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Why one political junkie is opting out of the scene

Campaigns that seem to begin years before elections are one reason this political junkie is checking out.

At 79 years old, and with about 60 years of deep, active, and personal political involvement, I am ready to “call it quits.” It’s not that I am unconcerned about our state, our nation, or future – it’s just that politics in today’s America (especially presidential politics) is so unbecoming, so unattractive, so exhausting, so … well, you get the idea. At any rate, it’s not for me anymore. Maybe others (younger, no doubt) will have the fortitude to press on.

As for me, the reasons I am exiting are these:

Myles SpicerMyles Spicer

First, the incredible length of our campaigns. They likely can exhaust and wear down even the most ardent supporter. No other developed country has anything near our multiyear campaigning with extended primaries, caucuses, debates and general maneuvering. 

In January of 2010, the Guardian published this quote about the length of the English election process: “Over the years, Margaret Thatcher was wrong about a lot of things. One thing she got right, however, was the length of British general election campaigns. ‘Three weeks is long enough,’ she pronounced in 1997.”  Though the British have Parliamentary elections, her words are apt. Similarly, in Canada, the longest campaign ever (1926) was only 74 days long. Again, in Australia, the total length of the election process is generally about 68 days, start to finish.

In America, our campaigns are virtually endless. I used to religiously watch MSNBC to cheer on Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow et al. Now I avoid virtually all political commentary, with a distinct preference for sports, history, or maybe a good vintage movie. Enough is enough, I guess.

Expensive attack ads

Secondly, there is now the “money” issue. Getting funding for campaigns is certainly not new, but today obscene amounts now required are. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision was a travesty that will haunt our elections, possibly forever. It has not made for better campaigns – it has made them worse in many fundamental ways. We are now in an era of media sound bites and 30-second attack ads – not genuine ideas to make our country run better. We have substituted potent unrelenting media campaigns for legitimate, intelligent political dialogue.

The recent election in Wisconsin is a template for what will happen to future elections: Outspend your opponent by huge and vast amounts of (advertising) money, and you will likely win regardless of your positions or plans. And on a personal level, the incessant requests for money from a wide range of sources has pretty much turned me off from giving to any of them.

So much misinformation on Internet

Third, I am frustrated by the power and astounding unreliability of the Internet – which has become a cesspool of misinformation. With the simple click of a mouse, you can send a host of “untruths” to virtually hundreds of computers with the false assumption that whatever you are communicating is true. Too often it is not. Additionally, whatever scurrilous message you are transmitting, can be morphed, embellished, and even further distorted as it commences its journey around the Internet. I used to attempt to stop, correct, and even clarify those messages to the senders. Not any more. It is hopeless.

A corollary to this is that so many of the messages are negative, and often a personal attack on one of the candidates. Personal attacks are not new to American politics (my favorite quote in this subject was when an opponent of Abe Lincoln called him a “two faced liar”; to which Lincoln responded: “If I had two faces, do you think I would be wearing this one?”). 

But now they seem even more pervasive – again due to the money behind them, and the influence of the internet. As of today, we know far more why Romney dislikes Obama than we do about his own programs for governing.

The power of the fringes

Which brings us to final reason I have decided to opt out of the political scene: The power of the political fringes has increased to a level where accommodation, compromise, progress and action is paralyzed. This is especially true among the Republicans; and although the far-right candidates eventually dropped out after the primaries and caucuses, and with Romney now the presumptive winner, he had to pledge his fidelity to the right wing base so vigorously that he eventually became “one of them.”

While he is eagerly trying to dance away from some of his primary positions, the influence of the fringes remains – especially with their influence in funding.

The game of politics has surely soured for me. Sure, I will vote (as I have in every election for 60 years, without a miss); I will send some money to my favored candidates; I will stay well enough informed to (hopefully) make intelligent choices – but as for involvement in the election, I will leave that to others with more stamina and patience. After over a year of incessant political pounding (with four months yet to go), personal attacks, media bombardment, Internet misinformation and excessive  political “noise,” the best I can do is offer my single vote on Nov. 6, and hope it makes a difference. And that’s what I intend to do.

Myles Spicer of Minnetonka has spent his business career as a professional writer and owned several successful ad agencies over the past 45 years.

