Thinking more about Ben Affleck and his people floating the idea of a political career for the ‘actor’ got me thinking about the real problem in American politics. It’s what worries me most. It is this whole idea of ‘electability’. This is a code word meaning ‘how much is the candidate liked’. To be appropriately ‘liked’ you need to be as inoffensive as possible and preferably front-loaded with an asset, like celebrity. This electability obsession has become priority number one for political parties on both sides of the aisle.
- Does a candidate need to be smart? Nope, not necessary. They just need smart staffers.
- Do they need to come up with good ideas? Naw, the PACs and the consultants will do that.
- How about campaigning on a solution to one of America’s long term problems? Forget it. Career politicians need a broken system.
I think the last point is an important one. A career politician who is addicted to a system that feeds him doesn’t want problems solved. Oh, he’ll talk like he does, but what he really wants is unlimited time. It’s far better to push small incremental fixes to portions of the big problem, so long as the problem still exists. If something gets fixed, he might just disable the one hot button political issue that got him elected in the first place. And if that problem is solved, he won’t have to work on it anymore. Therefore, his value is diminished. His time is up.
And the career politician won’t have any of that.
The solution then is to fill the party with people who will vote the way the career politician votes. And they can’t be smart people. If they are too intelligent the career politician will be forced to debate every inch of his personal agenda. That takes up a lot of time and there are just too many free lunches and cocktail parties that might be missed. And that’s just too big a risk. The party must focus on campaigns with candidates that can be elected. Then, the career politicians can get them drunk on the beltway lifestyle and ensure that their pet project gets a ‘Yea’ vote.
In this country, where pop culture is king, it’s easy to find electable candidates. The more popular, the better.
We’ve been electing familiar television faces to power for years. Fred “Law and Order” Thompson of Tennessee, Fred “Gopher” Grandy from the Loveboat series. Sonny Bono. (Check the full list here.) I think a significant turning point was the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger in California. Clearly, ‘The Terminator’ swept into office on his celebrity status as an action movie hero. It sure wasn’t about his position on greenhouse gases.
Whomever the example is, the acceptability of putting a pop culture icon in political office is increasing. Career politicians know this, they love this, and they’re taking advantage of this. The end result is disturbing. If voters in America remain deaf on the important issues and only vote for their favorite TV sitcom actor or the pretty-boy candidate who has a (D) or (R) by their name, we will end up with a political system run by a small handful of aging career Democrat and Republican politicians whose primary goal is ultimate power. A dependency will develop between this select group and their dumbed-down (but well-known) colleagues. Their control will guide these half-wits to vote, talk, and walk exactly as their told. And if the dim bulbs comply, they’ll earn a seat at the head table or appear with their other low-watt friends on camera during a bill signing. And if they play their cards right, they just might get to meet with the president (not alone, of course).
Avoidance of major issues and an ever increasing attitude of complacency will deplete our nation of an important resource – political capital. We, the voters in this country need to demand a higher standard. The “2nd string” rarely, if ever wins the game. Don’t settle for Class-B leadership.
Do you really want to wake up one day to find that the President of the United States is P. Diddy and his line of First Ladies include Paris Hilton, Tara Reid and Lindsay Lohan?
Don’t give power to pop culture and allow it to select those who govern us.