Friday, January 27, 2012

The Election Circus

We have a totally dysfunctional election system in this country.
A person who wants to run for office has to have certain skills in order to be successful during an election.  The problem is that skill set is not the same one needed to actually be successful in carrying out the duties of the office.  So while someone might be a great campaigner he or she is not necessarily the one best suited to perform the duties of the office once the election is finished.
I have been watching the circus the national election process has become.  And I have developed an ever-increasing disgust with politics and the political process as it is currently structured.
An example of why I call it a circus can be found in the Iowa caucuses.  Here is a small state in the middle of the county which has been raised into prominence just because it has the earliest date for picking candidates.  The demographic makeup of the state does not reflect that of the country as a whole.  The population of Iowa is 3,022,555, but only 121,000 people were expected to participate in the Republican caucuses.  That’s roughly 4% of the state population.
So what you have is a small percentage of the population of a state that doesn’t demographically represent the country as a whole picking a candidate for office.
I thought one of the most telling remarks about the Iowa caucuses provided by a television reporter covering the whole process was the winner of the caucuses has never gone on to be the nominee of the party.
To make the whole thing seem even more like a waste of time the ‘final’ results weren’t announced for 17 days and then the Republican party in Iowa refused to name an official winner.  Initial reports gave the victory to Mitt Romney man by eight votes.  Then the ‘final’ count says Rick Santorum won by 34 votes, but the GOP officials said the true results might never be known because there were typos in the vote counts from 131 precincts and eight precincts failed to turn in their paperwork at all.  So the ‘final’ results weren’t exactly final after all, but after pressure from the state central committee Santorum was finally declared the ‘winner’ of the Iowa caucuses.
The Republican Party, to date, has held a staggering number of candidate debates.  And this is just to pick the person who will eventually have to debate President Obama in the run up to the general election.
It is little wonder we get a dismal turnout on the actual Election Day.
By the time November rolls around the American public will have witnessed something like a full year of campaigning by candidates.  One candidate, Newt Gingrich, began officially running for president on May 11, 2011.  That’s roughly 17 months of campaigning before the November election.  We will have witnessed primaries and caucuses in 50 states and the District of Columbia, two party conventions, incalculable television ads and a mind numbing amount of television news reports, opinion polls and analyses.
Adding to the mind numbing rhetoric and interminable news coverage, the massive expense of the election almost defies description.  One Super PAC just received its’ second $5 million check to promote the candidacy of Newt Gingrich.  Through January 26, 2012 Super PACs backing Republican candidates and causes had spent approximately $35,283,865.  This doesn’t include what the candidates themselves may have spent or what the Democratic Party and PACs may have spent in promoting the eventual candidacy of President Obama.
Roll that number around in your head for a minute.  Then, think of what that amount of money could do in your community or your schools.  And this is just the beginning of what will be spent until a Republican nominee is chosen and a fraction of what will be spent by both parties before the national election in November.  Can’t your think of some better uses for all that money?
And as if the election process isn’t expensive and messy enough, once these people get elected to national office they spend a great deal of their time in political maneuvering instead of actually governing.  Congress has become nothing but a pit of political bickering and not a legislative body.
The actual election is now 10 months away and I can hardly wait for it to be over.  I’m already weary of television reports about sniping candidates, opinion polls, television ads and the latest debate.  And the thing that makes it even worse is all the action so far has been one party fighting among itself.  By the time we get around to having a representative for each party campaigning, the entire nation may be totally numb and unresponsive.
With such a vested interested in the current system I doubt either party would be willing to change the campaigning process, but something is needed that would cut down on the clutter and the expense.  I suspect nothing will cut down on the negative rhetoric which has proved so useful in beating an opponent.
Most likely it will be up to the general public to say “enough” to the negative campaigning, the length of campaigning and to the massive amounts of money spent on campaigns.  This isn’t a call to arms, but a suggestion maybe you should do something to make your thoughts known on the “election season” and make it shorter and cheaper if not more civil.

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