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Comments (7)

  1. Submitted by rolf westgard on 07/05/2012 - 05:43 am.

    Considering a “witness protection” type hideout

    One result of Myles’ number two issue, money, is the barrage of emails, snail mail, and phone calls seeking donations for the various candidates and parties. There are few places to hide for the ordinary citizen. I have considered asking my Norwegian relatives for the use of a spare room in Oslo till November 6.

  2. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/05/2012 - 07:35 am.

    The leaders of both political parties have perfected a remarkable system for remaining in power while serving corporate interests.

  3. Submitted by myles spicer on 07/05/2012 - 12:53 pm.

    Rolf and Richard

    To add to your observations, it appears that in modern America, elections have become a new and profitable “industry”. No wonder those involved want them to last and be well funded. Well,(on a positive note)…maybe it adds jobs?

  4. Submitted by Karen Sandness on 07/05/2012 - 02:20 pm.

    You’ve articulated my reasons!

    I went through a period of demonstrating, working on campaigns, the whole works, and now I just can’t be bothered.

    Perhaps it’s because I’ve seen too much from the inside. But our system is so corrupt that ordinary people find it almost impossible to overcome the influence of Big Money, which in turn assures that the Big Media over-publicize some issues, lie about others, and pretend that others don’t exist. The Big Parties in turn try to tell their constituents which hot button issues they ought to be concerned about while ignoring the multi-faceted crises that America faces and mouthing conventional platitudes.

    Any Congress person who colors outside the lines is going to find himself or herself primaried, redistricted, or given no help against opponents.

    I’m tired of the trivialization of our media, so that the adventures and mishaps of talentless celebrities are treated as more important than anything that is going on in the world. (Even my late mother, who was a CNN junkie for years, gave up in disgust after that network devoted three full days to the death of Michael Jackson.) It is as if the Big Media are purposely trying to dumb the nation down.

    Like you, Miles, I don’t watch political news anymore. The lying, weaseling, and false framing make me too angry. My TV comes on only when I want to watch a DVD or stream an intelligent film or foreign TV program or when PBS has a good historical or nature documentary or drama.

    The East Germans had the concept of “inner migration.” The Berlin Wall prevented them from leaving, and political involvement was too dangerous, so they found their fulfillment outside of politics in family, hobbies, the arts, nature, sports, religious belief, and other emotionally satisfying but “safe” pursuits.

    The U.S. is no East Germany, but I’m feeling that it may take a generation or two for the American people to kick their current opiates (Big Media, Big Sports), look honestly at their situation, and come up with workable solutions.

    In the meantime, I’ll vote as an informed voter and do some damage control through voluntary efforts and contributions, but when it comes to phone banking and door knocking and roadside sign holding and check writing, forget it until the politicians show that they really have the interests of ordinary people at heart.

  5. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 07/05/2012 - 03:31 pm.

    opting out

    Myles
    I read your comments whenever I see your name attached to an article or comment, and I’m sorry you’re dropping out–but I think I should do the same. I get 2 newspapers, a couple of magazines, watch PBS news and several of its other programs, and I feel more and more despair and helplessness. I am astonished at the level of ignorance demonstrated in many of these websites and of the difficulty of getting people to be able to acknowledge facts–people sometimes seem to think some are “left-wing”–much less to consider an alternative view.
    My difficulty is that I am addicted. But I hope to follow in your footsteps once I shake off the tentacles put out by newspapers and news programs.

  6. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 07/05/2012 - 03:50 pm.

    Myles Enjoy Retirement – You have earned it!

    Go fourth knowing you have seen the best of America. Your reasons for leaving are right on the mark. Now it remains to be seen if voters can come to their senses and return America to its position of greatness, once again. But as you know, through your experience, the only way to do that is we will have to work together. It seems like a daughting task at this point, but stupid can only go on for so long. I hope I’m here when stupid leaves the political environment. Enjoy your retirement!

  7. Submitted by myles spicer on 07/06/2012 - 11:53 am.

    Will I write?

    For those of you kind enough to inquire (and I am pleasantly surprised by the number) whether or not I will continue to write and submit commentaries to various venues…the answer is “yes”. Simply because I like it, and on rare occasions, I may even have something useful to say. Then the questions become…will anyone read it? Does anyone even care?

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