Originally published in Boulder Weekly


Last week, two monumental events occurred that rocked the very fabric of this great nation: 1) In the midterm elections, George Bush and the GOP got beat like red-headed stepchildren by the Democrats, and 2) Britney totally broke up with K-Fed.

It was a low point in the careers of two American anti-icons. On the surface, these incidents seem completely unrelated. It’s doubtful that Bush has ever downloaded “Toxic” onto his iPod, or that Spears keeps up with the latest polling results out of Virginia. However, Bush and Britney have a lot more in common than meets the eye. They are both cultural pariahs who have achieved unlikely success despite the fact that the general public considers them to be idiots.

But what does this say about a society that elected Bush as its president (not just once but twice) and purchased Britney’s mediocre pop albums by the millions? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to analyze the correlation between the leader of the free world and the leader of the pop world. (As far as we know, this has never been attempted before, so bear with us.)

In 1994, Bush kicked off his political career by defeating incumbent Democrat Ann Richards to become the governor of Texas, and Britney took to the stage as a squeaky clean performer for the Mickey Mouse Club. These were seminal years for both subjects. George made a name for himself as a hard-line conservative by giving tax cuts to the wealthy and executing more criminals than any other governor in U.S. history. Britney learned that innocence and purity can be powerful tools, especially when combined with underage sexual innuendo.

At this time, our subjects were newbies in their respective fields, and their success had less to do their God-given talents than it did with parental influence. However, they both learned from their surroundings and continued to ascend the proverbial ladder. They applied their newfound knowledge in 1998, when Bush earned a second term in the Governor’s Mansion and Britney released her debut album, …Baby One More Time. Bush’s political savvy combined with his father’s good name caused the Washington cronies to sit up and take notice—as did Britney’s plaid skirts and kneehigh socks. Our subjects were teetering on the edge of glory, and they could both taste victory just around the corner. (In case you didn’t know, victory tastes a lot like those Chicken in a Biscuit crackers).

The Millennium was a mixed blessing for the dynamic duo. Oops!…I Did It Again debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. in 2000 and cemented Spears as the new queen of the airwaves. But the critics were not necessarily in concordance with public opinion, and in 2001 Spears was passed over at the Grammys for a second year in a row. Despite numerous semantic blunders and startling geopolitical ignorance, Bush managed to take over the most powerful office on the planet. However, his victory was overshadowed by a voting mishap in Florida and accusations of foul play.

In order to solidify themselves in the history books, Bush and Britney both needed a traumatic event to garner public support. When the terrorists attacks occurred on Sept. 11, Bush went from a stuttering puppet president with a daddy complex to a John Wayne-like avenger almost overnight. Sympathies were also showered upon Britney by countless devastated teeny-boppers less than five months later when she broke up with N-Sync über-hunk Justin Timberlake amidst allegations that he’d been unfaithful. After these catastrophic episodes, the media turned our subjects into martyrs that could do no wrong.

Riding a tide of confidence, Bush and Britney were informed by their respective advisors that they needed to make bold moves to prove to the world that they could overcome the obstacles set before them. In March 2003, Bush answered his critics once and for all by declaring war on Iraq and bombing Baghdad back to the Stone Age. Britney’s choice was less violent but just as symbolic. At the MTV Video Music Awards in August, she took the stage with Madonna and French kissed the pop music empress in front of the entire world. These events marked the passing of a torch from one generation to the next. For George, Jr., it was an opportunity to redeem his father’s failed attempt to capture the notorious Saddam Hussein. For Britney, it was an acknowledgment that she was now a full-blown sex idol.

But fame can sometimes be a fickle mistress. Our subjects started to believe their own hype and thought they could do no wrong. They forgot that there is only one thing the media loves more than a martyr, and that’s a fallen saint. After the whipping the Republicans gave to the Democrats in the 2004 election, Bush thought he had a mandate from the voters to act like a self-serving ass. He refused to alter his “Stay the course” rhetoric in Iraq and began shoving his religious beliefs in the public’s face. Meanwhile, the formerly image-conscious Britney dyed her signature blonde hair black and started marrying every redneck she could find.

Their popularity waned in 2005 when Bush overstepped his authority by interfering in the Terri Schiavo case and Britney introduced us to her new hubby via the failed reality show Chaotic (where she told the world that she thought time travel, as described in the movie Back to the Future, was real).

Which brings us to 2006.

Currently, it appears that our subjects have learned from past mistakes. After all, Britney finally did kick K-Fed to the curb, a move that seems to indicate she will shape up and stop acting like Elly May Clampett. And Bush has graciously extended an olive branch to the Democrats now that they have the power to impeach him (which is the political equivalent of an atomic wedgie).

But the real question is whether or not the American public will learn from these mistakes. Will we continue to idolize underage “entertainers” and megalomaniacal politicians, or will we start supporting talented artists and pragmatic intellectuals? At the moment, it’s too early to tell. Barack Obama and The Black Keys give us a modicum of hope, but Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Duff are just waiting in the wings.

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