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.