Establishment Candidates; How Well Are The Scripts Written?

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Sudhama Ranganathan

With only two political parties in our country allowed any real airtime, press coverage or funding, our options are really pretty limited in terms of candidates from which to choose. Nowhere is this fact more plain than in presidential elections. During years when there is an incumbent among those running for office, the choice is usually pretty easy and clear for one of the parties, but that doesn't mean we should expect a shortage of well scripted theater. Unless the incumbent decides not to run, or chooses to bow out, it leaves us watching the drama coming from just one of the parties shifting all the confusion, tension and doubt to them for the time being.

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As far as the party yet to selected a candidate, the primary selection process can be laid back and subdued or contain plot twists, helpings of government cheese, poignantly interesting - subtly deferring supporting characters and more. What we see from the candidates may convince us that, though there are a wide array of interesting viewpoints and issues supported by each, we may find a trace of something we agree with in each candidate. After all they're people, and no matter their differences as individual candidates, they come across human no matter how boring or interestingly (or disgustingly) flawed they end up being.

Sometimes, regarding the secondary characters, what they say initially may be so compelling we want to support them, want there to be a great ending to the story, or continuance of what we were so hooked into from at beginning. Yet, there never or rarely are any that can follow the promise with such a powerful impact as was made in the beginning through to the end. In fact, such candidates can help first to cull, then turn off/ re-direct and in the end bolster support for the leading character as the campaigning closes in on those all important caucuses.

It almost ends up casting things we hear that are supposed to be “middle of the road” and those things considered “radical,” “extreme” or “beyond the pale of mainstream thinking” as juxtaposed in ever sharpening contrast. It doesn't mean that is how things will go when folks are elected, it just means that's the cartoon character chosen to decorate the newly revamped box of cereal trying to be sold during the most current round of elections.

Unlike the cereal aisle in the local supermarket however, in the end there can only be two choices really – one from each party. Any and all others, if there are any around, are typically presented as annoyances and threats to the issues supposedly supported by either of the two major parties. “Support at your own risk” is typically the spin given to all coverage of any independents or third parties. Vote for them and your vote could be the one that decides the fate of the entire election and all those issues you wish to see become pieces of legislation could be thrown down the drain. Additionally, “fed up,” “jaded” and “desperate” are usually the way people that vote for such candidates are described a la Ted Kazinski, Squeaky Fromme or the guy with the name that sounded like an undocumented immigrant and get up that made him look like an Occupy Wall Street Protester, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez. At least that's how they're contrasted with everyday folk – whatever that is. Outsiders, loners, odd or perhaps a little too extreme regarding some of their views or opinions.

In the end, what such people tend to do is scare most people away, while simultaneously bolstering establishment candidates (something the pundits almost always seem surprised at every single election). The establishment candidates themselves tend to keep their composure for the most part or even seem to get a little help from the people handling them and their image behind the cameras and sometimes even in front of them. The idea is to convince people through the arrangement of candidates that the establishment candidate is the one most likely to win.

Similarly, there is typically an effort to project a sense of kookiness, aura of doom or other negative flaws serving to convince people on a psychological, emotional and intuitive level the people outside of the establishment pick are simply unelectable. Though we may like the issues they support most, their personality or some other factor those candidates somehow possess, give off the the feeling they might not stick to the script if elected.

And the one thing people who are led, like myself, fear most is the possibility those in the lead could lose control. So much of our well being in terms of how we feel about the state of our nation is tied to the person at the top and how strong and centered we believe them to be. For them to lose the plot is in many ways one of the scariest things imaginable.

Sticking to the story and playing the part, whether purposefully, through artful media spin, party pressures or some combination thereof, is not endemic to primaries alone. Typically there is an establishment favorite after the primaries have wrapped. They may have already been eyed before the primaries were even finished. Like a movie that has a well developed storyline, but depends on the improvisational skills of its actors, the drama, tension, conflict and even unexpected plot twists happen as things develop.

The person labeled the establishment pick from the primary of one of the two parties may even in the end lose to one of the “more extreme” characters in order to ensure a win and a convincing one like a cool plot twist in a reality show. I suppose it all depends on what the country is crying out for – or how many people are paying attention – during any given election. And the establishment candidate would in all likelihood depend not only on what we as a nation are looking for, be it change, stability or some other direction felt by the majority of Americans, but what the establishment feels needs to be portrayed to the rest of the world in terms of an American president at any given point in history.

Of course the whole idea is that the rest of us who are not in the loop, are in fact important – very important - now more than ever. The reason is not because the forces that make the world go around care so much about the little guy as much as they care about convincing us we picked rather than leaving us feeling we were sort of led or convinced. If certain folks are upset, oh well. The way things worked out, more people sided with the person that got picked. That's the way the ball bounces. That's the way the system works. Next time. The one that sort of was perhaps expected to win emerged victorious. The one perhaps best suited to fit the role of American President at any specific point in time and space slides into the slot. Are you really that surprised?

And so from there we sit back and cross our fingers hoping, praying and wondering if that person selected is, could be or will be the one. But, the only way to change it would be to start making notes in the margins perhaps as the reading goes along. Then, when it's time to choose our own ending, do something different, something unexpected or that hasn't been almost laid out in a secure, comfortable manner for us, ahead of time.

Americans aren't interested in electing nuts, so why is it the only options presented per side are typically one or two sane people and five or six nuts or people that can easily be portrayed as such at the drop of a hat? Is that the best America has to offer? Whether that starts in the White House or elsewhere, such as in Congress, is anyone's guess really. Matter of fact; come to think of it, what's your guess? It will to be up to you pretty soon – and me.

To read about my inspiration for this article go to

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