Thursday, March 16, 2006

Democracy Is Tough

All one has to do is open a newspaper or watch television to know that the next few years will be tough. There will be continuing infighting over the formation of a government. Guerrilla attacks and backroom deals will be the norm. The religious fundamentalists will try to hijack the nation, and different parts of the country will look out for their own interests. Embedded reporters will travel with factional operatives behind enemy lines, and more stories of sabotage and warnings of vote rigging will emerge. Yes, America, the US presidential campaign has started!

There are several unique features about this election cycle. Firstly, there is no obvious candidate-in-waiting in the incumbent party. According to the constitution, W can’t run again, and Dick Cheney has decided that he’s not interested in a job with less power than the one he has now. So it’s a bit of a free-for-all for the Republicans. Their season started last weekend in Memphis when six hopefuls kicked off the political equivalent of Pop Idol. Of course, it’s also a bit of a free-for-all for the Democrats, but that’s not unique. Democrats would rather oppose each other than oppose Republicans. Some time in the future they will have their national convention in Jonestown, Guiana, argue with each other over a 55 gallon drum of Kool-Aid, and call it a day. But for the 2008 election, both parties are rolling out more contenders than usually compete in the Miss Brake Fluid Pageant.

The second unique feature of this campaign is the likelihood that none of the hopefuls will accept any public funding for their campaigns. The good news is that tax payers don’t have to shell out for the mountains of rubber chicken and the millions of balloons that are so essential to guaranteeing democracy. The bad news is that there will be no limit on how much these guys can beg, borrow, steal, and spend. The last time around, Bush and Kerry raised $274.7 million and $273 million respectively. That allowed them to buy enough TV adverts to make the Weather Channel the most popular station in the country. According to one observer, “There’s a growing sense that there is going to be a $100 million entry fee at the end of 2007 to be considered a serious candidate.”

The estimates for the upcoming campaign come in at about $400 million for each of the eventual nominees of the two main parties. To put that in perspective, $800 million dollars could build one and a half bridges in Alaska, or pay for desperately needed Spanish lessons for all Americans living in Arizona, New Mexico and Chicago, or cover the long delayed renovation of the Congressional Health Club and Wine Bar. $800 million is serious money; and that is not the full story. If campaign costs for the 2008 House and Senate elections are added in, Washington wannabees are likely to spend north of a billion dollars. That’s enough TV campaign adverts to make the average American kill to watch reruns of the Lawrence Welk Show or Lost in Space.

Of course, there may be an alternative to what will surely be thirty months of living through conditions that violate the Geneva Convention and the UN Charter of Human Rights. $1 billion should be enough to buy some country like Andorra or Malta. The politicians could then have their own country to make miserable and let the rest of us get on with our lives. On second thought, what did Andorra or Malta ever do to the United States?


Blogger Jorge said...

Now at least I can say I'm not running for president because of money issues. Because, I'm often asked that. Yeah.

2:07 PM  
Blogger L said...

I'm nervous that things will get worse.... the average citizen seems to be getting more and more conservative, less and less concerned with science and facts-- and more and more concerned with forcing everyone else to conform to their worldview (the push in Missouri to make Christianity the official religion being just one of many examples)

8:09 PM  
Anonymous Look What Dave Found said...

Great article.. thanks! And I live in Missouri.. didn't use to. It's funny being in the middle of the Bible Belt all of a sudden!

12:19 AM  
Anonymous ender said...

best. commentary. ever.

7:11 AM  
Blogger Ed Dickson said...

This blog is a great read. Plan to return to it!

1:43 PM  

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