Tag Archives: campaign funds

Kakistocracy

What fresh hell can this be?*

                                —Dorothy Parker

 

But who will bell the cat?

                                —Ancient fable (predating Aesop)

 

Stupidity does not consist in being without ideas. Such stupidity would be the sweet, blissful stupidity of animals, mollusks and the gods. Human stupidity consists in having lots of ideas, but stupid ones. Stupid ideas, with banners, hymns, loudspeakers and even tanks and flame-throwers as their instruments of persuasion, constitute the refined and the only really terrifying form of stupidity 

                                 -– Henry de Montherlant, Notebooks, 1930-44

 

Kakistocracy— government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens,

                               —Thomas Love Peacock, English novelist 1829

 

 

It is meager solace having a name for the condition that is afflicting 63,000,000 of us.  Like chronic fatigue syndrome or sleep apnea, a diagnosis may help provide understanding and treatment.  Knowing you are not just a lazy person who snores loudly is some comfort and legitimacy.  Months after the election our nation is still in shock.  Many of us have physical symptoms like sleeplessness, irritability, and free floating anxiety,  We are worried, and feel powerless, cynical, and pessimistic.  We compartmentalize and become tearful thinking about the future. Literate readers of this space (oxymoronic) may already know the term kakistocracy.

 

Amro Ali a Middle Eastern scholar at the University of Sydney, posted a blog entitled “Kakistocracy:  A Word We Need to Revive.”  (Gotta love that Internet.) He encourages a more widespread application of the word kakistocracy to describe the current government of the United States.  Professor Ali warns that an overuse of the term by applying it to any unpopular government weakens its meaning.

 

Sadly that day is here.  We are full-on Captain Quieg, and James Comey smells of strawberries. We have forsaken democracy and its ideals and are currently living under a kakistocracy.  In further bad news, we likely have a comorbid condition kleptocracy, or rule by thugs and thieves.  Russia, always in the news, is a kleptocracy.  Putin and his cronies are amassing vast sums of money and precious resources but they are not stupid, they are not kakistocrats.


This is not a sore loser, aw shucks, “get ’em next time” partisan rant (see Bush v Gore HLP March/2001).    We have endured the leadership of racists, paranoiacs, simpletons and jingoists while still cramming ourselves into the bulging leisurewear of democracy.  Now we have split our pants.


How we got here is for better minds.  What happened to the Constitution?  Checks and balances?  Our current state is horribly embarrassing, like borrowing money from a relative, having a credit card refused at a busy supermarket, or making body noises on a first date.  We do not have death squads, though Attorney General Sessions is ramping up the penalties for drug offenses. We are closing the gap on the banana republics we once scorned. First World nations are treating us as if we have ceased bathing regularly.  

 

When I was a kid I wondered what color the sky was during The Great Depression, because all the newsreels and pictures were in black and white.  I catch myself feeling happy and then I remember the president and his minions are oblivious to the principles of Jefferson, the life of Frederick Douglass, and the sacredness of democracy.  Our past and our future are being looted.  Steve Bannon lurking around the White House is a greater threat than voter fraud or even foreign terrorism.  We are living under a kakistocratic form of government.  It is mind bending; the sky is still blue but we have all been diminished.  

 

Tom H. Cook is a formerly local writer still spry, terrified for the republic, and writing from a beach in California. 

 

My Big Idea

I would like to issue a manifesto!  Alas, producing such a powerful document seems to require not only a bedrock commitment to a cause, but a will of steel, piercing black eyes, and huge ham-like hands with hairy knuckles.  Let me instead respectfully point out that our electoral process is deeply flawed to the point of embarrassment. Years ago, the erudite wit and social commentator Dick Cavett was asked by an interviewer whether he planned to vote in the coming election. Cavett responded in mock horror, “Heavens no, it just encourages them.”  The recent Supreme Court decision allowing unlimited campaign contributions has only made the election spectacle worse.

The New Yorker magazine suggests that the two Presidential candidates will together spend over one billion dollars in television advertising alone before November 6.   A close election is a windfall for television and radio station owners.  Instead of coquettish commercials for male enhancement, or gold merchants trolling for suckers, stations can charge a Super PAC top dollar to run attack ads implying a wrong voter choice will likely mean the end of the republic.  

To those who say it is private money or, in Latin no harmus, no foulus, I disagree.  One fat cat may invest $10 million to save $50 million in taxes, and another may contribute in hopes of having a pillow fight in the Lincoln bedroom.  Either way, you and I will pay.  Media advertising may be powerful but it is less satisfying than if we were to invest our national 401K on Silly String and a giant fireworks display.

Imagine you are an overworked or out of work rust belt resident. Because you live in a swing state, candidates are continually popping in.  They travel with their own entourage, but create traffic jams, false expectations, and a hefty bill for local police overtime.  Your mailbox and front porch are buried in campaign literature on a daily basis.  Answering the phone subjects you to robocalls or live pollsters.  When the doorbell rings you hope it is Jehovah Witnesses, rather than another freshly scrubbed volunteer.  

When you go to the grocery store, at least one news affiliate is sure to interview you on how it feels to be downtrodden.  Even when watching television, the last affordable respite, you are inundated with thirty-second spots of a candidate standing in front of a boarded up factory proclaiming a need for new clean, green, high paying, wacky fun jobs!

Campaign funds come from Super PACs, fat cats, corporations, billionaires, foreign investors, movie stars, unions, and you and me.  The money goes primarily to advertising agencies, media moguls, consultants, and seemingly everyone except “the plucky widow I met in Hattiesburg, Mississippi who has three sons in Iraq, recently had her spleen repossessed by an insurance company, and needs new batteries for her iron lung.”

Here is my big idea, and I admit it is fraught with peril and possible abuse, but look where we are now.  Currently we spend a billion dollars and only serve to annoy the target audience.  There are people with heartbreaking stories and documented needs.  They are hungry and we are giving them four color glossy pictures of food!  

What if political parties were encouraged to “one up” each other by using their bulging coffers to champion good works?   Candidates would receive public recognition for aiding hard hit states and municipalities. They may get naming rights like corporations and individual donors do on sports venues and university buildings. I know this sounds like buying votes, which is as unethical as attempting to disenfranchise our citizenry.  I admit the idea needs tweaking — but here are two examples.

 Candidate #1  “I could release a series of venomous TV attack ads aimed at my narcissistic, bat-sucking, cretinous opponent.  Looking into the hearts of people of this great state, I have instead decided to direct those funds to be used to keep every public library in the state open on Saturdays!  Furthermore, for young people and families, I have authorized my campaign to make a contribution that will ensure that every recreation center and community swimming pool will have extended hours!”

Candidate #2  “My staff was ready to place four hundred likenesses of me on billboards all over the greater metropolitan area.  I said, ‘People already know what I look like and we do not want to scare the children.  Let’s do something else with the money.’  Because I believe in scratching where it itches, I asked, ‘What do the people want?’  Turns out y’all would like a continuation of the bike paths begun the last time my party was in office.  We are gonna pay to extend the path from Fox Hollow Creek, all the way to downtown! And that’s good jobs for the local economy!”

Tom H. Cook is a writer and former HLP resident.  We have no idea where he gets the audacity to continue to submit his ideas to this publication.  There is a chance that he is really three women.