Political kayfabe

By Neil Murphy
web posted September 1998

Does anybody believe in the old racehorse? You know, the old political battle, the ideas, the issues, the views? No, actually, nobody gives a damn. People have fallen so far down into ignorance that we now actually accept insincerity as a valid form of belief.

This came to light as I was reading Newsweek the other day. It has a nice little graph of President Clinton's ups and downs on the opinion poll. One of the points was an up for when Dick "Hugh Grant" Morris advised Clinton to move his agenda to the center. And I remember Time magazine doing a cover story on this right at the same time. About Morris and how his "molding" of the President helped Clinton gain the center voters. Of course the next week Morris was also on the cover again, this time with his wife looking as if she'd like to kill him, but that's another story for another day.

The main point is, the "centrist" agenda that gained Clinton support was fake. A hoax, a facade, a charade. He didn't believe in it. His advisor found that the mythical "average person" felt that way and Clinton decided to change his agenda, and thus his beliefs and his values, to suit the public. And the public lapped it up like thirsty dogs. What is going on here? People actually believe that he believes what he says, when in reality he is a puppet, and the string master is the latest poll?!?

But believe they do. And even the dimmest of the dim know that being "advised to move towards the center" is synonymous with "give the people what they want and screw your actual feelings". And they don't care. I believe you can attribute it to one word--kayfabe.

Now there's a word you don't hear every day. "Kayfabe" isn't a term that is in a lot of dictionaries, but it has meaning nonetheless. Kayfabe is a word used back in the old days of the circus, it means "protecting the show" or in basic terms, "concealing the fake". If you kept kayfabe in the circus, you protected the secrets of the Three Card Monty and the magic acts and stunts performed. If you were to break kayfabe, no greater an offense could you do. You would have revealed the secrets.

Nowadays the word is almost dead except in some circles, but it does have a strong meaning in relation to this whole "opinion poll policy" deal. People don't want political kayfabe broken. They want to believe that Clinton heart is into a centrist agenda, they really wanted to believe that Nixon wasn't a crook, they really want to believe in the good. People make the mistake of taking things at face value. With 24-hour news coverage and the information available today, they cannot afford to.

With his "confession" speech, our President broke his own kayfabe. The public really wanted to believe that the Lewinsky matter was a figment of Ken Starr's imagination, they really wanted to believe that Clinton was set up, that the dress was an Internet rumor only. They wanted to believe, as they had believed when they checked his name off in two elections. But he let them all down. The mask came off, the charade ended, and the public was front and center to see it. Our President lied to each and every person in the country. To you. To me. To the two-year old living in Ohio who can barely speak. To us all. And once that kayfabe that Clinton had held up for six years was ripped in half, we no longer could believe. And in politics, when you can't believe, you despise the whole political system.

Who knows how many other politicians on all sides live and die and change their "agendas" by the polls? People won't dig for that. They will take it at face value, as they did with Clinton, as they have done with hundreds before. But when you come out and admit to lying, to each and every one of us, you admit the whole show was a scam.

Clinton's circus is ending, and nobody is going home happy.

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