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Opening Arguments

A childish analogy

The Journal Gazette on Saturday ran this pseudo-intellectional, unintentionally hilarious column by one Katie Roiphe that orginally ran in Slate. Seems Katie got tired of the whole "echo-chamber of election anxiety" thing, and so watched the last presidential debate with her 9-year-old daughter Violent, who had some remarkable insights about the candidates' resemblance to "Harry Potter" characters:

It started in the last debate when she said of Mitt Romney, after hearing him talk for a few minutes: “He’s Umbridge!” And of course I saw exactly what she meant, the brittle, lacquered, self-satisfied smile of the ambitious Dark Arts professor and passionate ministry bureaucrat, Dolores Umbridge. The saccharine, almost-girlish chuckle. The proclamations she issues at Hogwarts, the self-important talk about “the ministry this” and “the ministry that.” The classes doomed to read out loud instead of learning the spells they desperately need. The moment where she makes Harry write lines into his own skin with a pen that draws real blood, all the while smiling that fake and brittle smile. Then of course there is her interest in Muggle Registration, and protecting “pureblood” wizards from the dilution and compromise of human blood.

[. . .]

What about Obama? Harry Potter, one might imagine, in the 9-year-old’s phantasmagoria? The damaged hero. The chosen one. The boy who saves the world. No, she said, impatiently. Like why can’t I see it? Why am I not receiving the message the universe is so clearly sending? Dumbledore! Wise, old, snowy-haired Albus Dumbledore. He has moral authority and gravitas, even when life at Hogwarts moves out of his control. He is also a master of wryness, of sharp comments delivered dryly. You can easily imagine Dumbledore saying, “We also have fewer horses and bayonets.” When the evil forces of the ministry come to take him to jail, a magnificent orange bird swoops down, and together they vanish in flame. One of the ministry members, Kingsley Shacklebolt, says, “You may not like him, Minister, but you can't deny: Dumbledore's got style.

Imagine that. Her 9-year-old daughter comes up with an analysis that exactly matches Mom's prejudices. The evil Republican is a brittle bureaucrat. The heroic Democrat is the wise, old master of wryness. Somehow, I don't think the way to get over being in the echo chamber is to drag your 9-year-old into it. Shouldn't that be considered a form of child abuse?

Not that we couldn't all come up with our own analogies. I see Romney as Sheriff Andy Taylor, the level-headed possesser of quiet authority, and Obama as loony deputy Barney Fife, so incompetent at his job that he's allowed only one bullet, which he has to keep in his pocket. There was one episode in particular that seems apt. Andy had to go out of town for a single day, and, despite his seerious misgivings, left Barney in charge. When Andy got back, Barney had arrested practically everyone in town and thrown them in jail for  minor infractions. That's the situation we're in now. For God's sake let's take back the town and make Obama put that bullet back in his pocket.