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Published: 7/19/2003

Can voters take `Jerry' seriously?

The last time the name “Jerry Springer” showed up in this column, it was January and I thought the guy was kidding, but maybe the joke's on us.

It's a time-honored political strategy, running as an “outsider,” but for Jerry Springer, it's his best chance.

“Above all,” Jerry writes on his Web site, “I believe that most Americans are being left behind in the political debate and that an unusually powerful elitism is running amok in the media and political elites in Washington - and don't forget the moneyed [sic] special interests and lobbyists.”

I should point out that this appears on his political Web site (runjerryrun.com), and not on the Web site for his TV show (jerryspringer.com), which raises the question: Which Jerry Springer should we heed - the civic-minded Jerry, or the Jerry who earns an income giving three-eyed, incestuous siblings a stage where they can hurl chairs at one another? No idle question.

This week, Jerry is in a spitting match with Jonah Goldberg, who gets no argument from me when he describes himself as a “conservative crank.” During a CNN talk show in January, Mr. Goldberg said voter turnout isn't all it's cracked up to be and summarized a possible Springer candidacy this way: “If Jerry Springer shows up, he'll bring all these new people to the polls. They will be slack-jawed yokels, hicks, weirdos, pervs, and whatnot.”

Wednesday, on the National Review Online Web site, Mr. Goldberg gave one more whack. “I stand by that,” he wrote of his January remarks. “If you thought it wasn't worth voting until Jerry Springer came along, our society doesn't really need your vote ...”

It causes me physical pain to agree with so shrill a conservative, but when Mr. Goldberg continues his dissection, we mercifully diverge paths. Mr. Goldberg insisted this week that the talk-show host's ideas are “indistinguishable from almost any run-of-the-mill liberal Democrat limousine liberal,” but I'd contend that the problem with Democrats these days is that too many of 'em are trying to out-GOP the GOP.

“There are 100 U.S. Senators,” Jerry's campaign site says. “Sometimes it's hard to tell one from the other. If I were to be among them, you'll be able to tell the difference. Believe me.”

Oh, if only Jerry knew how much I would like to. But at some point, his choice of employment - a sleazy freak fest of human nature at its absolute worst - matters. And explaining the Jerry Springer Show as campy confection, a la big-time wrestling, isn't dispensation enough.

Jerry these days calls his TV gig a “silly show,” a careful choice of words signaling that it's just a harmless guilty pleasure. He wanders among the audience, detached, looking as bemused if he'd just stumbled upon some family fight while standing in line at a 7-Eleven.

One local Democrat told me “there's nothing not intelligent” about Jerry Springer, and I'm inclined to believe that. But since 1991, this man has put out a TV show that has only contributed to the coarsening of American culture - and now we're supposed to elect him to help save American society?

If I want my financial investments be socially responsible, I don't think my political investments as a voter should be any less important.



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