I don't know about you, but I am relieved that the Iowa vote is behind us. I was getting tired of hearing about a bunch of candidates who I wouldn't feel comfortable sitting next to on a plane. And it wasn't just the unsavory nature of the choice that was depressing, it was the unrelenting and mindless coverage.
In typical media fashion, the reporting focused not on assessing the candidates fitness for office, or positions on the pressing political issues of the day, but on delivering a breathless blow by blow reports of the cat fight. Am I the only one who was not entertained by this spectacle?
OK, I was entertained to a point, morbidly fascinated might be a better way to put it, as one after the other of their campaigns crashed and burned. It was something like it must have been watching gladiators battling to the death in the Roman coliseum. The only difference is that, while one might reasonably feel pity for the gladiator-slaves whose blood was being needlessly spilled, it was hard to rouse much sympathy for these candidates, who freely chose this vicious line of work for themselves.
And there is one more difference: the combatants in this case were not lowly slaves. The slaves were -- let's face it -- the folks like you and me sitting on the stone benches watching the politicos vying for the position of slave-master in chief.
Sure it was great to feel brighter and morally superior to all those candidates for president. One good thing about the now-obligatory campaign-year race to the bottom is that it makes the rest of us feel saintly by comparison. We can express our righteous indignation and contempt for the behavior of those who would be our leader. But here's the deal: one of these aspiring Frankensteins may end up in the Oval Office. And guess what -- we will be responsible for that happening, not them... because we created them.
How did we create them? We watched. We didn't avert out eyes as they transformed before us from reasonable and passably civil individuals to a pack of slanderers, liars, cheats and ego-inebriated barbarians. We didn't unplug our TV sets. We continued to read the newspaper, to check out the internet news sites for the latest on the campaign. We didn't tell the media-cracy that we could no longer stomach their sensationalist coverage; we didn't demand that the candidates give us an honest accounting of their positions on the real issues confronting the nation; we didn't tell them that their negative ads were repugnant, that their general comportment was unbecoming of an adult human being.
On the contrary, we egged them on from the sidelines -- simply by paying attention.
I have never raised a child, but I have been told by parents that the best strategy sometimes is to just ignore them. If the little one is acting out, the adult does not have to add fuel to the fire by blowing their top and screaming at say a temper tantrum or a deluge of crocodile tears. The best strategy may be to let the kid blow off a little steam, and turn the other way.
How about trying this tactic with our politicians? Somebody has to be the grownup here, why not the American public? I know, we love to complain about the politicians and their childish behavior, but why not occupy the election process for a change this year. That's right, this time let's not just sit there passively and jeer at the bums from the bleachers. In fact, let's not show up at all. Let them play to an empty stadium.
I know that it sounds un-civic-minded of me to suggest this. Don't worry -- when the ratings plunge for their debates, when no one shows up at their rallies, when even the press ceases to cover their distortions and evasions and ad hominem attacks, when their vacuous political platitudes are greeted with weary yawns, when the polling booths are empty on primary days, you bet they will get the message. Trust me, they will clean up their acts in a flash!
Because the truth is that the candidates don't like being mean spirited, liars, fools and cheats anymore than we do. That's right, politicians -- like the rest of the human race -- are basically good at heart. And they would like us to see them that way.
OK, I know that it seems unlikely, but let's just operate on the assumption that politicians too have better natures that we can appeal to. As an experiment, in the coming run up to the presidential election, let's applaud our politicians when they make intelligent statements on vital issues, let's cheer them on when they show modesty and are honest in fessing up to their own mistakes and mis-statements. Let's reward them with our votes when they demonstrate restraint in turning down multimillion dollar bribes (I mean campaign contributions) from big corporations, and display courage in standing up for what they actually believe in, even when it is unpopular.
In other words, let's treat the candidates as we would our own youngsters -- pat them on the back when they do good, and ignore them, or gently reprimand them when they're being naughty. Who knows, these overgrown children may begin acting their age. They may turn into adults before our very eyes!