First substantive blog post. I would have preferred something more light hearted and fun than this, but it was the first meaningful topic I wanted to opine upon.
I’ve been occassionally glimpsing at the year long three ring circus called the US Presidential election, starting with the presidential primaries, and specifically the Iowa Caucuses.
The Democrats are set with Barak Obama running for re-election and the Republicans are chosing who will run against Obama.
Underlining all the discussion about policy, track record, and voter appeal, is this troubling discussion about money, specifically campaign finances. It takes colossal amounts of money to elect an American president. Why? Why does it take hundreds of millions of dollars to put someone in the Oval office? Then comes the allegation that elections are not won, they are bought by corporations and the wealthy.
Okay, before I go any further, I’ll going to clarify one thing: I’m not a political partisan. I don’t have a membership card with any political party. And I don’t have a favorite in this election. I’m not an American citizen, I have no vote, I have no say in the outcome. I can watch. I can take interest in how the story plays out, but I am nothing but an observer. And as an outside observer, I can only digest so much political rhetoric before I lose interest, or my stomach gets queezy.
Okay, back to the original issue. The absurd dollars floating around campaign financing and elections.
So why does it cost so much? Why do the people that run for president have to be self made millionaires to have a chance? It seems to me, it comes down to familiarity with voters. No one will vote for a candidate if they know zero about him or her.
So the the big expense during an election campaign is advertising. Creating quality campaign commmercials that will run on television, and then buying air time for that commercial is ridiculously expensive… this is how the candidates get their name, face, personality into the minds of voters.
This, unfortunately, is true for both Canada and the United States, and for most open democracies in the world. The difference being the magnitude. The US being a wealthy country, has money to spend on politics, so they spend it.
Well, here’s the thing….. the only reason why the candidates need to spend so much money to make themselves known to the electorate, is because the electorate are too self absorbed to pay attention or get involved in the political discussion of their own accord.
They/we don’t want to sit through weeks and months of dry debate and discussion, we want the whole thing to be simple. We want the candidates, the issues, and policies, etc… all packaged and handed to us in a neat one or two hour TV program that we can watch, then go to the polls, vote and be done with it.
Well, sorry, that’s not how democracy works.
Let me rephrase that.
That is how it works … but that’s not how democracy is *supposed* to work.
What’s supposed to happen is that we are supposed to get involved at the community level. Talk to our local politicians directly. Tell them what our concerns/needs/wants are. The local politician then takes those views up to the next level of government, until it filters up to the top.
It’s slow, it’s arduous, and it’s dull. And that’s democracy.
If we paid attention, if we sought out our politicians and spoke to them directly, if we cared about “the big issues”, then there would be no need to spend hundreds of millions on advertising.
Because we’d already know what the issues are.
We’d already know who the personalities are.
We’d already know where the candidates stand on the issues.
We’re lazy shmucks. We want it packaged and easy, so that we can get it out of the way, and go back to watching sunday night football, or the next episode of “The Bachelor” or “American Idol”.
All the problems we have with our democracy could be solved if people got off the couch, and got involved. Not necessarily by getting a party membership card, but but paying attention, participating in the discussion, and passing their views on to the candidates.
It is said that “In a democracy, we get the government we deserve“. If we don’t pay attention, if we don’t care about government. We get a government that doesn’t care, and doesn’t pay attention to us.
If you don’t like government, if you think they’re a bunch of liars, crooks, all in the back pocket of “BIG BUSINESS”, and you’d just as soon wash your hands of the whole thing….. it is so, because of you.
And if you value government, and believe in it, and want to see it do the right thing, it will become that, because of you.