Political Advice: Avoid the Middleman
February 15, 2008
Let's talk politics. Don't worry, I'm not dumb enough to tell you my political beliefs, preaching about this and that, all the while alienating about half of you. Believe me, I need every one of you. Unfortunately, all of our politicians carry that same attitude, so what we've been getting is a whole lot of rhetoric and little reform. Anyone can claim that "America needs change," but without any platform behind it, we have become a country of lemmings, leaping off the cliff with the guy (or woman) with the best slogan.
Of late, money has been the biggest divider of candidate and wannabe. The campaign trail is no longer a crusade of preaching a set of beliefs to the people and hoping enough of them share in it, but rather an exercise in offending the least while trying to market oneself. During a debate, anytime an issue is approached with depth, it is quickly scoffed at or cut short due to silly time constraints by the networks.
The trend continues at home. For fear of ignorance, we are often too afraid to broach topics of which we are unfamiliar. As a result, those dinner table discussions about politics are usually nothing more than glossed-over comments about a candidate's bad hair or crazy persona. We attempt to keep the family dinner intact by talking about nothing of importance.
We save the important stuff for ourselves and our newspaper, internet, or TV. We form our opinions by listening to other ones, sometimes trying to pull an actual objective nugget or two out of an article or news report. After the debates, which are nothing more than dog and pony shows demonstrating how a candidate REACTS to an accusation rather than forums for making each member's platform public, most of us begin to choose a favorite. Many of us become passionate about it, although lately the passion comes more from NOT wanting one particular candidate that actually wanting another - a direct result of the overabundance of media coverage of handshakes, smiles, trips to a local diner, and visits with late night talk show hosts.
Want actual information about a candidate's voting record or an official stance on an issue? If you're not watching Meet the Press or reading the New York Times, you're probably not going to find it. Some rogue websites attempt to offer unbiased information about each candidate (www.electoralcompass.com for example), but the objectivity of the sites' creators always comes into question.
Our passion sometimes inclines us to make a donation to a campaign, hoping to further the cause of our future leader, we dream. This is where I urge you to spend your money elsewhere. If you are thinking about donating to a campaign, it means you are concerned about making a change in our country or helping a cause championed by your candidate. Great for you, but I can think of no LESS efficient way of seeing that cause come to fruition than by giving it to a campaign.
Using a very basic example, suppose you are concerned about the lack of homeless shelters in America and one of your candidate's primary causes is increasing the amount of homeless shelters. You decide to donate $50 to the campaign. Even if your candidate wins, how much of that $50 is going to help the situation with the shelters? Nada. Do yourself a favor: drive to a shelter, hand someone in charge $50 and know that your generosity has directly benefited your cause.
If we spent less time and money on our politicians and more of both on the "doing" side of things, it wouldn't matter as much WHO was running our country/state/county/etc. because WE would effectively be running it. Wasn't that the whole point of government in the first place - for the people, by the people?