I know I know...I've been terrible at keeping this thing updated. I warned all of you. Of course, that last statement presupposes that there is anyone still out there who checks and reads this thing (or that there was anyone who checked and read this thing at any point!) But, since tomorrow is Election Day, I thought the time was right to recycle something I wrote at about this time a couple of years ago.
Politics As Usual?
Tomorrow is Election Day. That means for the last several months we have been subjected to a constant stream of candidates on TV, radio, in public strutting their stuff and displaying their colors like peacocks. There’s mudslinging, campaign ads, and more mudslinging. It all reminds me of a couple of spoiled brats on the playground sticking their tongues out at each other and yelling things like “Nah nee nah nee boo boo, stick your head in doo doo” or something like that. As a matter of fact, I think I saw that exact same quote in James Madison’s notes on the constitutional Convention. I think Alexander Hamilton stuck his finger in his ear and yelled “nah nee nah nee boo boo” to Thomas Jefferson, at which time Jefferson took off his powdered wig and slapped Hamilton upside the head. The modern political ad was born.
And so for the last decade or so (at least it feels that long), we have been subjected to countless ads that accuse one side or the other of doing something so vile and heinous that the other side is upset they didn’t do it first. Nothing is off -limits. Well, nothing but good taste that is.
The funny thing about politics is that both sides are guilty of a type of rhetorical hypocrisy. Even worse is the fact that they both blame the other side for it. Conservatives love to espouse values and ideals, yet they attack non-conservatives with a hatred and downright meanness historically reserved for General Sherman’s troops as they marched through the south. At the same time, liberals moan and complain that all viewpoints should be heard – except the ones that disagree with them of course.
Those are the options we are faced with as an electoral public. Go ahead, make your choice – Scylla or Charybdis? I think American politics single-handedly disproves Darwin’s theory of evolution. When this fine nation was founded, the framers of the Constitution were the most educated, intelligent and savvy group of political minds that the world has ever seen. They created a document that has served as the model for governments all over the world for the past 200+ years. These were men of such intellectual fortitude that to this day, scholars debate the intricacies of the pieces of law they created.
So what the heck happened? How did we go from Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, Washington, and so on, to the politicians we have today? Somehow as a nation we backslid from the top of Mt. Olympus into the primordial ooze. At one time we had men like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington in charge of our nation – granted, I can debate with anyone the greatness of Jefferson, let’s just say he invented the modern game of politics as we know it, but his intellect is unquestionable. Now, we have Bucky the Wonder Slug running for elected office. How did we let this occur?
In the most recent Presidential election, we had a man who was widely considered an idiot running against a rhetoric-spewing Pez dispenser. Both sides attacked each other mercilessly and slung more mud than a concert-goer at Woodstock ’99. (By the way, if you can’t keep up with the pop culture references, I will provide a companion guide. Just send me a check for $19.95, plus shipping.) Even this year in a non-presidential election year, we have a new batch of people aligning on each side to defend their turf. If they start dancing, snapping their fingers, and signing about the joys of living in America, I’m leaving! Why does all of this remind me of those junior high “elections” where you won the office by selling more candy than the other candidate? Speaking of, I think my parents found a box of M&Ms in their closet from my failed mid-80s run at class president. I ate a lot of M&Ms and never did get elected. Oh well, they melt in you mouth not your hand – that’s important to remember.
Here is where it gets really messy. As bad as I make things out to be, it’s still important for all of us to participate. I would much rather have my choice of which talking head I want to pick than to have no say whatsoever. An elected idiot is better than one that derives his power from some other source – unless, of course, there was a sword and a stone involved. Maybe that’s the answer, maybe we just need to refine how we pick our elected leaders. Instead of months of campaign ads leading up to an election, let’s have an athletic competition or a test of intelligence. Let’s get rid of the Electoral College and replace it with Jeopardy. Wow, imagine that, suddenly the fate of our nation’s government would rest in the hands of Alex Trebek.
“I’ll take Belgian Philosophers for $800…and all the delegates from South Carolina please Alex.”
Ok, maybe not. It was worth a shot. I don’t think that is exactly what the Founding Fathers had in mind either. In the end we’re stuck with what we have, no matter how bad it is. So batten down the hatches and prepare yourselves for years and years of flying mud and rapid-fire accusations. Get ready for more spots where someone looks into the camera, trashes the other side and tells you they approved of this ad. Does anyone realize that if these politicians actually did everything they are accused of doing they would be either in prison or rehab? That’s ok, it makes for good TV.
It’s not too late to just let them sell M&Ms is it?