Are Americans insane? Presidential elections are over a year away, but you wouldn’t know it from the list of presidential candidates. Why—exactly—does it take so long to announce your candidacy, gather your constituents, and lead your campaign? Here’s a novel idea: Save some of your efforts for the presidency. (They say it’s a tough job.)
What we have right now is a mess of hopefuls who are all attempting to beat each other to the punch, get a one up on one another through attack ads, and grab the attention (aka: money) of voters so as to cement some sense of loyalty when the selection process begins.
As someone who has only been able to vote for about a decade, it’s been interesting to watch the madness of our political infrastructure shift—as well as my own views. I remember being an ardent conservative, an Alex P. Keaton type, with just enough idealism to believe that our “democratic” process was what made America great. There’s still a part of me that believes that. But enough about me. The truth is that idealism cannot coexist with realism here, because we are sucking out all the not-so-common sense which once seemed to be a staple of our decidedly pragmatic society. Let’s take things one step at a time. First, we need to look at what we’ve been doing, and then we might have a better idea of what to do next. I guess this is why they told us to pay attention in History class.
According to opensecrets.org, the total costs of U.S. elections have risen substantially in the past fifteen years. 2012, at slightly over $7 billion, saw nearly double the $4 billion in 2004. For more perspective, consider that Time Magazine reported an increase of over 500 percent in campaign funding during the last two decades—an increase that cannot be explained away by inflation, but is rather a depressing commentary on the election process as a whole. In fact, Seattle citizens are trying to counter such corruption on a local level by fighting to get the Honest Elections Initiative (I-122) on the ballot. Among many other regulations, this initiative would limit contributions, require thorough documentation of all donations and donors, and ban former city officials from lobbying for at least three years after leaving office. As a Seattle native, I may be a bit biased, but that doesn’t sound like a bad way to start running elections.
Here’s the thing: It’s not that we’re going to Hell in a handbasket; we’re simply going nowhere…in terms of systematic and lasting change. Sure, we’ve been passing progressive legislature, and several candidates on both sides acknowledge and celebrate our crowned virtues of “diversity” and “hard work” (with little to no clue how those words might actually apply to them personally), but we’ve got the same group of people using the same methods of campaigning for the same ends. Despite all the experience, training and political prowess many politicians may possess, how can anyone expect different results when we’re throwing all the same ingredients into the same damn oven?
Yes, I’m young. I’m not that politically savvy, but I can count, and right now I see way too many dollar signs—and way too many candidates. Currently, we have listened to fourteen announcements thus far for Republican candidates and five for the Democrats. Of those candidates, we have several repeats (Perry? Huckabee? Santorum? Déjà vu…) and, of course, the ever-present Bush and Clinton clans are still ready for action.
For the first time in a while, I agree with Mitt Romney, who claims his decision not to run was rooted in the desire to gives others a shot. It does seem arrogant to take up time and money running a campaign when you’ve already had a turn, spent your extravagant excess trying to win, and lost.
For as long as anyone I know has been alive, there has always been a sense that American voters were given limited options when it came to political candidates, not only because of a two party system but because the affluence and status required to play the game were so demanding. Now, we have too many candidates but few real appealing options.
Like a kid channel-surfing Cable only to find there’s “nothing to watch,” it seems we have let people buy time for really, really crappy shows, and we’re the ones paying for it.
It’s time to change the channel, and wait for the commercials to end. And while we’re on the topic of television, SNL can just expect to do re-enactments when election season comes along.
Photo Source: Mashable.com