Note: This is something I originally wrote for another (now defunct) site after the ’08 election, but I figured now is as good a time as any to repost it. You know, so people could actually read it.
The 2012 election might be upon us, but there’s still one aspect of the ’08 election that’s bugging me. A LOT has been said about how Obama won that election — the Palin factor, the ’08 economic collapse, McCain’s mysteriously missing balls — but not much has been said about HOW Obama got in the position to win in the first place. Like how, you know, the Borg helped elect him.
No, I’m not talking about the collective of singularly-minded young people who stormed across the nation, assimilating the masses in the name of hope & change. I’m talking about the actual Borg from Star Trek. Specifically, I’m talking about this Borg…
That’s “Seven of Nine” on the Star Trek series Voyager.
Jeri Ryan is the actress who played her. Before Voyager, Ryan’s biggest claim to fame was finishing as the third runner up in the 1990 Miss America pageant (she was Miss Illinois) — an honor that quickly got her a plum job dealing blackjack at casino-themed charity events. After landing the “sexy cyborg” role, she immediately became a fan favorite and the subject of much tabloid fodder.
When Voyager ended in 2001, super-successful TV writer/producer (and I’ll presume Trekkie) David E. Kelley created a part just for her on Boston Public.
People who follow Illinois state politics already know where this going. So here it is for the rest of you:
Jeri Ryan was married to a Republican investment banker with a great name: Jack Ryan. In 2004, Jack Ryan ran for the U.S. Senate. His opponent? A young state legislator with a terrible name: Barack Obama. By then Jack and Jeri were divorced, but the untimely release of their child custody papers proved devastating to Jack Ryan’s campaign. People couldn’t get enough of the sordid details of their rocky marriage — namely her accusations that he was a sexual deviant. (It should be noted that even Ms. Ryan fought to keep the records private, for the sake of their children).
Things got so bad for candidate Jack Ryan that he was forced to drop out of the race, giving his democratic opponent a super-easy avenue to victory. And when John Kerry decided to let the future junior senator from Illinois be the keynote speaker at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, well… Obama became the face of the future of the party. Four years later, he was the face of the future of America. And today he’s the face of our President.
So my question is this: would Jack Ryan’s divorce allegations have been nearly as scintillating if his ex didn’t look like this in a uniform?
I don’t think so. Custody battles are notorious for couples throwing the most outrageous accusations at each other. They rarely stick. Yet these allegations did. And the weirdest part of the whole thing? The fact that the allegations were made public at all. The custody records were originally sealed (as they should be when children are involved). But once people began whispering about what may or may not be in them, members of the press filed lawsuits to unseal them. Their claim: The public’s need to know who they were voting for outweighs the interest of individual privacy. Even Ms. Ryan — no fan of her ex — wanted to keep the records private. The “interest of the public” wound up winning. The records were unsealed. Jack Ryan was doomed.
I truly believe that if Jack Ryan’s wife was anyone but a famous femme fatale, it wouldn’t have been as interesting — or as devastating — to his campaign. If she was less attractive, I don’t even think anyone would’ve cared. And I really don’t think the press would’ve fought so hard to unseal the records in the first place.
What’s that you say? “Obama probably would’ve beaten Jack Ryan anyway!” Maybe, but consider this:
Friends in Chicago politics tell me that Obama’s original plan — after winning the senate seat — was to make a presidential run in 2012 or 2016, depending on who was in office. But his sudden national popularity surprised everyone, and people started pushing him to move up his plans, to strike while the proverbial iron was hot.
So, yes, even if Jack Ryan had stayed in the race, Obama still might’ve won in a much closer race. But would he still have been thrust into the national spotlight while doing so? Would he still have gotten the DNC keynote? And without that exposure — not to mention without the LANDSLIDE Senate victory — would he have had the momentum to start a Presidential exploratory committee just two years later? I’m not sure. In other words: if not for this Borg, right now it might be Romney versus President Hillary Clinton. Heck, if not for that Borg, we might even have — gasp! — Vice President Palin.
Now that’s scary.
Left: Current President (not Borg) Right: Someone who looks to be John Edwards’s type