Fasten your seatbelts, boys and girls, we are about to embark on the most divisive, assaultive and malicious political campaign in American history. It will also be the most expensive.
Whatever your political affiliation, whatever one of hundreds of passionate causes you embrace, this election season will be both virtual and geographic ground zero for making one's voice heard. The objective as always will be to make the message attract as much media and Internet attention as possible.
As we speak, plans are surely afoot for orchestrating protests for every fervent cause under the sun. Expect to hear from every conceivable rights group -- gay, racial, feminine, immigrant and animal to environmental and others too numerous to mention. What will be pro will also be anti. The atmosphere will be noisy, unruly and determined. The louder, the better. The media and the net love pandemonium.
The vernacular of protest will ring out over the land, not only in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tampa, Florida, where the two political parties will hold their conventions, but in every nook and cranny of cyberspace. A tsunami of indignation and complaint will sweep over America.
The competition for attention will be cutthroat. After all, what good is a protest if it does not multiply its message through the media and the Internet? The Twitter and Facebook pipelines, having reached full maturity, will be jammed with invective opinions and pronouncements. Bedlam is the coin of the realm of the relentless and ever expanding bubble of attention getting information.
Early signs of this coming season of grievance and dissent can be seen in the gathering media clouds. Accusations against candidates will stem from cyber or shoe leather research that will cover every aspect of a candidate's life, background and schooling. Gotcha will be fair game. Contributors to parties and causes will be outed, many to be insulted and reviled. We are about to discover the darker side of political giving.
Nothing will remain hidden. Every untoward sexual episode of a candidate's life will be uncovered and exposed, every behavioral flaw, every teenage caper, every past speech, essay, email, conversation, promise and pronouncement with the slightest contrarian view of the candidate's present stand will be unearthed, recycled, attacked and reinterpreted to fuel media attention.
Past friendships with the unorthodox, the radical, the renegade will be exposed. The old bugaboo of guilt by association will rise with predictable accusations. An inadvertent and innocent remark, even a comical throwaway line will be labeled a character flaw. There will be little restraint on accusation, nastiness and insult.
It amazes me what guts and courage is required these days to seek or hold on to political office. It seems like an exercise in madness, especially for those who aspire to a national perch. But then ambition must trump caution, especially when it comes to the presidency. It is, after all, the gold medal of politics, the ultimate prize. Whatever your ideological bent you have to bend a knee in admiration for the aspirants for their energy, fortitude, singleness of purpose and, especially, their figurative body armor that makes them impervious to insult. As they say, it's not a game for sissies.
There is no question that the democratic process, distorted or, some would say, enhanced by technology is no longer what our founding fathers could have envisioned. Yes, it still looks good on paper with its core ideal of power by the people ruled through candidates chosen by election. Still, I go with Churchill, who opined that it is the best of the worst formula for governing on the planet, despite its chaotic and often disordered jumble.
Yes, there have always been conflict and vituperation surrounding national elections and conventions. The last big fracas was in Chicago, circa 1968. Will it be worse this time? I certainly hope not, although the recent global disturbances point to eruptions apparently fueled by social networking sites, which now serve as conduits of public rage.
Wouldn't it be nice if the leaders of both parties and the candidates put maintaining public decorum on the top of their election agendas? Unfortunately, in the present climate of uncompromising anger and perceived inequality and unfairness obsessing the electorate and the nervousness and fear surrounding public policy in an economic downturn, such niceties are impossible.
Am I exaggerating? I don't think so. Even the most sober observer of the human comedy of political theater, if he tells himself the truth, is bound to come to the same conclusion.
Warren Adler is the author of 32 novels and short story collections. His books are published in 25 languages worldwide and several have been adapted to movies, including "The War of the Roses" and "Random Hearts."
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