Long Island Ice Tea: Immigration, Gender, and the 2012 Presidential Debate

I believe that's my Holiday Inn suite sir
The 2012 Presidential Debate Everyone!

How in God’s name did we end up here?  Who decided to hold a presidential debate in the lobby of the Hempstead Holiday Inn?  And what are we to make of the two grey haired alpha males battling over who gets to sing “My Way” to this oddly accented (“Govna”) crowd of Long Islanders? Thank God moderator Candy Crowley handed out Mr. Goodbar-style beat downs on time management; Philadelphia’s Andy Reid ought to take notes.

Once again, ToM’s editors found it in their narrow little hearts to throw me a bone.  Admittedly, I’ve never been one for town hall meetings, especially ones featuring questions from the most nebulous of all beasts, the “undecided voter.”  I have my doubts about these people and I’m not the only one. Take the first question, which came from Long Island resident, college student, and Adam Sandler lookalike Jeremy something.  Jeremy bore a striking resemblance (in looks, posture, and speech ) to Billy Madison era Sandler.  One half of me expected him to tear off his ill-fitting suit for a sleeveless REO Speedwagon 1980 World Tour T Shirt (“Once the Wagon starts rolling it can’t be stopped!”).  His question about rising student debt and accessibility of college went unheeded as both old men blabbered on about shit Jeremy didn’t ask about.  When Obama mentioned the growing manufacturing sector, Jeremy’s life flashed before his eyes as the lyrics to depressing Bruce Springsteen songs like “The River” danced in his head. “For my nineteenth birthday I got union card and a wedding coat” – not the future young Billy Madison had hoped for. Still, Springsteen can’t be the tabula rasa for this debate; only the power of suburban rockers like the Speedwagon can scratch this Strong Island itch.

REO Speedwagon circa when it was cool to wear your shirt unbuttoned down to your navel.

Bi-partisan Suburban Swag

And I can’t fight this feeling anymore.
I’ve forgotten what I started fighting for.
It’s time to bring this ship into the shore,
And throw away the oars, forever.

— “Can’t Fight This Feeling”

Indeed, like REO, BHO seemed to get his mojo back tonight.  Hope that was male enough for everyone watching. Indeed, the only feeling BHO seemed to be battling was the urge to strangle his taller opponent. For his part, Mittens, I mean Romney, wanted to fan his tail feathers too, leading to numerous awkward exchanges between the two that not even mid tempo 1980s rock could paper over. One could compare their intermittent circling of one another in the Holiday Inn Lobby to a post modern take on Jack London’s Call of the Wild.  “Sirs, the hotel only has the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential suite left tonight, who wants it?”

“I believe that’s my Holiday Inn suite sir”

Mexican American Mormon

You take it on the run baby
If that’s the way you want it baby
Then I don’t want you around
I don’t believe it
Not for a minute
You’re under the gun so you take it on the run

— “Take it on the Run

How many times must we wade into the immigration debate? Obama’s deported more than one million Mexican workers and Romney wants to make their lives the equivalent of a Smiths song: depressing and short.  Yet, the former Masshole Governor found time to laud his own Mexican American heritage, telling the crowd that his father had been born in Mexico.  Well, yes because in the words of the indomitable Wagon the US government had “Heard it from a friend who/ heard it from a friend who/ heard you’ve been messing around.” Grandpap Romney had several itches to scratch and absconded to Mexico with his harem of dutiful wives.  “Take It on the Run” might as well have been devoted to Romney’s ancestors. Don’t worry, Obama never had more than one wife – the man’s emotional core barely allows for one.  For the President the only safe haven he runs to is his “happy place,” which resembles a cross between University of Chicago lecture halls and the Whole Foods produce section (hopefully one with fresh arugula).  Neither one of these fools has any clue on immigration, and besides, over the last couple of years, Mexican immigration dropped through the floor.  Guess what, no economy no undocumented workers. Instead, Asians have become the dominant new arrivals. With all the Chinese bashing at this debate, one half expects the revival of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

The Ladies, the Ladies

You should’ve seen by the look in my eyes, baby
There was somethin’ missin’
You should’ve known by the tone of my voice, maybe
But you didn’t listen

– “Keep on Loving You

So am I the only one who finds it strange that a debate that seemed dedicated to gender issues unfolded like a frat boy Motel 8 Lord of the Flies?  Piggy had the conch but they threw him off the pier at Montauk.  Candy Crowley might have been the first female moderator of a Presidential debate in 20 years but these two fellas just wanted to have the most traditional of pissing contests. Can we have another icy exchange over who has the larger pension? Of course, if we get one more question about “what kind of man?” these two candidates are we deserve it. The Wagon was right, it was all in their voices.   If Obama is the smart, cerebral, reticent version of Smooth B, then Romney came across as Silence of the Lamb’s Buffalo Bill. “I have binders full of women!” As the smartest member of the Lime family put it, (a woman to boot) Romney sounded “like an anal-retentive serial killer who cut up his female victims, dried and pressed the parts and organized them in to nice, labeled binders.”  Well, she’s a biologist so that sounds worse than it was; I mean, don’t they cut up things on slides? Whatever, I have an MFA people.


Even the pundits got in on the “battle rap” that unfolded between these two non-rapping peons. “Mr Obama should just drop his microphone right now and walk off the stage,” noted an Economist blogger. “He’s killing this answer on Mr Romney’s tax plan.” A couple minutes later another hipster correspondent from the magazine repeated this advice to Obama’s competition: “Mr Romney ought to drop his microphone and walk off the stage right now.” Don’t drop those fucking microphones gentleman, the Holiday Inn only has two.

Fear and Loathing in Long Island

He makes you so angry
He makes you so sore
The wait may be worth it
But how can you wait anymore
When you’re wonderin what you’re waitin’ for
Baby I don’t know

Don’t Ever Let Him Go

At this point, you’re wondering, was REO Speedwagon the Nostradamus of boring suburban 1980s rock bands?  Their music seems tailor-made for the kind of idiotic debates we’ve endured this year.   “Don’t Ever Let Him Go” could be about the GOP’s ambivalent love for Mitt or the Left’s discomfort with Obama’s cool affection, all wrapped up the kind of heteronormativity that demands we know what kind of “man” these two are.  Among the mainstream news media incredulous self-righteousness remains the coin of the realm. “You said you hated Massachusetts health care Mitt?!!” “You promised to close Guantanamo, Barack?!!”  Do you want nuance? Waiting for BHO to unleash a devastating critique of the failed War on Drugs and the booming prison industrial complex?  Keep waiting, bed wetter.