Now is the time for…whatever this is


Props to Pete Jones for the link to this video, which as near as I can tell is not fake. I admit I was difficult to convince at first. It seems literally incredible that one campaign could make so many bizarre choices in 56 seconds, not the least of which is pointing a video camera at Mark Block. He looks like a guy who runs the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity, possibly because he used to run the Wisconsin chapter of Americans for Prosperity. Block is Herman Cain’s campaign manager, so it would almost make sense to put him in this video, if he did not so closely resemble the dude your mom dated right after she heard your dad was dating someone. Block’s questionable charisma is completely erased at the :40 mark, though, when he takes a long, defiant drag from his cigarette. And…music!

The music is from the casette they found in the tape deck when they bought the Cain campaign van, but that’s not important now. It’s also not important that they used that weirdo filter to make Block’s forehead and chin all blurry—while leaving his pores as crisp and wide as a Wisconsin morning—or that the camera keeps moving closer and closer to him before jerking away. Also ignore the scenery, which suggests Block has just emerged from the bushes at the women’s college. The important thing is the message. On this issue I quote Politico:

Block told POLITICO’s Reid Epstein that the video was a message that had been sent out to activists that wasn’t intended to “convey any message.”

Okay, then. It’s good that this message was not intended to convey any message, since Block hews closely to that theme.  Consider the declarative statements he makes in this video:

:04-:13: I am Mark Block, and I run the Herman Cain camp—jump cut!

:14-:17: “Tomorrow is one day closer to the White House.” Not for Herman Cain, of course, but generally. This portion of the statement is technically just implied.

:18-:26: I genuinely believe the words that I am saying now.

:27-:32: Obvious falsehoods. Block says that America has “never seen a candidate like Herman Cain.” If you show Mark Block a picture of Steve Forbes or Ross Perot, he will say, simply, “nice man,” before jerking his head and saying “nice man” again.

:33-:38: “We need you to get involved, because together we can do this.” That’s pretty much the essence of the Cain campaign, right there: if we elect Herman Cain, he will become President of the United States. If we all come together, we will be united. A vote for Cain is a quantum of support for his candidacy. Our plan is simple, but it’s also easy to understand.

:38-:40: “We can take this country back.”

That’s the real message, right there. Mark Block was not chosen for his boyish charm; he was chosen because in 2009, he organized the largest “taxpayer rally” in Wisconsin history: the Madison Tea Party Rally. He’s also been charged with illegal coordination of political activities three times in the last 15 years, but that’s not the point. The point is that Block gets things done, and one of the things he gets done is whipping up the base. When he employs the biggest dog whistle of the last two years—”take this country back”—just before he takes a long, sensual drag on his cigarette, you can bet it’s no accident.

Remember when you could smoke in bars and restaurants and airplanes without people getting all uptight about it? Of course not, because you’re not sixty. But thousands of Tea Partiers remember, and Mark Block remembers that smoking in television ads is a powerful symbol of The Way Things Used to Be. Taking this country back means, first and foremost, taking it back about thirty years. That’s when Reagan was President and the Baby Boomers were in their thirties. It’s when Godfather’s Pizza was a real thing. And it’s when American culture was wholly oriented toward our parents’ generation.

The Tea Party dream of taking this country back means, in large part, taking it back to a time when the people who elected Barack Obama were too young to vote. America made sense to the Baby Boomers then, and making easy sense is what the Cain campaign is all about. Bills should be no more than three pages long, says candidate Cain, and the whole tax code should have three numbers in it. Remember when the entire country marketed itself directly to you? Remember when people weren’t all politically correct about smoking? I know that’s not what that expression means, but we know what it really means. This is our message to you, Tea Party. It’s not intended to convey any message. It’s just a certain flavor. Herman Cain for President of Flavor Country.

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  1. Block seems to be one of those people who, when he starts making statements emphasizing how honestly he is speaking and how truly he believes it, starts shaking his head “no.” It’s nature’s way of telling us something, like the way certain poisonous frogs are bright blue.

  2. That’s what this country needs, is a president whose smile says, ‘I will totally sneak up behind you while you’re working and give you a surprise shoulder massage that makes you visibly uncomfortable.’

  3. Another of nature’s wonder is how certain ideas can be expressed so simply that they are paradoxically confounding. For example, “Block told POLITICO’s Reid Epstein that the video was a message that had been sent out to activists that wasn’t intended to “convey any message,” or 9/9/9, or “We need you to get involved, because together we can do this.” My brain has developed in such a way that it instinctively rejects such ideas, which in the academic environment makes it more fit for survival. In the wild though, I wonder if I wouldn’t be wasting precious calories exploring the semiotic layers of these simple statements for intellectual nourishment. Like an onion, there are only tears, not sustenance.

    On another note, Herman Cain and Mark Block must not have an illusion that they’re going to win this campaign. Even dumb people are smart enough to sense that. So what is their motivation then? (1)To influence the political agenda? (2)Build name recognition for a future attempt? I think it’s to (3)demonstrate extremism so that that other Republican candidates look comparatively moderate. In the same way that Malcolm X made Martin Luther King Jr. look reasonable, Herman Cain and Michelle Bachman make Mitt Romney seem like the center of some political spectrum when really he’s not. If extremist and unelectable candidates Cain, Bachman, and Ron Paul didn’t run our attitudes and thoughts about the electable ones like Romney would be different; essentially achieving #1 though indirect means.

  4. You really hit the nail on the head in those last two paragraphs! I think that’s exactly what this whole Tea Party angst thing is about – wishing the young’uns and the people that look and believe differently than we (the real Americans) do would just shut up. Their time in power is up, the world is changing, and they’ll be damned if they’ll let it go.

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