By the time thousands of cable executives-oh, I mean
executives-arrive at the Western Show this week, we ought to know who our next president will be. Thank God. But it occurred to me that since the electoral college is such a messy thing and popular votes are confused by chads that hang, there ought to be a better way.
I'd say the answer is cable.
Skip the states. Let's just suppose that every cable network is either for Gore or for Bush. Count up their viewers and let's party.
Does this plan make sense? Of course not, but for the sake of the column, let's say it does.
Here's how it would work: Cable is populated by demographically distinct networks, carefully broken into neat niches that are counted up by a ratings service that is no more unreliable than the Voters News Service.
Each network has its own feel, its own point-of-view that would probably fit better with one candidate's backers than the others. Ascribe a network to a candidate based on what it shows and who watches it.
I've taken a few of the cable networks and "given" them to Gore or Bush, based on what they do, or just some vibe. I've only done some of the work, namely predicting which networks would fall which way. I did all I could to lean it toward Gore, as did everybody else in my business.
With that, let's start the process:
The History Channel:
Man, back in World War II, our guys were equipped. Morale was high. Put this one in the Bush column.
Well, here's a no-brainer. Gore.
This is Gore country, land of women bravely empowered and richly embittered, and not an eyebrow would be raised if it scheduled a made-for-television movie titled
Max: My Cheatin, 'Voucher-Lovin' Hubby.
Just like Lifetime, only smaller, it could claim 10 million votes for Gore, but could have trouble locating where they are.
Oh, couldn't we just repeat the Clinton years one more time?
They find foreign countries, well, odd, but nice to look at. Just don't get involved there. Put this one down for Bush.
The National Network:
Gore couldn't have won his "home" cable network even if it were still called The Nashville Network. Wrestling only sealed his fate.
Men watching multimillionaire athletes who speak in incomplete sentences and fracture English. Bush, going away.
Men who delegate authority to capable subordinates so they can hang around at the country club. Bush.
Earnest, unexciting, eager, but unable to change too much. Can't understand why there needs to be competing news networks. Regrets some actions of recent past and has jettisoned guys who aren't strong team players. Strong on international affairs. Gore.
How much do you need to know, really? Bush.
They report. You decide. Bush's cousin tells you what you decided. Bush.
Seem like contented suburbanites, mixing liberal slogans with conservative viewpoints. Basically, bemused. This one's a toss-up.
A bunch of smart folks who vote their wallet, this is the closest thing to a fraternity kegger on television, viewed by retirees who like their dividends. Bush.
Despite massive effort to get its viewers to vote because it matters or something, like, no candidate even produced a decent video. Don't bother them.
Independent Film Channel:
Look for a strong Gerard Depardieu write-in. Otherwise, this is not a Bush stronghold. Too many English subtitles.
Despite Barry Diller, this is Bush country.
and not-too-subtle endorsement implied in
Walker, Texas Ranger
reruns are clues.
: For some reason, Gore.
: So maybe you don't think television was better when
was new? Bush.
This is a radical plan, granted, but essentially, Gore Bush did it to themselves. The candidates each became CBS, or pick your major brand. They hewed to the middle on everything. In television terms, Bush and Gore are the equivalent of whatever's on every Thursday night at 9:30 on NBC: They fill the position.
It's up to cable to add up all the tiny constituencies to which it caters, and then name the next president. That should be cable's goal. Either that, or stick with that on-time delivery thing. That's good too.