The political lessons of “American Idol”

Kevin Huffman draws out what politicians can learn from American Idol:

As Scott Brown stormed to victory in the Massachusetts Senate race Tuesday night, I huddled with my daughters watching Fox. No, not the gloating election coverage on Fox News — I wouldn’t do that to impressionable young minds. We watched the flagship’s “American Idol” auditions.

This seemed fitting since, four years ago, Ayla Brown, the senator-elect’s daughter, captivated my kids during a short-lived “American Idol” run (my eldest daughter cried as hard as Ayla did when she got booted from the show). Ayla was an attractive though somewhat bland singer who belted out tunes by Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera. She had a chipper attitude and a limited vocal range. In short, good for TV.

If only she had been competing against Martha Coakley. Ayla’s dad followed the same attractive, bland but hardworking formula and rocked it all the way to the Capitol.

One thing I can tell you about American elections (both political and reality-TV): Bland, attractive and hardworking is a decent strategy. If you can avoid offending, condescending and generally being annoying, if you can come off as nice and normal and sing a tune people recognize, you’ve got a shot — regardless of your musical or party affiliation.

Amazingly, my fellow Democrats manage to mess up this basic formula again and again, particularly in the Bay State. Michael Dukakis in the tank, John Kerry windsurfing, Martha Coakley on Curt Schilling — they all conveyed a fundamental disconnect from the lives of average citizens. Not that Coakley gave herself a lot of opportunities to connect: The Boston Globe reported that she clocked 19 public events during the stretch from the primaries into last weekend, while Brown had 59.

In elections, images are symbolic, and symbolism matters when it reflects a deeper truth. In Massachusetts the truth was that the Democratic candidate spent too much time with the power brokers and not enough time with the people. . . .

Just a year removed from a presidential election made historic in part by its mobilization of grass-roots efforts, Democrats have managed to slip back into the bad habit of talking up to the party bosses and down to the average folks. Voters sensed what “Idol” viewers would know: They are trying too hard impress the judges and not hard enough to connect with the audience.

Democratic strategists ought to familiarize themselves with “American Idol” history: The year Ayla Brown made her brief appearance, Chris Daughtry, the chain-wearing rock star, was the judges' favorite. But Taylor Hicks, the Elvis-covering everyman, won the people's votes and the title. Last season it came down to Adam Lambert, the critically acclaimed glam rocker, and Kris Allen, the folksy boy next door with a pleasant voice and a nice smile. Kris Allen won. See a pattern?

via Kevin Huffman – Scott Brown’s ‘American Idol’ road to victory – washingtonpost.com.

Play to the people, not the judges! As in American Idol, so in American politics.

My favorite American Idol contestant so far

Has got to be Maddy Curtis, a 16 year-old in a family twelve kids, four of whom have Down’s Syndrome, three of whom the family adopted. She sang a beautiful, expressive rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” which blew the judges away, whereupon they advanced her to Hollywood. After rendering my verdict that she was my favorite, upon watching the performance a second time, I saw that she is from Bluemont, Virginia, just 8 miles away from where we live! Judge for yourself. At first this video shows the human interest stuff, which is very touching, with the performance at the end.

I like the comments. She has an “old soul.” She is one of the few 16-year-olds who auditioned who isn’t annoying.

Jay Leno was just on too early

Jay Leno Cancelled, Conan Comtemplating Split | TheHDRoom.  NBC’s plan to save money on scripted shows by moving Leno to prime-time didn’t work.  Now the network wants to move him back to late night, to the consternation of Conan O’Brien–who, as Leno’s replacement on the  Tonight Show,is also having ratings woes–and Jimmy Falloon, who is on even later.

This doesn’t surprise me.  Leno is very funny, but you have to be up late past your bedtime his humor to have its full effect.  The same holds true for the other late night comedians, some of whom need to be on really, really  late before they can even seem mildly amusing.  When you are well-rested and in your right mind, they tend to  fall flat.

What do you think should happen?  Conan is considering stomping off and going to FOX.   If they were all on at the same time, would you rather watch Leno, O’Brien, or Letterman?

Brit Hume evangelizes Tiger Wood

On Fox News Sunday, Brit Hume had a message for Tiger Woods:

Whether he can recover as a person depends on "his faith. He's said to be a Buddhist. I don't think that faith offers the kind of forgiveness and redeption that is offered by the Christian faith. So my message to Tiger would be, "Tiger, turn to the Christian faith and you can make a total recovery and be a great example to the world."

Hume, of course, is getting criticized, not only for evangelizing on air but for dissing Buddhism. Still, I salute him. A private TV network airing private opinions should have room for this, isn’t it?

Oral Roberts, mainline Protestant

The blog GetReligion, which critiques media coverage of religion, points out that most obituaries of Oral Roberts are missing the point. First, as Mollie Hemingway points out, he was NOT the patriarch of the prosperity gospel. Journalists are confusing him with fellow-Tulsan Kenneth Hagin. In fact, Roberts was associated with critics of that movement. Also, Roberts, despite his roots in backwoods Pentecostalism, was a member of the mainline United Methodist Church. His main significance, argues Terry Mattingly, is that he represents the way Pentecostalism found its way into mainline denominations and morphed into the charismatic movement.

I myself prefer him in his old days as a TV faith healer, which, whatever its validity, was spellbinding television. Later, after he founded Oral Roberts University and broadcast from his prayer tower, his show became slick and insufferable, but those black and white broadcasts of the sweaty, shouting preacher was great TV. And if you read Flannery O’Connor–say, “The Violent Bear It Away”–you would appreciate it, even if you didn’t believe it.

Oral Roberts dies

Oral Roberts Dies At Age 91. I grew up in Oklahoma, about an hour from Tulsa, and I remember as a child watching his healing services on TV, things like this:

Even then I was both weirded out and fascinated. Still am, though in a Flannery O’Connor kind of way. What are we to make of this?

Here is what I think: First, the little boy showed no expression of surprise or wonder or joy at being able to walk again, which makes me skeptical of the miracle. But the people watching DID. I think for Christians who have no sacraments, something has to rush in, some kind of alternative intersection of the supernatural into the natural. Miracles, divine interventions, mystical experiences, God speaking directly, etc. They are pale substitutes, though, for the true incursion of supernatural power into the world, namely, the Word and Sacraments.


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