Politics as we live them in these United States are a divided and divisive thing. Even the most familiar bits of anodyne political hope-talk -- the shared purpose, the coming together in pursuit of common dreams -- feel not just empty or glib, but somehow polarized themselves. (Shared purpose -- shared how? Shared with whom?)
The most fatuously inclusive phrases have splintered and slipped into a specific sort of suspicion; the sunniest generalities are now cast in long, cold shadows. There is the sense that all this is somehow different and darker than the old familiar partisanship -- that something has fractured and is not being reset, that everyone is a little too angry and a little too loud.
But reasonable parties on both sides can at least agree on this: the ninth and final primary debate between the Republican candidates for Idaho's governor's office is quite obviously sports.
To be fair, at no point do the four candidates play any sort of sport. But this llama doesn't do anything strictly sports-like, either, and everyone understood that as sports, too. If we understand sports as a thing that's edifying and enjoyable to watch -- which seems like a better definition than They Chase The Ball Around or What Is Between The Coors Light Ads -- then we are watching sports when we watch this. This:
But, of course, that is nearly an hour of four men discussing the issues that matter in a state in which you probably don't live. These issues are, in no particular order:
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As well as some other topics of lesser import. It was, in many ways, a televised political debate like any other. It just happened to occur in Idaho, and feature the four Republican candidates for that office. These include incumbent Governor Butch Otter and state legislator Rich Fulcher, who seems to be running to Otter's right, as well as the two men seen above.
The leather-clad biker is named Harley Brown, who was inspired to run for office by a vision he experienced while living in the basement of a Boise bar named Fat Jacks. His politics are idiosyncratic enough to include an embrace of gay marriage -- "They have true love for one another," he says, "I'm telling you, they love each other more than I love my motorcycle" -- and an even heartier embrace of offensive jokes that he calls "Harleyisms," and which he puts on his campaign website as part of a broader campaign against "political correctness."
The bearded fellow to his left is Walt Bayes, who notes in his opening statement that he has "77 descendants" and is mostly running on a platform of Apocalypse Awareness and a staunch opposition to abortion:
And those are your candidates.
The result is the result: a debate that's half a wearily familiar partisan political debate between two professionals, and half Walt Bayes getting very upset and Harley Brown's leather-vested "More Electable Rob Ford" routine. It is also a satire of itself and our politics and people in general.
It's sports, all right, and it's spectacular.