"South Park" Wusses Out on the 2008 Election

From the moment that Bush Patsy McCain chose Nilap for vice-president the 2008 election felt like an episode of the old South Park, the one that was fresh and consistently funny. If the stakes hadn’t been so high, the whole ’08 caper would’ve been hilarious. Indeed, “‘Joe’ the ‘Plumber'” feels more a denizen of the basic shapes cartoon than reality. (As Kenny’s dad, perhaps?)

Parker and Stone only took about a week to turn aggravation with the Star Wars blunder Jar Jar Binks into ferocious satire. They even popped out a topical episode about 9/11 as quickly after “everything changed” as was socially acceptable. So why were they silent through a two year election that forced all of America’s goopy, agonized and weird feelings about race to the fore? Why was South Park mute in an election where millions of boomer feminists transformed Hillary Clinton’s long march into a catharsis for a lifetime of frustrations, only to see the goof city Sarah Nilap turn the “Hillary, women, ME given the shaft!” collective thought wave into a parody of itself?

Methinks the reason is that all of the annoying roustabout regarding Obama’s blackness, Hillary’s tears, and Nilap’s aw shucks fascism was the sound of America’s subterranean emotions about gender and race — which was the star stuff of so many of the later, not as funny, “South Parks” — being expressed. As these things became real topics in our polity, they stopped being “yeast for the daily fucking grind,” as Bill Hicks once said, and therefore grounds for satire.

What would’ve been funny, even after the fact, was the South Park treatment applied to Bush Patsy McCain’s dadaist attempts to keep Nixonian resentment-mongering alive through Nilap, “‘Joe’ the ‘Plumber,'” absurd campaign tactics, and finally guilt by association “terrorist” claims that made his later rallies sound like the part of The Wall where Pink becomes a Nazi. (“That one in the spotlight he don’t look right to me, get ‘im up against the wall.) Instead, South Park finally addressed the 2008 election by placing all of the candidates into a Jewel Thief Ring and playing it as a parody of “perfect crime” movies. Yes, there was some bits about the tiring over-exuberance of Obamites and the silly fatalism of McCainers with some general support of Obama there between the lines, but given the material, it was weak sauce.

Anyhow, South Park was a Bush Patsy through much of this venal, miserable decade (“No Satan,” lied Saddam, “it’s a chocolate chip factory”) so fuck it anyway.

An Evolutionary Psychology of Obama vs. Clinton

According to Patrick McNamara and David Trumbull’s “An Evolutionary Psychology of Leader Follower Relations” (EPLFR) a Leader organizes a group towards cooperative goals while punishing free riders that would profit from the cooperation without contributing to it. Leaders come in two flavors. There are “Persuasive” leaders who provide a vision and/or personal story that is so compelling that it inspires followers; and there are “Dominant” leaders who motivate followers through either military triumph and/or a “political” mastery of group relationships and dynamics. The authors took this evolutionary psychological theory of leadership and applied it to the Greek (living in Rome in “Roman” times) historian Plutarch’s “Lives,” which were biographies of Classical leaders. They found that the greatest leaders were able to exhibit both the Persuasive and Dominance strategies. By their analysis Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were the best leaders of Classical times, with Caesar being slightly better than Alexander.

Obama versus Clinton was an archetypical competition between Obama, the Persuasive Leader, and Clinton the Dominant Leader. I posit that Obama won because at a few crucial times he was able to employ Dominance tactics while Clinton never made a convincing Persuasive case.

There is more to Persuasion, in the circumstance of a Presidential election, than just policy proposals. EPLFR posits that relevance, the ability to convey information in a way that it is useful to the listener, is a crucial leadership skill. During the Dominant Clinton’s summer of inevitability she did not demonstrate a compelling vision for her candidacy that would make it more than the sum of her policies. Meanwhile, Obama found his Persuasive voice, took Iowa, excited a legion of followers, and the race was on.

Obama first used a Dominance tactic at the debate prior to the South Carolina primary when, Hillary having ceded South Carolina to Bill, he snapped that he could not tell which Clinton he was running against. This diminished Hillary’s Dominance by making her appear aped by Bill and unable to be her own candidate. Obama won South Carolina in a rout.

Obama had another important advantage as the marathon continued. EPLFR posits that there is a statistically significant correlation between the Myers-Briggs ENTP (Extroverted-Intuitive-Thinking-Perceiver) personality type and being a successful leader. Obama’s ability to take historical trends and braid them into relevant rhetoric is a hallmark or Intuitive-Persuasive thinking, whereas Clinton was a classic ESTJ (Extroverted-Sensing-Thinking-Judger) with her seven point plans and commissions for everything. Obama intuited that the race would go on beyond Super Tuesday; that caucuses and proportional delegate allotments could keep him even through Super Tuesday; that there were thousands of young voters waiting to be enthused; that the Internet could obviate “fat cats”; and that Change would be the touchstone of the election. Clinton stuck to her meticulous plan based on the information in front of her, and only altered it when the available information proved it was not working. Her campaign was broke in February and Obama won the 11 consecutive contests that gave him an insurmountable delegate lead. {Full disclosure, I have no doubt that my own INTP personality was a factor in my favoring Obama and finding ESTJ Clinton to be ever more annoying as the campaign wore on.}

Clinton still had the core of top-to-bottom establishment support in most states worthy of a Dominant leader. In a truly masterful display of the Dominant style she used her sudden underdog status, and a healthy pinch of race baiting, to transform her millionaire-self into the champion of beleaguered working class whites. Her perceived hectoring was twisted into a catharsis for the sexism faced by white Boomer women, even as she strong-armed the MSM into going negative on Obama. Along with institutional Latino support she kept her candidacy alive in Texas and Ohio.

By then the Obamathon had faded and Reverend Wright’s goof city bloviating threatened to take away the most Persuasive part of Obama’s story. Again, Obama fell back on his ENTP skills and spun the most relevant and Persuasive speech of the campaign. By the standards of EPLFR his discourse on race was a moment of maximum leadership. {Anecdotal evidence: walking around my condo complex that week, it seemed that every unit, including those of apolitical people, was streaming the race speech on the Internet.}

Still Clinton’s Dominance tactics cemented the constituencies of both candidates and the demographics of most of the upcoming states favored her. Obama undercut his own Persuasiveness with bittergate.

In the weeks before North Carolina and Indiana Clinton had Dominated her way towards another opportunity to make a compelling Persuasive argument. Again, she failed. The silly “Gas Tax Holiday” scheme, and the contradictory contempt for all expert opinion on it from the “experienced” candidate, was a naked, irrelevant pander {Anecdotal evidence: My Hoosier brother-in-law turned to Obama in response to Clinton’s gas tax holiday proposal}. Obama made a Persuasive pivot in arguing against it and effectively ended the competitive primary with his blowout in North Carolina and close loss in Indiana.

Obama Dominated the rest of the primary by ignoring the states where the demographics were not in his favor, fixating himself and the MSM on the general election, securing blowouts in demographically friendly states, and quietly scotching any revote in Michigan and Florida. By the time the Rules Committee met on Michigan and Florida he had the Dominant influence to secure a counting of those delegates that did no material harm to his candidacy. Clinton sharpened her constituencies through additional race baiting, resentment-mongering, and sheer hard work, but all of the accompanying vitriol diminished her Persuasive ability by the day.

Clinton proved herself a master of the Dominance style. Against most candidates this would have secured a win. Obama’s Persuasiveness was equal to her Dominance, and he managed to selectively use the Dominance strategy where she never managed to Persuade. Obama was victorious because he was the better Leader.