Here in Rochester, we just ended our fifth annual Fringe Festival, a “a 10-day, all-out, no-holds-barred, multi-disciplinary visual and performing arts festival.” It was a great week, and my wife and I saw more than a dozen shows. Now that the goofy, amateurish, brazen theatrics are over with, we can finally focus on serious matters, such as today’s first televised debate between our Presidential candidates. Surely, tonight’s debate will include thought-provoking discussions on complicated policy positions between statesmen with honest clash on issues rather than a circus of insults, sound-bites, and one-upmanship.
I’m reminded of the famous American circus founder, P.T. Barnum, whose penchant for showmanship, hoaxes, and cynicisms made his political observations deeply insightful. He once observed that “nobody ever lost money underestimating the American public.” This claim was meant in regards to our taste for a circus, but the electoral process suggests his claim extends into the spectacle of politics. Here’s a fun fact I didn’t know until today: P.T. Barnum insights were not just untested critiques from the sidelines. He actually got elected as mayor of Bridgeport Connecticut and also served in their state legislature for four terms. I guess it’s true that everybody loves a circus.