This week, Tim Tebow told reporters that more than one Republican presidential candidate has called to request his public endorsement. A brand new phase of the presidential primary has begun. You thought Iowa and New Hampshire were big. Those are nothing compared to the Tebow caucus.
It won’t stop with the phone calls. Surely all the candidates will soon fly to Denver in order to appear in a Tebow debate. They’ll woo football’s golden boy on live television, attacking one another, touting their records of accomplishment, and making lofty promises. It will go something like this:
Romney: “Congratulations on leading your team to a stunning playoff victory this week, Tim. Surely no one can doubt your abilities any longer. It’s time for people to believe in you and America again. I’ll use my business experience to put together a team of investors. We’ll buy the Denver Broncos and put a stop to all this talk of benching you. A vote for me is a vote for job security.”
Gingrich: “Don’t listen to Romney. He’s a Massachusetts moderate who fundamentally lacks an understanding of the game of football from a historical perspective. Only I can defeat Tom Brady and Obama in the arena of policy debate. I’m clearly your best chance of winning.”
Santorum: “In his heart of hearts, Gingrich is not a genuine Broncos-loving conservative. Turn your back for a minute and he’ll be on the phone with Nancy Pelosi, passing your secret game plan on to her as well as Barney Frank and your opponents this weekend, the New England Patriots — all in exchange for payouts from Freddie Mac.”
Paul: “Santorum? He’s no conservative. He’s never seen an appropriations bill he didn’t like. He voted for the prescription drug plan, a mammoth education bill, and massive deficit spending. He’ll use taxpayer’s money to buy a new stadium for all of your division rivals.”
Perry: “Timmy, I’m from the great state of Texas, where we love football. That’s why I plan to send troops back to Iraq…”
Chronic Political Dissatisfaction
Tebow wisely told reporters he has no plans to endorse a candidate. “I think you have to have so much trust in who you support, just from product endorsements to endorsing a candidate because if that person or company does something [bad], it reflects on you,” he said.
In other words, politics is a grimy business. Being human, even the best politicians are bound to disappoint sooner or later. (Probably sooner.)
These days Obama, like Bush before him, is seeing his base of support steadily decline even among those in his own party. Ask most anyone, regardless of political bent, they will tell you that our current president is doing the wrong thing, not doing enough, and not doing it quick enough.
Our wired-up culture thrives on access, information, and instant gratification. We expect to be listened to, and we expect results. We have witnessed the impatience and chronic dissatisfaction of Republican primary voters this year.
Instant access to information has helped usher in a decline in political brand loyalty. We expect more than ever, and we have 24/7 access to information about our public figures’ faults. Studies show that people today are much less loyal to product brands than they were in past generations. More than ever, people register as independents, not content to identify with either the Republicans or the Democrats.
Our politicians are bound to disappoint us, it seems. Or else we simply are bound to feel disappointed by them. I’d say the popular president is an endangered species. The irony, as the controversy around Tim Tebow has shown us recently, is that being just a little too perfect, a little too good, causes many people to hate all the more.
In Tebow’s case, aside from his erratic play this season — sometimes dismal and often brilliant — can there be any doubt that much of the controversy surrounding him is a reaction against his saintly public persona? Isn’t he just a little too wholesome and earnest for our culture’s taste? No irony, no braggadocio, just a humble young man who goes on mission trips in the offseason.
We want our heroes to be good, but not so good that they make us feel bad about ourselves. We crave license to criticize. Our culture’s fascination with irony and scandal means that, in some sense, we are drawn to candidates that fail us.
Every four years we say to ourselves: Are these really the best candidates our nation has to offer? Maybe instead we should ask ourselves if our hunger for controversy is to blame. Maybe the real problem is that, in our culture, political celebrity has become conjoined to political scandal and moral blemish.
This much is clear: Like good quarterbacks, good presidents are hard to find.