Maybe the biggest reason I like to follow local political races, especially in ‘Burque, isn’t the impact such races have on the citizenry and future of the city/county involved and all that “Democracy in Action” stuff. It’s the defiantly unsophisticated nature of these political battles.
Unlike the continuous presidential campaign, for example, local elections offer the chance to see Average Jills and Joes go political office-hunting through unscripted, unorchestrated, unslick productions full of bloopers, outtakes and unintended political pratfalls. Watching a local race is often like watching pick-up basketball games at the gym. One is tempted to say to one’s self while viewing: “man, I’d look like LeBron James out there compared to these losers”.
These races are the public access television to national politics network news. So last night’s public access Channel 27 forum for District 6 City Council candidates was, in some ways, a perfect match. In other ways, especially the “Democracy in Action” angle, last night’s televised candidate forum was worse than sitting through a Ed Wood movie, if Ed Wood had tried to make “All The President’s Men” instead of “Plan Nine From Outer Space”.
To say the “production values” of last night’s forum were low would be an understatement. I happened across the show a minute or so in, and the first thing I saw was a giant, full-screen head shot of Kevin Wilson. And by “full screen” I mean Wilson’s head took up the entire video frame. If it wasn’t for the god-awful lighting I could have performed a dermatological exam on Mr. Wilson from that extreme close-up.
Viewers were then whipped rollercoaster-style between the candidates, all of whom looked defiantly unsophisticated as they sat around a $19 Aaron Rents coffee table. Directorial decisions and camera angles seemed to be based on theories of either 1920s German Expressionist cinema or drunk guys videotaping bead-wearing girls at Mardi Gras.
I really, really wanted to pay attention to the candidates, in particular Joanie Griffin, but have to admit I remember far, far more about the nausea-inducing camera movements than Ms. Griffin’s position on a “living wage”.
So I was torn. Part of me wanted to just love the audio/visual badness, especially as I worked for a public access station way back in the mid 80’s (where I was perhaps the worst cameraperson in the history of the medium). It was local politics at its half-assed, pick-up basketball best/worst.
The other part of me was frustrated. I really did want to get a feel for the candidates, and just about all I got was the feeling of wanting to throw up from motion sickness.
I did get one or two impressions, and I’ll pass those along over the weekend. My stomach should have settled down by then.