APTOPIX Election 2020 Debate (copy)

From left, Marianne Williamson, Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Maryland Rep. John Delaney and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock take the stage Tuesday in the Fox Theatre in Detroit for the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN.

I’ll admit that, after squealing with glee for the hundredth or so time at “Bachelorette’” Hannah Brown’s refusal to put up with another man’s nonsense at the end of the most recent season, I briefly joined the “Hannah for President” chorus.

I was joking.

Mostly.

In the same way that Hallmark Christmas movies distract me from whatever real-world stresses are weighing me down most winters, “The Bachelor” and “Bachelorette” franchises have become a not-so-guilty pleasure for me and — judging by my friends, coworkers and folks I follow on Twitter — a lot of other people looking for a brief escape from the daily madness.

Last week, I wrote a column about that. Then the real world and its madness became too loud to ignore and I wrote about that instead.

A week after the shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the world doesn’t feel any less terrible. I’ve been thinking about whether it’s right to seek distractions, whether it’s too glib to make jokes about the similarities between politics and reality TV. And I’ve decided that we all need to do whatever it is that keeps us sane — within reason. So for me, right now, this is within reason and this is that.

Late last month, the real world and our escape from it collided, with night one of the second Democratic presidential debate falling on the same night as night two of “The Bachelorette” finale — which, at the risk of echoing host Chris Harrison, may actually have been one of the most dramatic, shocking finales yet in the show’s 16-year history.

I’m not the first one to point this out, but the thing about both of these viewing experiences is that, at a certain point, you’ll find yourself looking at a guy on screen and asking, “Has he been here this whole time?”

“... maybe it’s not a good thing to date 20 guys at the same time,” tweeted CNN Politics editor Leigh Munsil. And as I read the tweet, I couldn’t help but wonder: Had “The Bachelorette” become a metaphor for the Democratic primary field? And if it had … who would each contestant represent?

Joe Biden: Joe Biden is Chris Harrison. He’s been with this franchise since the beginning. You see photos from the early seasons and it hits you just how much he’s aged since this whole thing started — but here he is, still hanging with the youths! Every now and then his actions are cringeworthy, but you’re pretty sure it comes from a good place. And without him, where would this whole show be?

Bernie Sanders: I hate to be the one to say it, but Bernie Sanders is Luke P. They’re both divisive characters who don’t quite fit in with the rest of the crowd, but they both have a certain je ne sais quois — for Luke P., it kept Hannah just hooked enough to keep him around; for Bernie, it inspired a bunch of millennials to see the future of the Democratic Party in a septuagenarian socialist. Purity is big for both of these guys — in ideology for Bernie; in sexual behavior for Luke P. They are both very loud and make lots of hand gestures. Bernie has his finger-point, Luke P. has his clenched fist. I am sorry to inform you of this and I look forward to your hate mail.

Elizabeth Warren: Of all the Democratic candidates in the field, Donald Trump seems to dislike Elizabeth Warren the most. You know what else Donald Trump really doesn’t like? Windmills. (Their noise causes cancer, you see.) You know which Bachelorette contestant knows a thing or two about windmills? Pilot Pete.

Kamala Harris: Kamala Harris was responsible for one of the most memorable confrontations in a Democratic debate — going after Biden for previous comments on segregation and school busing. Garrett was responsible for one of the most memorable confrontations of this Bachelorette season — calling Luke P. “the fakest person” he’d ever met, resulting in Luke P. dropping a pile of actual bologna in Garrett’s lap.

Pete Buttigieg: Stoic, polite and well-rounded. Perfect on paper. Future: unclear, but looks bright. Pete Buttigieg is Tyler C.

Beto O’Rourke: Remember when Hannah got sick and had to cancel her date with Connor S. and he ended up taking care of her and leaving a bunch of sweet Post-It notes around her room for her to find when she woke up? Don’t you kind of feel like Beto O’Rourke would leave our country a bunch of nice Post-It notes to wake up to? Probably with some song lyrics on them. At the very least, he’d get us some greasy fast food to help with our political hangover.

