Thursday, November 8, 2012

Dear Washington

Congratulations on making it through another election. To the newly elected, way to go. You've got a tough job ahead of you, and I wish you all the best.

I know that some of you are already looking ahead to the 2016 campaign season. Sure, the actual election isn't for another 4 years, but it's never too early to start planning for that 6 month frenzy of campaigning, right? As you think about your strategy, let me point out that you do, in fact, have over 3 years to plan. That means you should be prepared to answer questions and present your platform. With a well thought out campaign there really should be no need to stoop to attacking your opponent. Please, use your time wisely.

While planning your campaign, please remember that you are running against a fellow American, not some faceless villain created by Hollywood. It has been said before and is worth repeating, in a campaign one runs against an opponent, not an enemy. Why then, is it accepted for politicians to openly attack each other during an election year? What kind of an example are these politicians setting for the school children who run for class office each year? Do you realize that, on average, Romney and Obama spent 88% of their campaign funds on negative advertisements? That translates to an average of roughly $380 million dollars saying the other guy is icky. You're adults. Act like it.

Instead of wasting time telling me how terrible your opponent is, why not spend a little time telling me how good you are? Or encouraging citizens to register and vote. So many men and women have fought battles to bring us the democratic freedom that most people take for granted. Imagine the reaction of the American public today if only white, property owning men were allowed to cast a vote. It is an honor and a privilege to be allowed to participate in such an important decision. You could use your influence to get more of the public to the polls.

Another thing: I know you're rich. We all know it. You've got a lot more money that I ever will. Stop wasting it on TV spots, radio ads, billboards and the like. Why not spend it on something that will make a difference? Here's an idea: a lot of you like to go pose for pictures at local soup kitchens. Why not just give the soup kitchen a whole bunch of money? Maybe you were a Girl Scout or a Boy Scout, a member of a social service club or organization? How about getting a group of kids from that organization to volunteer at the soup kitchen. You can even stand next to them in the same t-shirt and smile for all the reporters. I bet the undecided voters would respond to that a lot more favorably that all those annoying phone calls you have people making. And I know they'd appreciate you a lot more for doing that than buying ad space to tell us how terrible your opponent is.

Speaking of undecided voters (and swing states) are you people aware of how much money you shell out for such a small percentage of the vote? Now, I know this is really just the two main presidential candidates, but really. You're supposed to be well educated adults. Both Obama and Romney spent $36 million in Colorado alone trying to win all of 9 electoral votes. I may not know a lot about politics or economics, but I can assure you that this makes absolutely no sense. And again, most of this money was spent telling the fine people of Colorado that the Democrats think the Republicans are icky  and vice versa.

That's pretty much all I wanted to say. See you at the polls in 4 years.

P.S. I'm not crazy enough to believe any of the politicians in Washington will take the time to explain campaign spending decisions to me. I don't even really expect this "letter" to make it onto anyone's radar. I would, however, encourage you to think about what we're letting politicians get away with. As voters we've been allowing these negative ad campaigns to grow to the point where they're so full of hatred and animosity that it's a wonder anyone's had any desire to turn on a TV, open a news paper or listen to the radio over the past 6 months. With social media being what it is, friends have turned against friends, family members are no longer speaking, lines have been drawn and sides have been chosen. A friend of mine from Europe compared this presidential election to the Civil War where brother took up arms against brother. While that may seem a little melodramatic, she had a point, and I'm embarrassed to say that this is what our country has become known for. Isn't it time that we put an end to this? I may be idealistic, but I think politicians would be stupid to ignore their public, the people who vote them into office (and yes, I do know that it's actually the electoral college that puts the president in office, but still...)