by Kevin Kelton
In the 1979 movie Americathon, a fictional U.S. president decides to hold a telethon to pay down the national debt. That was a satiric look into the “future” of 1998. But just decades later, what seemed like satire then now seems all-too-real. America has become a telethon.
It’s everywhere. On my newsfeed. In late-night comedy shows. At the dinner table and dentist office. Even coming from my kids. The world is now a 24/7 presidential election. They might as well call it an Elect-A-Thon.
Ever since the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation decided to end it’s annual 21-hour charity telethon, America has been in search of it’s next “thon” fix. Sure, there’s still the Boston Marathon, the Penn State “THON” charity dance-a-thon, the St. Jude Trike-A-thon (a real thing), and the “Surf Dog” Dog Surf-A-Thon (I kid you not!).
Yet nothing filled the void left of not seeing Jerry Lewis have his annual nervous breakdown because he was in danger of only raising $59.6 million instead of last year’s $60 million.
But now, thanks to our newest telethon craze, we get to see breathless 24-hour countdowns to every caucus, where only 29,600 Democrats vote instead of last time’s 33,000. Only now it’s Bernie Sanders urging viewers to donate and Chris Matthews having the nervous breakdown. We even “oooh” and “aaah” when we look at the tote board of who has raised how much, marveling at how many millions each candidate raked in last quarter for his own worthy cause. All that’s missing is the dramatic pre-tally drumroll. (Though I’m sure that’s coming soon, too.)
All jokes aside, though, this is scary. We have become obsessed with the hourly twists-and-turns of a quadrennial ritual that truly has virtually no impact on our daily lives. Look, I’m almost 60-years-old. Does it really make a difference to me if Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders appoints the deciding SCOTUS vote on abortion rights?
Okay, that’s another joke. But seriously, who among us will have their world so transformed by the presence of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House? Unless you are A) thinking of joining the military, or B) pulling in more than $800,000 a year in capital gains, this election really is tangential to your earthly existence. ISIS is drowning Christians in shark tanks. Our public schools have all the learning potential of a Bark Busters dog training franchise. The water coming into your home is a lead daiquiri. So why on earth do we spend 82% of our day arguing whether Melania Trump would be a suitable First Lady? (She wouldn’t. I just had to sneak that opinion in.)
Really, is there any need for two presidential debates a week? Followed by 3 more hours of post-debate analysis? Followed by me going on Facebook to debate about the post-debate analysis? (BTW, I recommend “Open Fire” – the best place on Facebook to debate post-debate analysis.)
How many friends have you unfriended because they prefer Hillary over Bernie? How many of your pilates clients have you dropped because they gab about Donald Trump’s wall during their rotating side planks?
And how many hours of cable news have you watched in the last eight months wondering when Trump will say that one thing that really gets him in hot water? (I’m at 1,440. A conservative estimate.)
Really, we have to end this national obsession with all things Trump. We have to give up this FeelTheBern addiction. No, a corrupt lying rape-enabler is not going to sell the country to Goldman Sachs or Monsanto. No, your son with the 2.8 GPA is not going to UC Berkeley for free. And no, your Ecuadorian cleaning lady is not taking your part-time job at H & R Block. (Well, I’m not 100% certain about that last one.)
It’s time for a national intervention. So come in. Sit down. All your friends and family are here. We have something to say to you:
(Your name here) – we love you. And we all want what’s best for you. But we’re all here today because we’re afraid. Afraid of what has become of you since Rick Perry dropped out. Ever since that fateful day, you’ve become…well…a zombie. I know that seems harsh. But all you do is watch hour upon hour of DVR’d Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell episodes. Flipping to Hannity live to see if Ben Carson’s quit yet. (No, he hasn’t…not officially. Now put down the remote!) Then you wash it all down with a midnight swig of Megyn Kelly to see if it’s hair-up librarian or hair-down tramp day. Then it’s up at six to do the same thing with Mika. (Yes, I DO think she and Joe are fucking. But that’s a different discussion for a different day.) I mean, look at you! You don’t eat, you don’t shower. You haven’t checked in at the unemployment office in weeks! All you seem to care about is the next Real Clear Politics general election matchup poll, or when HuffPo is going to put their Trump coverage back in the news section. (No, they haven’t…not officially.) Can’t you see what all this is doing to you? To your parents? To your job? (Oh, I’m sorry. Freudian slip.)
Look, we’ve booked a nice room for you at Promises Treatment Center. They have a new wing just for MSNBC fans. It’s quiet and you’ll have your own private room. After 30 days, we’ll all be here waiting for you. But the first step has to come from you. Say it: I’m ___ and I’m an electaholic. You can do it. Ah, good. Now give me the #FeelTheBern bumper sticker. Come on, hand it over. The one in your sock, too. Good. Doesn’t that feel better? Now come on, let’s pack your bags and cruise on over to Promises. NO! I SAID “CRUISE” – NOT “CRUZ”! Put down the iPhone! Do not – I repeat, DO NOT – open that Politico app. Oh my God, not Glenn Thrush’s column! Why are you doing this to us?! (Weeping and wailing sounds.)
Okay, that was intense. But you get the picture. This behavior of yours, of mine…of all of us…it’s got to stop. The election will come and go, and someone will get sworn in, and 49% of the country will be pissed off, and 49.3% won’t. (The other 1.7% will be busy moving to Canada.) And regardless of whether you’re in the 49% or the 49.3%, life will go on. You’ll still wake up and walk your dog (or take him surfing), go to work at H&R Block, then come home and watch Celebrity Apprentice. Hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger or Donald Trump, depending on how the election turns out. There will still be an Iranian Nuclear deal, there will still be abortion on demand (except in Texas), there will still be Obamacare exchanges (except in 37 states), there will still be Citizens United (especially in Texas). The world as we know it will still be as it was.
But maybe two-year community colleges will be free. Like I’d ever let my kid go to community college. Fat f***ing chance!