I’ve never been particularly political, though in high school I did campaign for Louise Bryk with posters that beamed, “Every little breeze seems to whisper Louise for president of the senior class.” She lost the election.
I have found people to be generally more emotional than rational regarding sports and politics. There is something purely tribal about exclusive devotion to one team for baseball, basketball, football, soccer, or ice hockey or to someone as a candidate for President of the United States. I have friends whose loyalty to a particular team is so rabid that it becomes almost comic, at least to me, who doesn’t know one player from another as they compete for points in activities that are so remote and impersonal that it is like watching predatory behavior in some documentary about life at the bottom of the sea. I realize too that this makes me very abnormal, but I don’t know any of their names, and they don’t know or care about mine either. The phenomenon remains a mystery to me, but as I am entering the 70th year of my life, it seems highly unlikely that any revelation is imminent.
I do experience increased levels of adrenalin from time to time over politics, mainly because there seems to be almost nothing rational about the political arena these days. Personal attacks and skewed information exchanged between candidates and political parties often have nothing to do with social issues or my own life. Listening to insults about a hairstyle or who stayed in the restroom too long serve only to distance me still further from the backbiting tactics of those vying for public office. I’ve discovered that as someone born and perpetually residing in the middle of our nation’s social fabric and despite my having voted in national and municipal elections since 1968, my individual life has not been much changed by any election in memory.
It has been said that it is our civic duty as citizens to vote in order to maintain a satisfactory status quo or to modify it. If an idiot is elected (and I can think of several state governors in this category), he or she will be ousted when a conscientious public bands together with enough common sense and outrage. Otherwise (and I know this is a jaded question), how much difference does it make nowadays who is elected to any office? The answer is that the more we become collectively complacent, the more ground will be gained, inch by inch, by the already enormously wealthy puppeteers, who pull many strings in government and in society at large and for whom greed for its own sake seems to be a sport in itself. Bernie Sanders, a man for whom issues are paramount, has helped me to realize this truth, despite wrangling by other candidates who have turned politics into a puerile shooting range of insults unworthy even of seventh graders. Those insults and personal attacks are meant to distract voters with the absurd, partly subliminal machismo with which Americans have been enamored in both sports and politics for generations.
We need to think carefully about the differences (if any) between our favorite teams winning football games and our political favorites winning elections. Neither win is really personal for me, but the latter may have consequences well beyond a scoreboard or the rhetoric and other verbal shenanigans that are such annoying adjuncts of elections, especially on the national level.
Many voters have become enraged by the duplicity and sloth of Congress to the extent that those voters want nothing more than to distance themselves from anything even suggesting traditional politics and are more in favor of apolitical figures, who gain notice and popularity by thumbing their noses at the Washington establishment and anything related to our all too familiar political landscape of the past fifty years. My concern on that subject is that whoever becomes our next president will need to have a strong grasp of national politics and government with all the complexities of the Washington scene, for better or worse. That grasp can be accomplished by experience and razor-sharp intelligence, but the logic of electing someone who eschews political experience and knows little or nothing about the extremely complex machinations of government is flawed at best. The same “logic” might suggest that someone who has had a bad experience with a plumber, electrician, or carpenter should hire someone disconnected from such backgrounds and skills. Frankly, if my kitchen sink is leaking into the basement, I want someone who has specific experience to make repairs. In Washington I want a President who knows the ins and outs, along with the trickery and lies of politics in all its subtle chicanery, to lead my country, someone who will bring together a nation that has fragmented into too many personal agendas.
Several kinds of specific expertise and experience are necessary for this most difficult and thankless job on the planet. Avoiding those attributes in favor of a sentimental but honest greenhorn is the same level of thinking that would vote in someone who simply has an honest face and isn’t cagey enough to pull anything over on the nation. In that case why not elect Homer Simpson as President of the United States? His being a cartoon doesn’t seem to make him less qualified or more unreal than several of the current candidates.
I don’t want a puppet. I want a president. There must be a middle ground, where we find some level of cold, hard sanity instead of the flood of political snippets, half-information, innuendos, and ridiculous posturing that have become the shaky bulwark of this carnival of a presidential campaign. JB