Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Has Hillary Clinton ‘jumped the shark’?

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Originally published on on Tue, 05/27/2008 – 10:17am

the original “jump the shark

Has Hillary Clinton jumped the shark with her RFK comments from last week?

That isn’t necessarily my question, but it does ask a better question: When do we know when a presidential candidate has jumped the shark? Or and a related question, what does it mean to jump the shark?

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way: “jump the shark” is when a TV show has lasted too long, the producers and writers have run out of ideas, and they introduce an element that is so preposterous to who the characters are that the show “jumps the shark.” The literal meaning stems from the TV show “Happy Days” where Fonzie jumps a shark on water skis. No, I’m not kidding. And the irony is that the shark jumping happened in 1977 in the show’s fifth season. And it went on to do 11 seasons.

The phrase “jump the shark” has become so prevalent in TV lore that there has been a Jump the Shark Web site since 1997 that examines whether TV shows have “jumped the shark.” At the beginning of Season 5 (in January 2008), “RENO 911” had a sequence where Lt. Dangle literally tries to jump a shark for autism – it’s a tiny shark in an aquarium. Dangle tries to jump the aquarium and smashes into the glass.

Despite what Sen. Clinton says about the 1992 campaign her husband was in, the better analogy was 1984 with Walter Mondale and Gary Hart. And as close as that race was, this is a closer race. So the issue isn’t Sen. Clinton’s viability.

But she hasn’t done a good job of selling herself as to why she should stay in the race. She has talked about making sure the voters count in Indiana, Kentucky, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota, and Puerto Rico. She has talked about making sure the voters are counted in Michigan and Florida. And all of these things are admirable.

Oh, she has mentioned that she can beat John McCain. But Barack Obama can beat John McCain. John Edwards could beat John McCain. That isn’t enough.

If she even offered a theory that she would be the better candidate down the line, getting more Democrats to win in House and Senate races along with state races, that theory would be viable. It likely isn’t true, but it would be something.

Like TV shows, presidential candidacies should keep going only if they have something to say. Ironically, we have far too few presidential candidacies that last all that long. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, who ran for months, lasted through Iowa – all the way to January 3.

The British might have a better way on both accounts. A number of their successful shows: “Coupling” and “The Office” don’t actually have all that many episodes. The creators said what they wanted to say and left the scene. The parliamentary system leads to short campaign seasons. Perhaps we can learn a thing or two from our former colonial powers.


Written by democracysoup

May 27, 2008 at 10:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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