Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

2016 Election Celebration

Tomorrow is the day everyone in the United States waits for with unparalleled anticipation; the day where everything changes. The second Tuesday of November is one of the most important days of the year, no matter if you follow politics or not. It is the day when all the politicians finally shut up a little bit and leave us to get on with our lives while they either gloat in their 15 minutes of limelight behind synthetic humility, or seethe in private anguish at their unprecedented injustice. Is that flippant? Yes. It is a learned response. Perhaps it is a bit of a cynical view, but cultivated ire for politicians can hardly be among the greatest of sins, especially with the stellar crop of buffoons we’re served up year after year. 

Our local representative race is a classic example of sleazy politics at its best. We’ve had endless campaigning with focus on personal attacks over substance on television ads, endless YouTube ads, nightly phone solicitation, door to door campaigning, radio spots, and particularly annoying attack mailers sent in bulk. I started collecting the mailers early since this race was very nasty in the last cycle and I anticipated nothing less this time around. I missed a few at the beginning, but my collection of insulting, vapid drivel in snail mail was soon the envy of…well…no one. As of November 7, I had collected 85 separate pieces of attack mailers that were sent to my house in an unceasing flow. Barely a day went by in the past 45 days where we didn’t receive at least one, but sometimes up to four pieces per day. The race is so nasty, it has gotten party headquarters heavily involved and gotten national attention. A recent editorial piece by USA Today picked one of the TV/YouTube spots as one of the five worst political ads in the country. Way to show that Illinois pride ladies. As if we need more reasons to show how awful Illinois and its politics are.

Dirty Politics

Most of the time, we aren’t home during the prime door-to-door hours, so I know we missed a few choreographed visits, but I was home for one. My doorbell rang one night at about 6:45, just moments after I sat down on the couch to have my dinner and watch anything that was on TV. With an exasperated sigh, I shook off my I-just-got-home-from-work-now-leave-me-alone face, and I opened the door to what I thought would be a girl scout cookie sales pitch. To my surprise, the solicitor at the door was our state representative, Kate Cloonen, telling me how important it was to get out and talk with people in her district and find out what issues mattered to them. I’ll admit that as I held the storm door open and leaned on the door frame listening to her talk, I was at a momentary loss. Here I was expecting to be reluctantly charmed by a fumbling young entrepreneur, aided by the bewitching spell of Thin Mints, and instead I was greeted by rehearsed, superficial pandering. I tried to recover while she finished her greeting and introductory prelude. She handed me a familiar political flyer and my sourness returned in a flash. 

When dealing with rehearsed or scripted salesmen at work, I have learned an invaluable lesson in combating their manipulation; do something they don’t expect. It can be quite funny to hear the equivalent of “does not compute” in their silence or stammering. I saw my opening with the politician when she asked me “So what issues are important to you?” Her assistant held his pen and clipboard at the ready to scribble something that would likely never be read, and I held up the flyer in front of me and said, “I just want these to stop!” They both looked at me blankly for a second and then tried to get clarification on my puzzling statement. “You mean the pamphlets?” In my head I heard, “Well, allow me to retort!” I then launched into a deft soliloquy on the evils of negative smear campaigning and the long-dead virtue of honor among statesmen in an environment that crushes the common man. It would have been pretty cool if that was what actually happened, but I honestly don’t remember exactly what I said. There were words like “disgusting attacks” and “insulting oversimplifications” and “offensive volume”, but I’m not sure what order they came out of my mouth so it could have been completely incoherent. Something must have been intelligible because she hesitantly reasoned that I should check to see who sent the mailing since they don’t have control over all the mail that comes out. They could, however, make sure that nothing more came directly from her campaign. The assistant gave me an earnest nod, as if he were my buddy about to do me a solid, and they agreed with each other that they would certainly do what they can to make sure I didn’t receive any more political ads. In reality, I’m sure they were recoiling at the thought of further discussion and looking for any way out, so as they both visibly retreated, I accepted their tepid offer and they quickly left.  

Looking back, my encounter with my representation was a bit of a lost opportunity. It may have been the leftover angst of dinner interrupted, but I thought later that I could have actually discussed the problem with her, brought up tangible concerns and proposed solutions. Later that evening, I began to write an email to Kate Cloonen to express some of these thoughts, but my cynicism won out and I abandoned the email in frustration. The critic in me decided it would have made no difference if we had shared a genuine conversation or not. I have learned that politicians say anything to get elected, and I was sure my opinion would have been written off as soon as my vote was in a column…either column. Not that I think the interaction would have been much different had her opponent, Lindsay Parkhurst visited my house, but she has yet to be elected and prove my cynical theories. Judging from the volume of negative garbage I have received from her side, I expect nothing less than a politician. I’m not totally cynical I suppose, it very well could be that Cloonen and Parkhurst are both nice, decent, well-meaning ladies and it is the system or their party is to blame for the nasty demeanor. But that doesn’t represent me, and that they would allow it to happen in their name is disgusting.

My disgust in general at politicians is that they constantly underestimate us. They think we are stupid enough to believe their statements and fall for their carefully framed tricks. And you know what? It works. Americans feed this beast by consuming and believing the one-sided arguments. But I don’t think it is stupidity. Instead, confirmation bias is to blame. We only hear what we want to hear, and believe what we already think is true. If you hate Politician A and Politician B says something awful about Politician A, you tend believe Politician B, even if it is an outright lie, or if B is a disgusting person themselves. B sends out floods of negative ads confirming bias in all directions and everyone gets all fired up to vote. B wins and deduces that negative campaigning works. This is your fault! If you hate the negativity, don’t feed the cycle! Think for yourself and don’t parrot others opinions. And as much as you hate it, really listen to other opinions, you don’t have the monopoly on “right”.

