Forget wetsuits and whitewater, the World Wrestling Federation wants young people in America to smack down their votes. The WWF, which actively enumerates young voters between the ages of 18-30 during arena events, wants to invite George W. Bush and Al Gore to speak about youth issues on WWF SmackDown! on Oct. 17.
To the politically conservative, this might seem ludicrous. To a smart politician, it should seem lucrative. However, neither Bush nor Gore has yet accepted the opportunity to speak to the WWF audience about youth issues, proving neither presidential candidate is all that smart.
Despite The Rock's appearance at both the Republican and Democratic Party Conventions, both men are still unwilling to step into the ring. The WWF is only asking for five minutes, but really, what can one reasonably expect from the man who can't see poverty in Texas when the soup kitchen is right around the corner from his office? As for Gore, you'd think the man who should appeal to everyone, except maybe the rich, would jump at the chance to address the mostly middle-class audience. The WWF and its participation in the Smack Down Your Vote! campaign is non-partisan therefore, both refusals make little sense. Maybe The Rock scares them.
Both of these men saw the benefit of appearing on Oprah, that pop-culture panacea for all that ills America. Appearing on Oprah carried with it the chance to campaign to TV viewers who might otherwise not give a hoot about anything other than what Oprah and her crowd of feel-good minions have to say. So why would two supposedly shrewd politicians avoid the opportunity to preach during the number-one rated U.S. show for 18-34 year-olds in its time slot? It seems as though perhaps the presidential candidates made some judgment calls without thinking clearly or assessing the facts.
Really, who's to say Oprah's viewers are any more politically astute than those who settle down with a cold one to watch several grown men pull each other's hair every week? By appearing on Oprah and refusing the WWF, the presidential wannabes clearly showed that they believe some areas of popular culture are more credible, with more intelligent viewers, than others. What they've forgotten is that pop culture is popular for a reason. Whether it's wrestling or superficially analyzing society's evils, people are watching--lots of people who care as much about the ongoing battle between Gore and Bush as they do about the one between Val Venus and Latino Heat.
Considering the Smack Down Your Vote! campaign has now signed up over 100,000 new voters and tried to promote responsible political awareness among young people, it seems reasonable to expect candidates to respect that effort as much as they do the sappy sweetness of Oprah's audience. Just because it's a wrestling ring and not a cosy couch should mean nothing to the men who want to run and influence a country.
They have until Oct. 17 to decide, so stay tuned. Either way, it'll be more exciting than the uninspired appearances of Canadian politicians on the Royal Canadian Air Farce.