Richard Belzer, Ice-T Jack Up the Election

Writers, artists, performers on next week's presidential election.

Ah, those talking heads—the TV yabberers, not the guys singing about buildings and food. We've grown a little tired of hearing from the political world's institutional pundits over this long election cycle—there's only so much Roland Martin or Bay Buchanan a concerned citizenry can take. To freshen things up, we decided to open our pages and let a number of notable cultural figures offer their own observations on the 2008 contest. Below, their insights, dreads, and underwear fascinations.


It's not hype to say that this is the most important American election in history. I'm saying that because FDR was already in office when the Second World War started. And Lincoln was established before the Civil War began.

Shane Harrison

Not only is there no incumbent or vice-presidential candidate on the ballot this time, this election has boiled down to "Who are we? What is America?"

I don't think most people understand how dangerous it would be to elect the Republican ticket in 2008. I believe McCain is a genuinely dangerous person. And his age is not the point. I know people in their eighties who are very sharp. My concerns about McCain are that he was tortured for five years during the Vietnam War, which isn't necessarily ennobling.

Think about his inability to raise his arms above his head. Keep that in mind for someone with such oversized pride and ego, who is so enamored of himself. The fact that he can't comb his own hair—he must be seething with so much anger for his inability to do the most basic acts. It's an anger that underscores everything he does. And it's an anger, in particular, for people who question his judgment.

As for Obama, here's the community organizer, Harvard Law student, freshman senator, who dares to run for president against the incredibly imposing Clinton machine, which was considered the most powerful, the most well-connected in modern political history. Hillary Clinton thought she was going to stride right into the White House. Both Hillary and McCain are flabbergasted at this young man who spoiled their runs. And Obama hasn't just beat these old political machines; he's done it while redefining how candidates raise money—through small donations, not from fat cats.

Every black kid in America will be one inch taller the day after Obama is elected. The rest of the world will see that we're not the warmongers they think we are. They'll see that we're not the racists they think we are. And in the Arab world, this will help heal the scars of Abu Ghraib.

There will be a sigh of relief from both our friends and our enemies.

Richard Belzer appears on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and has recently written the novel I Am Not a Cop! He will be performing at Comix on Saturday, November 1.


An Obama presidency will be the quake that unearths the kind of overt, white-hot racism in both the media and the populace that liberals and conservatives have been telling us doesn't exist anymore, but that black people have known all along was still alive and well.

How many white candidates for president do you remember inspiring such white Christian-extremist fervor as that which resulted in jeers of "Off with his head"? And while whisper campaigns are clearly necessary in a tired old white guy's efforts against a charismatic young man with a squeaky-clean past, who but reflexively racist imbeciles could believe that if this guy were a closet Jihadi, we wouldn't know it already?

Being based in Berlin affords me the luxury of not having to live my life caught up in the media swirl of this campaign. But even in Europe, I can't escape BBC interviews with good old boys from my home state of California describing Obama as being "the wrong color" or "just not the kind of guy I could trust with this country." I pity the naive among us who are not ready for the Return of the Redneck—otherwise known as Joe Six-Pack. People who grew up thinking race relations in this country were no more problematic than an episode of The Real World are going to get a dose of reality that will make television look like fiction again.

Stew won both Tony and Obie awards earlier this year for his rock musical Passing Strange.


Barack Obama looks like the English teacher in high school that everybody thought was "cool" but who I never had because I never even got close to those college-prep courses.

Sarah Palin looks like the person that moves into a cool, old Craftsman fixer-upper in a lower-class ethnic neighborhood and starts a neighborhood association and pressures the people who have lived there for years to put the correct windows on their homes.

Joe Biden looks like the actor who plays a politician in a movie.

John McCain looks like the old guy in a '50s science-fiction B-movie who gets strangled by the alien monster.

Jaime Hernandez's new graphic novel is The Education of Hopey Glass.

BERNARD-HENRI LÉVY. For me, one of the most powerful—as well as the least discussed—images of the recent presidential campaign was the moment Sarah Palin introduced herself to Joe Biden at the vice-presidential debate. Everyone noticed her style. Her smile. Her handsome, form-fitting black suit. Her disarming simplicity when greeting her opponent. What few people saw—or what they saw without seeing, or what they feigned to not see, or what they are sure they didn't see although they couldn't help noticing—was Sarah Palin's panties.

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