As you may or may not know, there's a presidential election coming up. If your only knowledge of this comes from the staggering barrage of political commercials you've had to flip through while waiting for V.I.P. to come back on, then chances are you are one of the 8.5 million voters between the ages of 18 and 25 who don't give a good goddamn about presidential elections. Don't feel bad about not caring or having an opinion. The truth is, most people cast their vote on the basis of one issue, whether it's abortion rights, tax breaks, the ecology or ethnic cleansing. Whatever it is that you deem important to protect (or destroy) determines whom you vote for. Maybe none of those issues appeals to you.
With that in mind, what follows is a handy guide that breaks down the four leading candidates by the one issue the MTV generation knows something about: music. Each candidate is explained in terms of a musical artist or genre, and you are encouraged to vote for the one you find least repugnant. And before you over-30s Republicrats and Democrans pooh-pooh this little experiment, just remember that Bill Clinton picked a Fleetwood Mac song as his campaign theme, and if that wasn't a big tip-off that the ensuing eight years would be more about who was sleeping with whom than who was doing what for his country, then you probably believe Fleetwood Mac reunited for the music and not the money.
Pat Buchanan, Reform Party: Supporters of Buchanan -- or the "Buchanan Jugend," as they like to be called -- are big fans of "America" as conceptualized by our forefathers: You know, liberty (for rich white guys), equality (for rich white guys) and justice (for rich white guys). This explains Pat's support by 0.8 percent of the electorate. Everybody else had better do what Pat says, or we're all up Shit Creek with a turd for a paddle, to quote the Ween Brothers. But Pat is not a Ween kind of guy. He's not even a rock & roll kind of guy. He's definitely old old-school. Think German Ubermensch classical composer Richard Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries" to get into Pat's world view (it's playing in the background of the "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" scene in Apocalypse Now. Coincidentally, this is also Buchanan's campaign slogan).
Unfortunately, Wagner was a foreigner, so Pat can never be linked to Wagner in any capacity; Pat's a bigot, not a hypocrite. Or is he? Pat's vitriol when it comes to foreigners and homosexuals is reminiscent of the late Roy Cohn's hatred of homosexuals, and the joke there was that Roy was in fact a big ol' closet queen. Methinks Pat protests too much, if you catch me drift. Maybe late at night, Pat puts on his leather "sthtormtrooper of lustht" outfit and fantasizes about his favorite forbidden fruit, Ricky Martin. If "Flight of the Valkyries" with a spicy salsa beat and the torrid sensuality of Señor Martin's slinky hips incites your passion to vote, then make Pat Buchanan your "top" choice.
George W. Bush, Republican: Widely known as "the dumb guy," an assessment that's more than a little unfair. He was smart enough to be born rich, which is more than you can say. But "dumb guy" is a lot easier to say than "privileged white guy whose father got him the job," which makes people think of Al Gore. Bush is really just a down-home kind of guy with simple values. It's a safe bet he has Ray Stevens' novelty hit "The Streak" in his record collection and finds it uproariously funny. Chances are, his copy of "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" has been worn out and replaced twice, because "that song is just too dang funny to wait for Christmastime!" Indeed.
Anyway, much like his dad, George W. lives and dies by the sound bite, which is all these sort of novelty songs really are. Dad had his "Read my lips" and "Wouldn't be prudent," but George W. has better material. Who can forget "subliminable" and "major-league asshole?" What can top those two bites in terms of their juxtaposition of stupidity and crassness? How 'bout the Baha Men's "Who Let the Dogs Out?" If you just "woofed" the chorus to that catchy but insipid ditty, chances are, you and George W. Bush have a lot in common. If the only post-fraternity plan you've made is to get a position in your dad's firm, then get to the polls and make your voice heard. Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof-woof!
Al Gore, Democrat: He's been described as "wooden" and "stiff," but that was after that big kiss with his wife, Tipper. No, wait. He was wooden and stiff personality-wise before the kiss. Now he's a more human Al Gore. Notice how his programmers have added the error code to his core programming. He bungled some facts and figures and performed "fuzzy math" at that debate, just as a human being would. It's like that White Zombie song "More Human than Human." But White Zombie is a little too racy for the Gorebot. Remember, his human wife started the Parents Music Resource Center in the '80s to protect music buyers from the sort of language Rob Zombie uses in his songs, whether you want that protection or not. That's very anti-rock & roll. But rock & roll is so sloppy, and messy and loud (when it's done right). The Gorebot desires order, precision and logic. He's looking for the clean lines of the perfectly engineered campaign, victory and presidential term. Facts, figures and the bottom line. He is the man-machine Ralf and Florian of Kraftwerk idealized throughout their career. "I am the operator with my pocket calculator," intones the mechanical voice in Kraftwerk's "Pocket Calculator." "I am the inventor of the pocket calculator," Gorebot responds. Then his eyes roll back into his head and he delivers his inaugural address in binary code while his army of robots takes over the Supreme Court! Is this your idea of a future America? Admittedly, robot takeovers and a cyborg president sound pretty cool, but you know his wife will keep the music tame and timid. Kraftwerk, Muzak-style: If that's your speed, strike a blow for mechanization and the future.
Ralph Nader, Green Party: If your response to Ralph Nader is "Who?" don't feel bad. Nobody knows the guy's running. He's been around for years and years, but he just fades into the woodwork. Or maybe it's just that the entrenched government has pushed him into the woodwork (lousy rich kids and robots!). Nader has crusaded for public safety, has sued most of the major government organizations for abusing the public trust and has always behaved to the highest standards of personal conduct. See? Zzzzzzzz, boooorrrring. But he has all these ideas and he's a perpetual outsider, so he's kind of rock & roll. But not good rock & roll. You know the kind of rock where it's cluttered up with big concepts, and chord changes and, yeah, they're playing guitars, but it just sounds kind of wonky and pretentious? Here are some hints: "The Trees." "By-Tor and the Snow Dog." "Red Barchetta." Sad but true, Ralph Nader could be the original drummer for Rush, and their entire output is the perfect musical analogy for his political aspirations: too smart, too nerdy, too convoluted and not very dynamic. On paper, Nader sounds pretty good; so does Rush. But one listen to 2112 and you just know that people who take Ayn Rand seriously shouldn't be making rock & roll albums. That's a convoluted way of saying to Ralph, "Don't quit your day job." Still, if you like lost causes (and if you're still buying Rush albums, you obviously do), punch "Nader" on your ballot and sing a chorus of "Working Man" on your way out of the booth.
Feel free to clip this out and bring it into the voting booth with you. Discuss these options with your fellow voters, and, remember, there are no stupid questions -- it's the answers, in this instance, that are stupid.