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Anyone who thought politics was a slow-moving game, or dreadfully dull, has had that idea challenged this year. Now almost every political race is a neck-and-neck battle to the finish line (if a finish line can ever be agreed upon… how I miss those simpler times).
It’s exciting when a horse race comes down to the wire, particularly if that’s the horse you bet on to win. There’s a thrill in those “heart attack” football games when your team comes through in the last play and saves the day. “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” is a big chunk of the reason people love sports so much. Our emotions get involved, whether it’s watching our own kiddo on the basketball court or watching a famous quarterback on the football field.
It’s not so much fun when it’s politics. Those horses and jockeys at Churchill Downs don’t approve tax packages or Social Security reform. NFL quarterbacks aren’t deciding our multi-trillion dollar defense budget or formulating the health care packages that may decide who lives and who dies, depending on who has better insurance funding.
How did our political playing field devolve into a 50/50 state? Are we really that divided? Have we really come to see other Americans who don’t vote the same way we do or who disagree on some political linchpin as “the enemy”? If so, how did we get here? What follows is a hypothesis. It’s not complete, but it is something to think about.
There are teams on the field in every political measure now. We saw it in Colorado with the wolf reintroduction proposition. Millions of dollars of out-of-state funding went into promoting that proposition statewide. Should out-of-state funding even be allowed in state-specific ballot measures?
Billions of dollars are spent on campaigns. Thanks to Citizens United (2003), money can be rolled into a political campaign from corporations and labor unions, via above board and underground political action committees, and through outside interference from foreign nations taking advantage of social media. Basically, whoever has the cash gets a bigger place at the table.
What if we took the money away? What if all political campaigns from this moment forward had to actually go out and convince the average voter their cause was the most worthwhile one? No pricey cable TV ads, no paid pundits to rally for you, no PACs, and no repetitious mailers clogging up your mailbox while you’re waiting for the last thing you ordered from Amazon.
What if we actually had to sit down and talk about real life issues face to face, not ad to ad or meme to meme, or talking point to talking point? What if that person you perceive to hate because of their political posture slipped on the ice and broke a hip? Would you go out and help them, or leave them there and call them names because of your ideological differences?
Let’s take it a step further… what if national public service occurred at a volunteer level, not as a career plan? What if when you got elected to national (or state, for that matter) service, you abdicated all of the benefits someone working for a giant for-profit corporation would receive (health insurance, retirement, a set salary) and agreed to minimum wage and no benefits for the duration of your service as an elected representative? One, we’d have fewer peeps running for office and two, the ones who ran might be slightly more trustworthy.
There are a lot of things I think shouldn’t be organized and orchestrated around profit margins. Politics is one.
Just a thought.