What passes for reality in “Election 2012” a.k.a. “The Twilight Zone”

What is reality?

That is a question asked by those whose station in life run from philosopher to stoner as well as folks who meet at the intersection and on the edges. As we enter into a presidential election year the inquiry seems particularly appropriate. That is due, in part, to the wildly unreal race during 2011 for the person who will become the Republican nominee this year to run against President Barack Obama.

A week or so ago, I spoke to my friend Paul in a Skype conversation in which this very topic emerged. Paul, who is an educator in Tokyo and a former journalism classmate of mine at Stephen F. Austin in Texas, said the whole shebang might just as well be one big TV “reality” show. That begs the question then, what form would that show take? “Dancing With Republicans?” Well, maybe not. At least Newt Gingrich has made his feelings known about reality shows, in his particularly cynical and hypocritical way.

In fact, Gingrich — whose star hopefully has fallen in the GOP race once and for all — illustrates just how unreal is our daily reality show that has become the Republican race and has been egged on by the national media.

The former Speaker of the U.S. House and veteran pol has in the past couple of weeks whined about the attack ads unleashed upon him by the likes of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. The Newt claims Romney is attempting to “buy the vote.” The charge of Gingrich’s “Romney-boating” is made, of course, because Gingrich has not yet accomplished the funds he needs to buy the vote.

In what most people see as reality there is little difference between the negativity of campaign ads and the viciousness Newt has let loose among his colleagues while House speaker. Gingrich has shown himself adept at both. Then there is the speaker’s problems with marital fidelity in between the periods he decries the national lack of family values caused by liberals.

As the Iowa Caucuses come to a head Tuesday one could find in that state more two-faced politicians than in a circus freak show.

Rick Perry is as guilty as they come in the “do as I say, not as I do” brethren. Here we have our good-haired governor of Texas who can both assassinate a coyote while jogging and shoot off his mouth about his state seceding from the U.S. Perry decried the federal handouts to help the economy but had a hissy fit when he could not get more government largess for Texas. All through the campaign, Perry talked tough until suddenly during an autumn New Hampshire speech he acts like a cow who stumbled upon loco weed. Ol’ Good Hair wildly gesticulated, cradled a bottle of maple syrup and just generally acted a fool leaving many wondering if the governor himself might have been into to the loco weed.

Speaking of acting a fool, the Godfather of Pizza Herman Cain had some wondering if his presidential campaign was not itself an act. Liberal msnbc host Rachel Maddow seemed convinced that the Cain campaign was a piece of performing art. Just think, not in terms of a presidential campaign itself but rather a compendium of bizarre acts — quoting from “Pokeman,” Uzebeki, beki-stan-stan, his 999 economic plan being written by a guy who works in a Wells Fargo bank. Art? Perhaps.

Then there is the reality of Ron Paul who many in his own party find him too real. He wants to bring all the troops home — from everywhere. When’s the last time that happened? In 1812, maybe?

The list goes on. Santorum. Bachmann. Two evangelical right-wingers who would really like to rule a Christian theocracy.

Finally, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. How real is he? Romney has pulled off the “being for it before he was against it” act to a degree that exceeds his fellow Bay Stater, former Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry. Romney is opaque to the extent that if George W. Bush was to look into his eyes, he’d likely see Vladimir Putin’s soul provided Putin was standing behind of Romney.

The reality show will roll into high gear later this summer once the television networks attempt to pull some entertainment value out of the national political conventions. Then, here come the zingers!

The story starts out real-ish, then along the way one wonders if reality is what one is actually witnessing, until finally one questions their own sanity. Like that wise old sage Rod Serling said: ” You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Twilight Zone!”

Except one probably shouldn’t expect substance.