Politics And P.T. Barnum

Let me be clear – I am NOT a republican. Let me be clear – I am NOT a democrat. Yes, there are parts of both ideas (note I did not say “parties”) that I like. There are aspects of both that I abhor.  I got to thinking about politics while watching the first of this years political party conventions. (neither American Idol or Fear Factor were on) I was struck by how carefully manufactured the “message” is. Because I’m a dork of huge proportions, I found a replay (late night CSPAN, yay!) of Obama’s ’08 nomination acceptance speech. I was curious if that was as carefully crafted as this years. The answer is yes, but what really jumped out at me was a single statement he made in his speech.

What he said was “I’m going to hire a gazillion teachers and pay them a decent wage”. Note that “a gazillion” is an entirely made-up word and not a factual representation of his actual speech. Please don’t sue me. Ok, what he actually said was “I’ll recruit an army of new teachers, and pay them higher salaries”. Either way, what stood out for me was that the president doesn’t have the constitutional power to hire, recruit, or pay teachers. Why would he say something that he couldn’t do even if he wanted to? Why? Because there was a tremendous roar from the crowd. When the camera panned into the cheering mass there were people with tears streaming down their face.

Tears, seriously? Is your life so shallow and lacking something that a completely manufactured meat puppet like this moves you to tears? Frightening. And as Thomas Jefferson once wrote, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. And for all you Obama-maniacs, don’t get your panties all in a bunch. I’m not picking on him exclusively – it just happened to be something that jumped out at me. All you birthers out there can stand down. You too Mr. Trump.

Back to the question – why would he say such a thing? Because it’s a manufactured statement designed specifically to energize the base. Why is this important? Politics and elections are NOT about convincing people to vote for you. Elections are about scaring your base enough to turn out more than the other guy’s base. Let me say that again – an election is all about convincing you that the other guy is going to pluck babies from the arms of single mothers and grind them into sausage and pay for it by borrowing a googolplex of dollars from Elbonia. Politicians need to motivate that last, small segment of their base who probably wouldn’t show up at the polls to put off going to Starbucks for an hour and go vote. You don’t do that by telling them you’ll cut down on misuse of office supplies in the west wing.

Now, don’t let the crushing cynicism and hopelessness of that statement ruin your day. I have the answer. It came to me as I was watching Judge Judy re-runs and eating Doritos. As a society we’re willing to let a randomly selected group of people decide our fate in the courtroom. If we’ll let some random guy off the street, regardless of education or experience, literally make life and death decisions about someone’s fate why not do the same for political positions?

Just like jury duty, we send out notices indicating you’ve been selected to serve as your districts next state representative. Set up requirements for each position. Anyone, including potted plants, lawyers, and hamsters can receive local and state notices. Governors and senators must have a certain amount of education and experience, bla, bla, bla. You get the picture. Instantly gone is the influence, money, empty promises, and scare tactics. The added bonus is that cable news might have to go back to reporting, well, news. Gone would be the babbling chimpanzees from both parties battling it out in 30 second “discussion panels”.

Seriously, it could work. You’re willing to trust a jury of random people to decide if you owe your life savings to someone who tripped on your sidewalk while walking and drunk-texting and is suing you for more money than they’d ever earn in their lifetime. How much worse could it be to have a random group of people serving for a few years in government? And yes, I have been to the Wal-Mart. I’m already convinced some of those creatures might actually be high level government officials, out in the wild, without make-up, teleprompters, or advisors. As Miller from Repo Man said, “think about it for a minute”.

5 thoughts on “Politics And P.T. Barnum”

  1. Sounds like “The Hunger Games”! Read the 4th volume of Caro’s biography on Lyndon Johnson – the Kennedy years and be horrified by how little the executive branch can actually do (but LBJ could because he had been the Senate’s power monger previously) and know that it’s Congress that we need to be worried about. And Jefferson didn’t say that quote (tho’ PT Barnum denies he did too).

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