After watching stiff, scripted political candidates on television, and then looking at the current crop of office holders already in Washington, one can only wonder: Are these truly the best and the brightest that this nation can muster? Do voters have any brains, or is the presidential election little more than American Idol without the singing?
The Founding Fathers, reluctant to put their faith in the decision-making capabilities of the common man, asked a similar question. This was at a time when voting was limited to what was considered the most levelheaded portion of society - white male adults who owned property and could, presumably, be trusted to steer the ship of state. But even at that, the idea of an Electoral College was introduced as a kind of final barricade between the leaders and those they led. What the individual actually votes for is a representative who is pledged to support a given candidate...so much for the popular myth of one-man-one-vote. And yet, despite this apparent distrust of the common man's acumen, about half the eligible voters can be counted upon to line up at their assigned polling places on election day.
Once in the booth, ballots are cast far more in accord with feelings than thoughts. Some voters, no doubt, think about all the perks a given candidate promised but this is an illusory exercise at best. Why believe he's telling the truth and why believe he can make good? Then too, the obscene amounts of cash needed to run a campaign make it abundantly clear that money talks. It's a system based on legalized bribery - with more than 35,000 lobbyists waiting in Washington to stroke less than 600 winners.
I once asked a senator if he didn't think there was a problem with major contributors being routinely granted major access? In a surprisingly candid moment he replied: What would you think of me as a man if I accepted help when I needed it, and then didn't at least try to help in turn when I could? What one says in an effort to be elected bears little relation to the multifarious debts that one accumulates during a race. Think about this when you next see the millions of dollars raised by candidates during just the previous week of electioneering.
And the electioneering itself is a dance that's carefully choreographed to rule out anything like an honest exchange of ideas. In fact, the trick is to say as little as possible. Come out in the middle and people will believe you agree with them. Buzzwords like Education and Equality, Health Care and Economic Security are bandied about merely to give the impression of something having been said.
This season, there was much significance attached to the word Change. There will certainly be change no matter who wins. But the implication is that it will be change for the better. Presumably, the last administration provided change, but it was the "wrong" change, and we now need the "right" change. Putting up a poster that reads "CHANGE" is not an idea, it is simply a tactic.
There are, perhaps, eight or ten such tried and true tactics that campaign managers have employed since the time of Caesar. They work because, despite what the current White House occupant believes, the jury is not still out regarding Darwin. The human brain is an excellent example of evolution in action. Over millions of years, the organ between our ears has been added upon piecemeal from a reptilian knob called the rhinencephalon, to the almost computer-like network that sits atop the cerebral cortex. This glacially slow process of jerry rigging has insured that in any contest of reason and logic versus faith and belief, the lower functions will almost always triumph over the higher.
Look At It This Way
But is this such a bad thing? If you can't be sure of what the candidates say, or of what they will do, or for that matter, of what they can do, you might just as well go with your gut feeling. And besides, there's always next time.
Contact the author directly at: DrSBMason (at) aol (dot) com