'Runway' shows primary the way

The Baltimore Sun

For voters, it had come down to the confident, crowd-pleasing man and the intense, details-oriented woman. After months of back-and-forth wins and losses -- he's up, no, now she's up -- after millions of words blogged, spun and otherwise spilled in analyzing the matchup, it finally was settled this week.

The dude wins!

Oh, not Obama. Christian.

When the week began, America's two running dramas were headed toward resolution, but only Project Runway managed to wrap it up and crown a winner.

Project Primary, though, goes on and on.

On Wednesday night, Christian Siriano, the impish alum of Baltimore's School for the Arts, emerged victorious, winning both the popular vote texted in by viewers and the decision of the judges in the finale of Bravo TV's fashion reality show.

Meanwhile, another Tuesday came and went, another group of all-important states spoke and yet still no clarity, let alone an actual winner in the Democratic presidential primary. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the two big Tuesday prizes of Ohio and Texas, and yet Barack Obama remains ahead in the overall delegate count.

Maybe I'm addled by too much cable TV of late, overdosing on Olbermann and gorging on Gunn, but it's all become a mash-up for me. Episodes, primaries. Challenges (make a dress out of candy wrappers!), debates (make a distinction between your health care plans!). Judges, superdelegates.

And yet, I wonder, can the Democrats learn something from the fashionistas? Can they find a way to close the deal as satisfyingly as Runway's Heidi Klum and company have?

For one thing, the fashion folks certainly tally their votes faster, while the Democrats are still counting Texas caucus results from Tuesday. For another, their rules are infinitely simpler. While it's beyond my grasp of algebra and party politics to explain the primary rules on apportioning delegates, here, by contrast, is Project Runway's elegantly conceived process of elimination: Once a week, a group of wannabe designers get a challenge and a set budget to stitch up a frock; viewers vote in real time on which one they like best; Heidi and her panel of experts render a decision and, after a round of delightfully catty observations, a loser gets sent home with a brisk auf Wiedersehen from the Teutonic supermodel while the rest live to compete another week.

Now, isn't that much better than the excruciating way the Democrats do it -- one state this week, two dozen of them the next, nothing for weeks and weeks? Sometimes it's a caucus, sometimes a primary, sometimes, as in the case of Texas, it's both. Sometimes anyone can vote, sometimes only the registered Democrats. And then, there's the doling out of delegates, by some algorithm so little understood that every media outlet has a different tally to date.

I can think of at least two areas in which Democrats can borrow from Runway's success.

1. The do-over:

In the fourth Runway episode, the beefy, jolly Chris was auf-ed, but got to come back in the next episode after a mysterious health issue befell one of the other designers. In fact, Chris would prove to be this season's comeback kid -- in Episode 11, judges couldn't decide between Chris and Rami, the Jerusalem-born designer, who had more wins under his belt, so they gave them another week to duke it out for a finalist position. (Rami won.)

Which brings up Michigan and Florida, the two naughty states that party officials are punishing by stripping them of their delegates because they moved up their primary dates. But now, with visions of the primaries ending without either Obama or Clinton having a lock on the nomination, those unmoored delegates are looking mighty tempting to some. Calls are coming in for a rule change that would allow the states to vote again, this time with their delegates counting.

Golf has its mulligans, Runway has Chris, maybe the Democrats can have a do-over, just this once.

2. The broker:

While Rami was the third finalist competing in this weekend's finale, it's always seemed like the contest was really between Christian, the brash kid from Annapolis with a propensity for huge, chin-swallowing ruffled collars, and Jillian, the fretful Long Islander who always ran late stitching up another intricately detailed coat.

Rami, meanwhile, was the voice of calm on the sidelines, the grown-up who ignored Christian's annoying sniping and would console Jillian when she whimpered about needle pricks or mismatched models.

Can Al Gore, as some bloggers are suggesting, play a similar role for the Democrats? While some see him as the candidate to rally around should Democrats still be hopelessly split between Obama and Clinton at the convention, it seems more likely that he could play the role of mediator, shuttling between the two camps and convincing them to avoid a bloody fight.

If not Gore, then what about Runway's Tim Gunn? Surely the dapperly dressed confidant to the designers -- always offering a pep talk or group hug when the fur or the fabric starts flying in the contestants' workroom -- could wade into a chaotic convention, clap his hands and demand that they "make it work."


Copyright © 2020, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad