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:
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.