I have a secret: I can't wait for this election season to be over.
It's not that I don't think there's a lot at stake. There is. It's just that, as usual, we're not talking about the real problems facing the country, and real solutions for dealing with them.
One candidate has apparently decided that the best strategy is to avoid talking to anyone who isn't already on his side. When you find out what he's been saying to the people he does trust, you can understand why.
The other candidate, whom we've sternly instructed to stop spending so much time running the country so he can look tougher on TV, hasn't articulated any new ideas. His central argument -- I cleaned up their mess and killed the guy they couldn't find -- has a certain elemental appeal, but it's not exactly the stuff Spielberg movies are made of.
Meanwhile, the rest of us are fixated on Clint Eastwood's Chair, Big Bird, Binders Full of Women and other morsels of meme-friendly malarkey. I'm starting to understand what Thomas Jefferson meant when he said, "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be."
Please don't mistake me for a cranky technophobe who wishes things were the way they used to be in some fictional bygone age. I thought some of the "Binders Full of Women" mashups were inspired. They were certainly more compelling than anything the candidates are saying -- which is part of the problem.
Is there any country in the world that spends this much time and this much money electing a head of state? (I'll answer that seemingly rhetorical question: Hell no.) And now, with the arrival of social media and the influx of unregulated money made possible by Citizens United, what had once been a circus has morphed into a sprawling theme park of platinum-plated horseshit.
And still the candidates say nothing of substance. They dodge the few policy questions their handlers let them hear, imprisoned in a web of commitments made behind closed doors to deep-pocketed donors who want more drilling, fewer regulations, looser gun restrictions, and -- everybody's favorite -- more lucrative government kickbacks. The best we can hope for is the occasional issue where each party has been co-opted by a different set of special interests, in which case the candidates feel free to whack each other in the face with rhetorical two-by-fours until the moderator manages to interrupt long enough to change the subject.
But the media hates a vacuum, so we are treated to an endless stream of commentary by individuals ranging from the unqualified to the laughably unqualified. The guy from Rage Against the Machine rages against Paul Ryan. Honey Boo Boo says she would vote for Obama, if only she weren't 11 years too young to vote. On and on it goes.
Call me unpatriotic, but I just want it to end.
There must have been a time when our protracted election season made sense. Candidates needed to canvass the country, making whistle-stop tours and shaking hands with voters from sea to shining sea. There were no TV cameras to capture the speech you made in Des Moines, so you had to give it again in Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Topeka.
Now, though, it just seems that this multi-year freak show exists only to line the pockets of mega-creepy types like Karl Rove, who spend their time -- and someone else's money -- finding creative new ways to press voters' emotional buttons using grotesque distortions that are so divorced from the truth as to be effectively un-fact-checkable.
Meanwhile, instead of synthesizing the facts and putting them in context, our political press leaps on every incipient pseudo-scandal, hoping to ride the next one to Twitter fame and cable-TV glory. But don't blame them! We're the ones clicking on the stuff. We're the ones sharing it.
Here's the part where I admit I don't have the answers. Well, maybe I have a few. Pass a real law -- a Constitutional amendment, if that's what it takes -- limiting campaign donations. Our government is literally for sale, and there's no excuse for it. We're far too rich and powerful and well-educated to stand for this banana-republic nonsense.
While you're at it, compress the season. If Major League Baseball can go from Spring Training to the World Series in seven months, surely that's enough time -- in our post-wired age -- to run a presidential election, primaries and all.
Finally, get educated. This means you. Read the candidates' platforms (here and here), find out where they stand on the issues that matter to you, make up your mind and then feel free to tune out the noise.
It will all be over soon. I promise.
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