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July 25-August 1, 2007

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Letters to the Editor

Political Unrealities

MORE PEOPLE vote for American Idol than cast ballots in the last U.S. presidential election. And now we're facing a mind-numbing battalion of pontificating candidates standing behind podiums in their sincere navy suits and red power ties. More than 15 months of campaign activities, commercials and mud-slinging mailers sprawl ominously in front of us like a psychotic nightmare.

Other countries impose strict limits on campaign lengths and tactics. Japanese candidates are allowed one campaign car, a small amount of posters and other printed materials, and a limited number of government-financed commercials or television appearances for a campaign lasting only 12 days. In Canada, the longest national election campaign was 74 days in 1926; the 2006 campaign was 55 days.

But that would never fly in the United States. For one thing, too much money is generated by the three-ring circus that is our presidential election process. Endless speculation and reports on rampant rumors easily fill empty airtime for news shows, providing employment for long-winded pundits. And a lot of people and corporations make big bucks from slick television commercials and glossy bulk-mail materials. They're not going to give up that golden goose—unless they're given an equally lucrative substitute.

So let's go with the flow, follow the trend and turn the presidential campaign into a reality TV show.

This is the only logical answer. Americans love to watch, root for and jeer the competitors on American Idol, Survivor or any of the other multitude of shows that show real people doing really stupid things. So let's give the people what they want. Gather all the hopeful candidates in one location. Let the cameras run 24/7 and then condense hours of action (or inaction) into an entertaining one-hour presentation.

A lot more people will watch than ever tune into the staged debates. And we'll learn so much more.

What does each candidate look like in the morning? Late at night? Hung over? Who hits the booze too hard, and who can't go a few weeks without sneaking bimbos into the would-be president's crib? Do the Bible-thumping conservatives actually read the Good Book and pray, or is that all window dressing?

It would be a lot more fun and informative to watch Presidential Survivor instead of the traditional staged debates, and a lot less time-consuming than having to read in-depth articles or listen to charges and countercharges, on the news programs.

Plus, think how much corporations would pay for commercial airtime during the show. We'd all watch; the advertisers would pay the bills. It would be true campaign-finance reform.

Presidential Survivor could well be a uniquely American election solution. Plus, it's exactly what we deserve.

 Patricia Lynn Henley, Santa Rosa


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