Cory Booker: The smile! The confidence! The stage presence! As far as I know, none of the Bachelorette contestants are vegans, so there’s no perfect fit for Cory Booker. But consider Mike, whose smile melted our hearts and whose compassion left Bachelorette Nation clamoring for him to be named the next Bachelor. Booker isn’t shy about flashing his smile, and before you dismiss that as shallow, read this CNN Opinion column about why it could be his “secret weapon.” Like Mike, Booker is great on paper but hasn’t quite caught fire in the polls — or in the race for Hannah’s heart.

Andrew Yang: Andrew Yang is John Paul Jones. I’m not quite sure what he’s doing here, but he seems to be having a good time, and maybe there’s more substance there than it appears at first glance!

Tulsi Gabbard: She might not force us to listen to a dime-store Jason Mraz cover act every time she’s on camera, but Tulsi Gabbard is definitely Jed. The inconvenient thing about Jed that he hoped we’d all forget was that he left a girlfriend back home while vying to become Hannah’s fiance. Tulsi Gabbard’s inconvenient truth that she’d like us to ignore is that her noninterventionist philosophy comes with support for diplomacy with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. One major difference: no one will come to Jed's defense in my mentions the way that Gabbard's fan club will rise to the occasion.

Julián Castro: Julián Castro was a bit of an unknown factor — just like the contents of the stroller Joey pushed toward Hannah offering a glimpse into their potential future. Surprise! It was a bottle of champagne. Surprise! Castro was an unexpected hit at the first debate.

John Delaney: Joe the Box King didn’t make it very far in the Bachelorette competition, and neither will John Delaney. We’ll remember Joe the Box King for jumping out of a box and talking about the many boxes in his box kingdom. We’ll remember John Delaney for getting smacked down by Warren in the second debate.

Tim Ryan: Dylan seemed nice. Tim Ryan does, too.

Amy Klobuchar: Brian seemed like a strong contender, but didn’t get very far. But Brian is a math teacher, which implies an air of pragmatism — just like Amy Klobuchar, a no-nonsense attorney-turned-legislator known for bipartisanship and productivity.

John Hickenlooper: I think there was a Devin on the show? Yeah! Devin made the weird joke about being a virgin. That has nothing to do with Hickenlooper, but look, he’s not giving us much to go on here.

Bill de Blasio: No one really seems to like him, but for some reason he’s still in the ring. Bill de Blasio is Cam.

Kirsten Gillibrand: There was no reason Luke S. shouldn’t have made it farther, and there’s no reason Kirsten Gillibrand should be polling so low. But when Luke S. hit his crucial moment — a confrontation with Luke P. — Luke S. fumbled and got so frustrated he decided to leave. When Gillibrand had her moment to shine in the second debate, she picked a confusing fight with Biden based on a column he wrote in 1981.

Marianne Williamson: Connor J. just showed up and starting speaking French and Hannah clearly had no idea what he was saying. Which is pretty much the Marianne Williamson experience, but with dark psychic forces.

Steve Bullock: Remember Chasen? It’s OK if you don’t. He seemed like a nice guy, though! Same for Steve Bullock.

Michael Bennet: There was a guy named Daron on “The Bachelorette.” I don’t remember him, but he was there. Apparently there’s a guy named Michael Bennet running for president. I don’t remember him, either, but he was there.

Jay Inslee: Kevin? Dustin? Hunter? According to his Bachelorette biography, Hunter’s life “revolves around the ocean.” Jay Inslee’s campaign revolves around saving the oceans (and the planet) from climate change. That’ll do!

No, democracy is not a game, and yes, the stakes of our elections are immeasurably higher than those of our favorite reality TV shows. But even those of us who take politics as seriously as we should need a respite where we can find it. If "The Bachelorette" isn't yours, I hope you find it elsewhere. 

Jessie Opoien is opinion editor of The Capital Times. jopoien@madison.com and @jessieopie

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

Subscribe to our newsletters

* indicates required

View previous campaigns.

Jessie Opoien is the Capital Times' opinion editor. She joined the Cap Times in 2013, covering state government and politics for the bulk of her time as a reporter. She has also covered music, culture and education in Madison and Oshkosh.