With the start of a new year comes a renewed hope that perhaps this one will be a bit better for the world than the last. That statement holds especially true this go-around, as 2014 was definitely tough on the collective morale. It seemed like every day you came home from work or school to see that something horrible had happened while you were out. Misplaced commercial airliners, doomsday viruses and terrorist organizations named after Egyptian goddesses. You couldn’t have made this stuff up.
Now, I don’t want to ruin your hopes and dreams for 2015, but I feel as though I ought to brace you for an eerie realization. At some point this year, you’re going to be watching a cheesy and horribly produced commercial that will conclude with the words paid for by the friends of ____ 2016. And then you’ll throw a brick through your TV.
Yes, this year’s presidential campaigning will be triumphantly returning from the lagoon of sewage it inhabits in the offseason. We will once again have a front row seat to see humanity’s vices displayed in all their grandeur. Our fearless leaders will set out to grasp America’s greatest issues and solve them in a matter of minutes on stage to the soundtrack of thunderous applause.
When I think about this topic I often wonder to what I can compare presidential campaigning and its effect on the American people. After all, I’m a sucker for a good metaphor, and I think I’ve got this one nailed. In the movie series "Alien," there is a certain creature called a xenomorph with a unique way of reproducing that is somewhat reminiscent of how campaigning works in America. Perhaps a bit more graphic, but definitely similar. The xenomorph procreates by forcing an egg through a host’s oral cavity and into their thoracic compartment, where it incubates. Over time, the parasite grows and grows until one day it explodes out of the host’s chest in gory fashion. The poor host is left to die while the newly formed alien slinks away to find new prey. It makes for great cinematic entertainment.
Are we, as America’s voting constituency, not dissimilar from that host? From the endless television commercials to the tabloid headlines, does it not feel as if campaign motifs and agendas are continuously shoved down our throat? It’s not like we don’t provide the medium for the growth of the monstrosities that are modern presidential campaigns. Many of us offer our money and our time to build up support for “our” candidates. They feed off our passion and fervent support of one side or the other. And when the zero hour passes and the new administration bursts out from within us, are we not left split apart and vulnerable? Nothing divides America like politics, and there is nothing bigger in the political world than the presidential race.
Now of course there is a culprit in all of this mess. Unfortunately, I suspect that we the people are at fault for letting it get this bad. In America, we don’t like a good, clean fight. It doesn’t make for much in the way of entertainment. When it comes to political debates, we’ll televise what is essentially a chimpanzee feces fight to a national audience. The problem with that is that it places value in who is the best feces fighter and not necessarily who is the hardest worker or smartest presidential candidate.
Don’t get me wrong; I’m vaguely aware of political strategy and how important it is to look good in the public eye. But every once in a while, it serves the populace well to peek behind the curtain and see who is hard at work when nobody is looking and who is still fixing his tie in the mirror.
Sure, I understand that the fact that we can have democratic elections in the first place puts us well above many other nations in the world. It doesn’t mean we still shouldn’t try and improve on what we’ve got. I think our politicians take the American people for granted. They don’t have to bend over backwards and impress us to seek re-election. Any old bum can harness public outrage and declare a need for change. The challenge for us as voters is to sort through the loud voices and find out who has the best chance of delivering based upon what they have already done – not what they so charismatically promise they’ll do.
Some people might say that we are at a low point in American political history because of how dysfunctional our government appears to be. It’s not the politicians' fault that they stink. The responsibility lies with the people to ensure our representatives are up to snuff. Enough with the flashy and big-budget campaigns. The parlor tricks have worked for too long now, and the country is suffering as a result. As a voter, take a peek behind the velvet curtain. Do your homework and make an educated choice in who you think should be in charge of spending your money and defending your home.
If you go on Wikipedia you can find the pages of many of America’s Medal of Honor winners. Nobody cared what their name was when they were one person in an entire Army or Navy. It was how they performed their duty that elevated them to national acclaim and gave them their influence. Imagine if we held our politicians to a similar standard. Wealth, status and family name would mean nothing. I’d venture to say we’d grow a better crop of politicians this way. It’s not beyond the scope of imagination. We as voters just have to raise our standards a little.