Even though some of us were not yet born, the scandal that was Watergate is embedded in the American subconscious for the foreseeable future. Is it because the secret recordings and spying on enemy parties was of a higher level of evil than we had ever seen in American politics thus far? Because it resulted in the first resignation of a President, thus proving the fallibility of our highest office? Or is it really because we have yet to move past adding the suffix “-gate” to anything remotely scandalous American culture?
We all remember “Nipplegate,” when Janet Jackson’s breast flashed during the Superbowl halftime show a few years back. And who can forget “Dopegate” which eventually brought cycling champion Lance Armstrong’s career and legacy to a pitiful and shameful end. Political scandals are rife with “-gates,” from “Weinergate,” the Twitpic heard ‘round the world when then NY House Representative Anthony Weiner accidentally broadcasted what was supposed to be a private penis shot to a constituent. There are three “Troopergates” on record, one involving Bill Clinton, one Eliot Spitzer, and the Sarah Palin brouhaha where she allegedly fired the state safety commissioner for failing to fire her brother-in-law when she was the Alaskan governor. Palin countered that claim with “Tasergate,” claiming that her brother-in-law had used the weapon on his ten-year-old son.
I’ll say this for the American media machine, we know a good thing when we see it. Like producers of reality television series’, using the same exact plot scenarios to release the same exact television show year after year to unsuspecting viewers, our collective vernacular has varied little since 1974. We beat the proverbial dead horse.
And I, for one, am sick of it.
I’m sick of pundits keeping close eyes on political figures not because we need to hold their feet to the fire and hold them accountable to anything like, say, doing their jobs, but for the one tiny misstep that we can pounce upon. This past election season alone produced so many distractions with “-gates” that the substance of choosing the most qualified human to take the most powerful position in the whole freaking world was reduced to “Big Bird” and “Binders of Women.” Immediately after Joe Biden stated, “With all due respect, that’s a bunch of malarkey, because not a single thing was accurate,” when he systematically destroyed debated Paul Ryan in their Vice Presidential debate, #malarky trended on Twitter. Six minutes into the State of the Union Address by President Obama, a Twitter account with the name @JoeBiden’sGlasses was created with hundreds of followers instantly onboard.
Which brings us to Marco Rubio’s rebuttal. The fact that he had crafted a speech that answered to exactly not one thing the President spoke about was not the most talked about story of the day. Not his claim that the President wanted to raise more taxes, or the untruth that cutting taxes for the wealthy boosts the economy. No, the blogosphere and the Interwebs were ablaze with the gif of Mr. Rubio, who, whilst never losing eye contact with the American people, made a desperate grasp for a Poland Spring bottle and nervously gulped it down, as if by keeping us in a hypnotic stare we might not compare his awkwardness to Obama’s smooth delivery.
The memes were created. The puns abounded, like Jon Stewart’s headline: “Water for Elephants.” People claimed on Facebook threads that it was his “thirst for power” and the need to “water down his rhetoric.”
But I just think it’s lazy. I think we need to look beyond the insignificant gaffes of our public officials and to finally move forward, past the silly wordplay that haunts us from almost forty years ago. And I know that you do too. That’s why I think we should band together and demand that with the final sip of Rubio’s water bottle, we end the nonsense of silly political jargon. Let this human error, this nervous tic that was almost downright adorable if we look at it objectively, not define us as a people, not become the next, oh I don’t know, “Watergate.”
Let this be the last straw.