A simple concept that most people seem to forget, is that when someone is elected, they are supposed represent ALL of their district, city, state or country, not just the portion of the electorate that voted for them. I think that is especially important for this year’s Presidential race. It is an idea that I am sure both major candidates will forget the moment the winner takes office, but it is equally applicable to you the voter. Accept the results, don’t threaten moving to Canada, it is all a bit silly. The great thing about our country is that if something is broken, we can try again the next cycle and someone else gets to try their ideas. Talking heads excel at whipping people up to think that their world is going to end if the opposition gets in power. That kind of thought creates fanatics. Use reason instead. Believe it or not, you can say, “That’s a fantastic idea! There is not even the slightest chance in the world I am voting for you, but…great idea!” You can actually say that sentence and not devolve into a brawl over who “won” your debate. Just once I would like to hear a reasonable discussion about Hillary and Trump without hearing about fascism or socialism or the end of America, or moving to Canada. They are nice people up North, why send our bitter, angry people there?

One terrible aspect to our elections is that the common voter feels as though they have no real choice in a two-party system. To give back some choice, wouldn’t it stir some stew to have “None of These Jokers” as an option on the ballot? Imagine how many votes that option would receive for President this year! Plus, it would be very satisfying to hear a news anchor announce a forecast: “And we can now officially call the state of New Hampshire for None of These Jokers.” Have the NoTJ vote mean a vote of no confidence, if NoTJ actually wins, the person that gets the next most votes gets to be President or Governor or Mayor, but only for a year, or in a temporary fashion until we get someone we actually want. We’d certainly avoid some of the messes we find ourselves in now. The idea worked in the movie Brewster’s Millions as “None of the Above.” And while I’m at it, why are we voting on Tuesday?! Shouldn’t this be a weekend, where it is easier for people to “rock the vote?” At the very least, make it a holiday so no one has an excuse to not vote. The old idea for voting on Tuesday was designed to accommodate a day of travel after Sunday to be able to reach polling places, how many people do you think would vote now if they had to drive for a day beforehand? I also have opinions on the electoral college, third-party candidates, term-limits and districting, but I’m tired of thinking about politics…tomorrow is a celebration day, go out and vote so they all shut up faster! 

We Aren’t as Stupid as You Think.

Sometimes I think you must really believe we are idiots.  The way you behave, your actions and your words all make the assumption that we are stupid.  In a small way, I do understand that you have to be that way.  When it comes down to work in life, I really don’t expect that many people really want to have your jobs.  It is very tough to please everyone…in reality, it is actually impossible, even though that seems to be what gets placed in your job descriptions.  But, having a tough job is not a good enough excuse to treat everyone else as if they are only tools to enable your power.

Let me elaborate a little, just in case you don’t know who you are yet:

You are elected politicians.  We are the people you serve.  I think I may need to re-emphasize that.   You serve us.   Your job is designed to be one that deals with the unpleasantness of leading a group of people that do not always agree on the best course of action.   Your job is not a vehicle to expand your power, establish manipulative influence or  build a platform for personal gain.  Yet time after time, this is what we see.  We hear your promises, and we want to believe them.  We want things better, and we want you to help us.  We believe you, we vote for you, and time after time we feel lied to.   This should not be interpreted as me saying that I think all politicians are liars.   Actually, quite to the contrary.  I believe quite a number of politicians really do want to help and do not intentionally lie in ads or in their message.  The key word in that last sentence is “intentionally”.  The unfortunate reality is that despite intent, after the flurry of  campaigning is over, people inevitably feel let down.

The cycle right now is beginning again.  Election day has come and gone, and suddenly my phone is quiet.  Over the past several weeks, my phone would ring eight times a night with “urgent” (recorded) messages about how important it was to vote for fill-in-the-blank candidate.  “Your vote is important!”.  This does not make me feel like you care about me, the voter.  Honestly, it feels like winning is the only objective, and that is why my vote is important to you.  With winning as the only objective, ceaseless intensely personal negative attack ads flood the airwaves to convince voters how evil the opponent is.   This is where I really get upset with you.  You obviously think we are all dumb enough to believe these petty attacks and that we will change our allegiance  because you call someone a name, or scare us about loosing something we know.  It’s deemed OK to say almost anything you want, even if it is speculation, because you think we believe it.

You obviously think of us all in the same way.  We are the dumb masses and you have to trick us in order to win.  Then, you wonder why people are upset!  Obviously, some people are affected by the mean attacks, or the “reminders” to vote, but certainly not all of us.  The problem with people in your jobs is that you treat us as “them” and not as “us”.  STOP putting us into categories of friend or foe.  We are all Americans, and we want honest people we can trust.   Currently, we do not trust you.  And we will not trust you until you stop thinking of us as stupid masses…as demographics, and start thinking of us…ALL of us, as “the people”.  Not only as “the people” that are looking to you for guidance, but as “the people” who give you your jobs, and pay for all that you spend.

We really aren’t as stupid as you think, and no matter what, you do still work for us.

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