Everything I Need to Know About 2012 I Learned From American Idol
Country won. Honesty won. Decency won. And good ol' American values won. They beat hypocrisy and hyperbole, snark and snicker, and the jaw-dropping arrogance of the experts and elites. No, I'm not talking about the Republican sweep of the House last year. Rather, I'm talking about last week's American Idol, where viewers disregarded the exhortations of entertainment and media elites and chose instead down-home over Hollywood, and country over anything and everything our cultural elites pushed at them.
It became clear as the confetti rained down on this year's American Idol -- a teenager with white picket fence sensibilities and country voice who, as the Los Angeles Times noted in an oh-so-culturally-attuned tone, lacks "dignity" and real artistry -- that all I need to know about the 2012 elections I had just learned from this FOX network show. The bottom line: if enough people are exposed to the truth, they will ignore the experts and go with their hearts. And so the amateur singing competition offers hope that in 2012 decency might carry the day and life may, in fact, imitate American Idol. In the run-up to the next presidential elections the political, media, and cultural elites will push Obamanomics, ObamaCare, and Obama government, while the Republican elites will push their favorite why-can't-we-all-just-get-along-and-pass-the-pork-please candidates, but the voters -- like Idol viewers -- may very well have a different idea. Yes, we can.
During the season and especially in the weeks leading to the final two shows, Idol judges were visibly stunned by the choices of viewers. The audience watched the performances and then called or texted the show with their votes. Although the judges comment after each performance, it is left to the viewers to choose the winners. In past seasons, voters have regularly ignored the preferences of judges and assorted other entertainment and media experts, who largely view the tens of millions in the audience as lacking sophistication and knowledge of "the true art form of music." And again this past week, viewers let the experts know: We're different, we make different choices. And so we had the spectacle of country music in the running, country in the final, and, again, country winning, despite the best efforts of the judges to push more sophisticated (read: elite sleaze) fare. The two teenagers in the final were sweet, respectful, and wholesome -- all that mainstream media and Hollywood detest. The pair, called the "Terrible Twos" by one media outlet, has solid middle-class families, parents who care, and underscore the "American" in American Idol.
And so the folks who made Lady Gaga and simulated sex an integral part of this season's most popular television show sat in stunned disbelief as one favorite after another fell by the wayside. Goodbye edgy, hello country. Bye-bye outrageous costumes, hello Miss American Pie. Drove my Chevy to the levee and the levee was...country? What's wrong with these people? Don't they understand real music, real art? An influential media blog, trendy people sitting in trendy Manhattan clutching their half-caf skim lattes, viewed the wreckage that comes from letting ordinary people have their say about the end of American Idol's tenth season and complained, "OMG you guys, we are almost done... But first, there's this. Cruel, country this [sic]." This is what happens when you let ordinary Americans vote.
And so it will be in the 2012 elections. Voters who have watched and lived through the performance by elite America's idol, Barack Obama, will take their turn. A variation on the Reagan whiplash of a question to the nation about Jimmy Carter will echo in their heads: "Are you better off than you were four years ago?" Then they will vote. And so when media experts tell us that 2012 will be a tough slog for conservatives (also known as those not impressed by the parade of "serious" Republican candidates produced by the joint venture formed by liberal media and insider conservative press), when the New York Times tells us the nation will return to its worship of Obama, and the Washington Post touts the growing and continuing recovery courtesy of Obamanomics, in which every measure of the economy has dropped far below the pre-Obama years...well, I just think about American Idol and the lessons of the season just ended.
First, everything changes when the audience watches or lives the performance. The lesson: Experts pronounced, but American Idol viewers voted on the actual singing. The media, reviewers, and experts described vastly different performances from those witnessed by viewers. The application: if 2008 was the year of Obama and cool comes to the White House, then 2012 will best be characterized by the Who hit, "Won't Get Fooled Again." Yes, the media will continue to shamelessly cheerlead and lie -- so what else is new? But an expanded press led by online journals and blogs such as the one you're reading offer front row seats. The New York Times, the Washington Post, the legacy networks may tell us that Barack Obama represents true artistry, that he is a James Durbin or Casey Abrams, contestants who at various times were anointed the next American Idol by adoring judges and media. But then America, rubbed raw by their preening and screeching, knocked them out. And America, having lived Obama, will do the same.
Second, we now know not to trust talking heads and consensus experts, either left or right. The Idol judges and media commentators strove mightily to teach we, the viewers -- "we the people," simpletons all -- what music artistry is all about. And, Manhattan shock jock Howard Stern viciously told us, it is not about a country-singing finalist, 16-year-old Lauren Alaina, who "looked like a 40-year-old woman who went for in vitro fertilization, had three shots in her ass and they got her knocked up with twins." Nor is it about the eventual winner, teenage Scotty McCreery from small-town North Carolina, whose traditional country songs were repeatedly pronounced boring by the music industry heavyweights doing the judging. Rather, it is about shock and sex and rules-are-for-little-people, about Lady Gaga wearing $4,500 "penis shoes" during an Idol performance and bling and Hollywood-beautiful and right thoughts. But viewers ignored the experts -- and "aw shucks" beat Hollywood, just as "we the people" will do in 2012.
But to do that we have to do what the eventual American Idol did when Lady Gaga, brought in to coach him on the finer points of music artistry, pointedly told him to "act evil." "Lord," he said, "it's not my doing." Then he backed away and just kept on singing country, wearing his cross and thanking God and family and friends for the many blessing of this time and place.
And so all we need to know in 2012 is encapsulated in American Idol. Time to tell the mainstream press, insider Washington, and the academic and cultural elites to strap on their $4,500 "penis shoes" and take a hike...because we're gonna be singing country.
Stuart Schwartz, a frequent AT contributor, is on the faculty at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.