Election Day Arrives, Mercifully

I’m not naive. I know that in the United States our elections have never been the squeaky clean affairs we like to think they once were. I know that special interests have ruled the roost since the founding days (What were the founding fathers if not a special interest? White, male landowners – a fraction of the nation’s residents – making all the rules for a new government. It doesn’t get much more special interest than that.), and I know that Lyndon Johnson set the bar high for fear-mongering way back in 1964.

But this election season has been dis-heartening, as the lies and messages of the national parties have now flooded even our local campaigns. I don’t watch a lot of TV (probably the only reason my screen isn’t broken), but the few snippets I have been unfortunate enough to catch have been loaded with disturbingly ill-informed and misleading ads from both sides, plus a third. Mailboxes slump under the weight of so much political manure being stuffed into them, and ears across the nation are splitting from the absurd radio ads which play like trailers for B-level horror flicks.

If I sound disillusioned, it’s because I am. And I’m a guy who likes politics. One of the silliest accusations that candidates like to throw at each other today is to call a candidate a “politician,” or worse, the dreaded “career politician.” Why do we want our prospective representatives to say “I’m not a politician”? That’s the job we’re asking them to do! I don’t want my mechanic to tell me “I’m not a mechanic,” or my doctor to say, “I don’t practice medicine.”

No, I don’t want folks to graduate high school, enter politics, and never live their life outside of it. I think we’d be well-served if every elected official had to serve a year as a bartender before entering office. Experience as a teacher would be great, or a doctor, a carpenter, or in business. But our cry for businessmen is funny too. In business, if you invest in training someone, you get your best return on an employee as they gain experience, learn the ropes, gather contacts, and grow their influence. For some reason, we scream for government to operate like a business, but we don’t want “career politicians” with experience running the business of government. I haven’t seen too many quality business models based on the idea of turning over their executive staff every couple of years.

There are plenty of reasons to vote a person out of office, but the simple fact that they’ve been there a while isn’t one of them.

Obviously, I’m frustrated. Frustrated by the actions of our national parties. Frustrated by the answers, or lack there-of, that come from so many of our candidates. Frustrated by us, for being the willing pawns of the national parties and interests, maneuvered by the money pouring into what we like to think is OUR process. Frustrated that so much of selecting our representatives is based on things that really don’t matter.

Still, I’m not going to step aside. I’ll head out to vote today, playing my small part in the process, just a lot less enthusiastically than ever before.