Friday, November 5, 2010

Politics: Entertainment for the Rich

I feel like writing about politics now that the election is past.

Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and Damon Dunn had one important thing in common: They didn’t care about our political system. People who care register to vote and vote…not register in time to run for office. People who care look for positions that fit their experience level and qualifications and plan to work their way up later…not sign up to run for the highest positions in the land now. These candidates for governor, US senator, and secretary of the state didn’t care about our political system. They were just bored millionaires who didn’t mind wasting millions of dollars and the present value of whatever expected benefits California Republicans had on their latest form of entertainment.

The sad truth is that primaries have become popularity contests. That’s why Arnold “Do Nothing” Schwarzenegger won the recall election. He was popular. Although non-Californians might not understand this, George Murphy and his son Ronald Reagan won their campaigns because they actually had experience that, in the public’s eye, transferred well to the offices they sought. Note that Murphy’s adopted daughter, Shirley Temple Black, didn’t win her primary. Many people didn’t think she qualified. Politics was taken seriously even when movie stars were involved.

This time around, we didn’t have celebrities, so corporate leaders filled in. After a presidential election centered around the inexperience of Barak Obama and Sarah Palin, Whitman, Fiorina, and Dunn made their own laughable bids...probably just for the thrill. And more than the election was lost.

This shouldn’t happen to any political party, much less to a major party with millions of members. Too bad no one thought to restrict it. I wouldn’t recommend anything of this sort for a small party like the American Independent Party or the Libertarian Party, and it might be pointless since we have new primary legislation. However, it makes sense for a major party like the Republican Party to prevent this from happening again.

How? By instituting a rule about who gets to run under the party name and steal support away from other party candidates. The Citizens Redistricting Commission had an interesting requirement for selection: political participation. An applicant had to have the same political party affiliation for the previous five consecutive years. He or she also had to have voted in the previous three major elections (meaning presidential and gubernatorial). This requirement makes a lot of sense. Why hand over so much power to someone as your party representative when that person is completely irrelevant to the political process?

I hope something is done to prevent the unqualified and politically-detached from throwing another election. If the rich need their thrills, they should take a clue from Paris Hilton and start their own reality television shows. They’re more likely to make a positive impression on society.