, you need to find the necessary distance to appreciate the megalomaniacal, ultra-secretive, and Clouseau-like incompetence of Dick Cheney, given the very real damage it caused. But most of them are harmless enough, all of them are instantly diminished by the office, and quite a few have fulfilled their mandate for outwardly appearing as pathetic as possible. Joe Biden? A wonderful, malapropping, example. I mean, really: How could Joe Biden not be Vice President?

Debates, YouTube, and Twitter, a perfect combination. After all, not even the most die-hard of political junkies is going to sit through every moment of every debate, but now every gaffe and attack and goofy moment is easily archived and accessed. And when we do sit through them, we now get to do it the Mystery Science Theater 3000 way, with a Dave Weigel or an Ed Kilgore as our own Tom Servo and Crooooow.


The seven foot tall doctor who tells Michele Bachmann crazy things about Obamacare.

Feuds. Nothing like a good political feud. My recent favorite? Barney Frank, unloading on Newt Gingrich: “Frankly, I thought the ‘Gingrich Group’ were his wives.”

Landslides, because they produce those wonderful gifts to Washington culture: the horribly miscast Member of Congress. Think Eric Massa, Chris Lee, or (going way back to 1995) Enid Greene Waldholtz.


Chain emails, and the members of congress and other politicians who repeat as major insights the loony things they learn from them.

Debates over which state is more corrupt. Get three political junkies in a room, and you’re sure to get to this terrific argument. Rhode Island? Illinois? Louisiana? As a native Arizonan, I’m always game to make the case for the Grand Canyon State, although I realize that Evan Meacham and Fife Symington don’t quite clinch it for us.

CNN’s “holo-interview,” and the possibility that the network will bring it back on election night 2012.

Polls. Oh, how we love polls. I spend a great deal of time telling people why they should ignore head-to-head presidential polls this far out, why early nomination polling is close to meaningless, why a lot of issues polling is also close to meaningless, and why one who wants to understand politics should pay a whole lot less attention to polls. What I do less of is mention that I go to Gallup every day for their presidential approval track … and their economic indicators track. I go to Pollster. I go to Polling Report. Meaningless? Sure. But I can’t kick the habit.

Online archives of cool old political stuff. UVA’s Miller Center. UCSB’s American Presidency Project. And, once again: C-SPAN!!!

The amazing, awesome, never-slowing presidential campaign of Prince Herman Cain. Not even the entirely non-humorous sexual harassment and sexual assault allegations levied against him could take away the junkie fun of the candidate who couldn’t remember his talking points on Libya, who ridiculed his own ignorance of the world in the classic Ubeki-beki-beki-bekistan bit, who accidentally gave a classic, ringing, defense of choice on the issue of abortion, who was intimidated by the infamous Iranian mountains … the list goes on and on.

The possibility that CNN will try to top the holo-interview on election night 2012.

Jim Traficant: the one and only, the great, the never-forgotten. Beam me up!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Jonathan Bernstein blogs at A Plain Blog About Politics