Sunday, January 27, 2008

Just Show Me You Care, and I'll Vote You In

Blog doc 15 Fundamentals of American Politics: Part Eleven - Purchasing an Office

There is a running deception which begins in the numbing experience of high school civics, matures in a grotesque way and finally appears in place in our government. This would be little more than an interesting socio-cultural phenomenon in any environment other than the focused power of our government. There, the expenditure of $150,000,000 is a very reasonable cost to lubricate the transfer of power from old administrations to new ones. That will be the rough cost of shepherding a Democratic candidate into the White House, even in a year when the election is essentially without a contest, no matter who will be the choice.

Why goodness gracious! In an ideal world we could lament about just how many tractors, irrigation projects, water wells, schools or clinics might be built with cash like that. In a more pragmatic world we might consider that money sufficient for a single fifth generation fighter bomber. At least an economy model with no arm rests. In fact, $150,000,000 is actually enough money to “support the troops” in Iraq for a little less than one hour and thirty minutes, now that the monthly bill has been economized to $12 billion.

Why is it so expensive to “schmooze” the electorate into such a decision? After all, it has taken time to convince a voter that he has been somehow disenfranchised if he is not bombarded by irritating television commercials. Aside from making certain that every voter has an opportunity for some new, exciting explanation of the “Vision, Justice, Change” idea, there is still the matter of “name recognition,” or even, “electability.”

During the Cold War when the Russians were contemplating a first strike against us, we can be sure that all those Russian Generals were sizing up their chances based on the “name recognition” and “electability” of the President they were to be going against. When the single mother is trying to keep her hungry baby warm in a cold apartment, she will be able to take a great comfort from the nation’s leadership’s “electability” and “name recognition.” After all, we didn’t elect just anybody.

That $150,000,000 successful election effort is required to win. It is absolutely necessary to wall paper the psyche of every voter with enough televised “Vision, Change and Direction” messages, regardless of what they are, to generate the needed cloud of “name recognition” and “electability.” If there are too few such commercials for any given candidate, it will be damning evidence indeed that the votes in one’s county, village or city are not valued enough by some ambitious fellow on his (or her) way to the top of the heap.

Cash-wise, we need also remember that eight or ten losers all invested $149,000,000 each to the same effort. By the way, what exactly would my share of that have been if, instead of those ridiculous commercials, I had received a simple, honest bribe? Perhaps this is too much of ancient Rome’s process, too cynical. America is way ahead of that old “wine and circuses” idea.

There is a modern “Tower of Babel” which must be revealed, then explained if one is determined to win. The American model has everything to do with “gut feelings” and “intuition” about an individual. Every issue with merit is illuminated only through the lens of a candidate’s personality. The natural result is a concentration on the individual standing there in the light. The appalling second thought is whether some candidate seems to be winning. Then we voters join in with the same mental clarity as can be found in a dog fight. And the same unbending intent. We simply must elect one of them!

Selecting an individual from the field based on a carefully tailored image of personality is abysmally complicated. And risky. It inevitably asks an ill prepared and ill informed electorate to connect the number of divorces to the quality of economic policy, the religion of childhood to the level of cynicism in plans to fight crime or the suitability of an affected accent to the nuances of international relations.

This process we have spent such energy perfecting is a rolling paradox. We cannot choose the individual without the maddening proliferation of the positions on things, hypocritically word smithed positions on things which are promised to be exactly the “burning question of the day” even when they seem, well, a little off, somehow. Likewise, when we focus on these special, selected “issues,” we can view them only through our unconfident and threateningly incomplete guess about the implementing process of the candidate which seems to have become associated with them. Nothing is certain. Unless it is a very good year, nothing is even probable. Listening to more of their impassioned drivel about “change,” “vision,” “hope,” “direction,” “progress,” “freedom” or even “justice” only makes the mental nosebleed worse than before.

There is no refuge to be had by selecting a party. In fact, no one can remember what these organizations were designed to provide when they were first created, while they still had some discernible purpose. All the facts are submerged by the recollected memories of this President from this party or that President from the other party and his alleged behavior which was, somehow, an indication of his Party’s philosophy. By far the most educational feature of our modern parties will be the elephant and the horse, each presented as an updated caricature every several years as a testament to modernity.

It is so nebulous, we don’t even know if we’ve been tricked even after it is over! Was this President true to his party’s ideology? Tough question when we don’t know and never knew what that is alleged to be. Did he keep his promises? Were there promises, hidden somewhere amid the “change” and the “vision” and the new “direction?” If we isolated one of these complicated, ethereal things could we even tell if it was kept after the House, Senate and Supreme Court were finished savaging it for the interests of their friends? Or his friends?

It is, in fact, a relatively simple dichotomy. One side is ever so slightly liberal. The other, equally conservative. Of course, there are the myriad of vagaries inescapably attached to each, but perhaps there does exist some thread of motive to separate them into understandable choices, each carefully laundered into a form reflecting sincerity, occasional honesty and enlightened pragmatism.

Without the “laundry,” cynicism wins, and the cynic also wins -- a trip to Homeland Security for rendering. Without a lawyer. Or a trial. No matter, the “tapes” of the confession have been destroyed, but the evidence would still count if there ever were to be a trial. This might be “vision,” “change” or “justice.”

Both choices must be arranged with the promise of a high agenda, one motivated by the best interests of, of course, the country. A clear description of this liberal and this conservative will be necessary.

Liberals place the highest priority on the advancement of the common people, and in pursuing this, they argue, will inevitably advance the nation. Conservatives, on the other hand, place their highest priority on the advancement of the nation and, as they pursue this goal, they believe their course will inevitably advance the common citizen.

Welcome to England. Is there any possibility that we could simplify the message? Any hope that these political parties might actually mean something to a voter? Is there any future in somehow separating candidates from ideology, a chance that these issues might be considered separately? Is it reasonable to chose a political future based on some kind of coherent and comprehensible position? You know, something parliamentary.

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