How Sharknado Explains Obama’s Problems

Last week SyFy debuted an original movie called Sharknado. In case you haven’t checked your internet in the last week, it’s essentially exactly what it sounds like – a tornado spews sharks onto Los Angeles and campy hilarity ensues.

If you happened to be on Twitter on Friday you would have thought the movie was the biggest thing to ever hit TV. Forget finding out whether the crew was alive or dead on LOST, or seeing if Tony makes it out alive on the Sopranos, or if Don Draper can get his life together on Mad Men, it appeared the entire world had to know if washed-up actor Ian Ziering really did chainsaw his way out of a Great White.

But as it turns out, the movie was a complete bust. Despite seemingly every person in the Twittersphere talking about #sharknado, it was only watched by around 1.4 million people. That’s lower than other SyFy debuts for movies like Piranhaconda and Mega Python v. Gatoroid (yes, those are real “movies”). ‘

The Washington Post’s Ezra Klein breaks down why the disconnect between the jouro-Twitter class and the vast majority of Americans is such a problem:

“Stories that obsess Washington for days often fail to leave even the slightest dent in the electorate. And that’s a bit of a problem because the reason the political press typically gives for swarming some gaffe or conflict is that it’s going to matter in the election. We need that justification. Otherwise, what are we all doing writing article after article about some poor schmo who just phrased a banal point poorly? If it’s just a misstatement, it’s not a news story. But if it’ll move votes, then it is a news story.

In theory, this kind of coverage can become a self-fulfilling prophecy: We say it will move voters, and then we give it a bunch of coverage, and so it moves voters. But actually, that doesn’t really happen.”

In other words, the Washington-bubble is real. A largely insulated bunch of Washingtonians continues to report on issues their elitist minds perceive to be important, and they hope that by lending their constant punditry to the issue, that it will become important to all the schmos out there in the Nowherevilles spread across the United States.

The early months of President Obama’s second term have displayed this egotistic disconnect at its worth. As the inestimable Ross Douthat wrote for the New York Times:

“Yet six months later, the public’s non-priorities look like the entirety of the White House’s second-term agenda. The president’s failed push for background checks has given way to an ongoing push for immigration reform, and the administration is reportedly planning a sweeping regulatory push on carbon emissions this summer. Meanwhile, nobody expects much action on the issues that Americans actually wanted Washington to focus on: tax and entitlement reform have been back-burnered, and the plight of the unemployed seems to have dropped off the D.C. radar screen entirely.”

Hopefully the latest jobs report will shake the president out of his stupor and get him to focus on improving the job climate. Sure, the June report showed that the unemployment rate held steady at 7.6 percent and that the economy actually created 195,000 jobs in June, but the underlying story was deeply troubling. The number of discouraged people who gave up looking for work increased by 206,000 from a year earlier. And the number of people who were working part time, but wanted a full-time job, increased by 432,000, twice the number of jobs created.

Perhaps worst of all, of those Americans who are entering the labor force (read: young adults and college graduates) or rejoining it, 4.6 million of them can’t find a job. That’s a figure that hasn’t budged since the start of the recession and it means that America is no better at training its workforce for the new economy than it was. We’ve wasted years.

And that’s what Americans care about while the pundit class is off tweeting about Sharknado.