Retirement has given me time to muse and think about things and processes in a more dispassionate manner. The hugest farce we all have to endure is the political primary season leading up to the general election for President. The posturing, the posing, the empty and sometimes frightening political rhetoric, and above all the waste of dollars spent on getting some fool more votes in states that in more rational times, barring some natural disaster there, would never make the news. Really, does anyone care who folks in Iowa think should be President? Why does Iowa have this power?
The two major political parties, the Republicans and the Democrats, have no official standing in the government of the United States. They are privately funded organizations to which many folks within our government personally belong, like the Elks or the Freemasons, or even your local PTA. There is no requirement that they have to throw open the selection process for their leadership to the general public. In fact it makes little sense that they do since many from the opposing party can cross over and vote for the weakest or wackiest candidate from the other side. Indeed many do, which explains a lot. A century ago, before mass communication, each party would hold gatherings in each state and they would vote on which candidate would be the nominee from the party in that state. Then delegates from each state would attend a national convention and thru a series of votes would decide on the party’s candidate. I think this process was better than the public mess we have now because we didn’t have to hear every idiotic thing each candidate says repeated by every news outlet.
And then there is the money. A whole mess of it. Candidates spend most of their time on the phone trying to drum up funds so they can buy advertising on TV, radio, bumper stickers, buttons and anything else they can paste their name on. And folks that contribute expect consideration. How exactly is this different from bribery?
Now it is the states that hold these primaries placing employees and/or volunteers at the polling places and providing the voting machines and other equipment. What if they just scrapped this whole expensive and goofy presidential candidate selection system in favor of a TV show called “American President”? No more campaigns, no more money influencing the candidates, no more nuttiness of having Iowa determine who can continue to run. Make political contributions illegal. Make political ads illegal. Make sure “American President” is on free TV shown repeatedly so everyone can see it. Heaven knows there are enough channels. I’m sure the major networks would offer to air it on a rotating basis, especially as the end approaches and it gets interesting, or maybe just for pure entertainment value at the start when all the wackos are hooted off.
It will start the same way as “American Idol” with auditions across the country. Any citizen from any party who qualifies for the office can audition. They present their ideas to a panel of political science and public policy professors. Yes, some will get eviscerated by the comments of the judges, but that will be part of the process and the entertainment. Eventually a field of, say 20, get chosen. Then each week the presidential hopefuls answer questions put by the judges for the TV audience who then vote by calling a phone number and the list is whittled down to a field of, say 4, viable candidates. These will then make up the national ballot that goes to the traditional vote. The show will for all extents and purposes replace the expensive, slanted, lie-filled campaigns we have had to endure for well over a year leading up to our presidential elections. I hear so many folks bemoaning the parodies that our two major political parties have become. A system like this could very well make them both obsolete.
It is often said that all politics are local. There would be no reason why this same approach couldn’t be used for the offices of any state, county, or city. In fact it would have to start there as electing a president with no allegiance to either party saddled with a congress of party partisans would be useless. We have to rid the system of the political gamesters who attempt to rig our free elections with loaded issues that prey on the fears of our citizens and on their baser impulses. Removing the forum for those types of campaigns would be a great start.
This started out as a facetious conversation in a bar. You know the type you have after a couple of drinks when you have such a sense of clarity that you know that you and a couple of friends can solve all the world’s problems from your barstool. But later I began to seriously consider it and, you know, I don’t see a downside to this. Do you? I know it can never happen as neither party will relinquish its death grip on the throat of our nation; but I can dream, can’t I?