Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Get Out and Vote

This blog entry will not preach the virtues of voting. I will simply say first: casting a vote is a duty that everyone should exercise. Please get out and vote on Election Day. Every vote counts.

There. Enough said.

Now that everyone recognizes the importance of his vote, let's acknowledge that the lengthy and expensive process of running for public office is a bit silly and occupies way too much attention of even the most loyal party supporters.

Elections seem to have changed beginning in 1960 with the advent of the first presidential debate. In that event, everyone began to realize that brains and sincerity could be less impressive than good hair and nice teeth. I was in 8th grade in 1960 and was surprised at how badly Richard Nixon looked during that first debate. He wore no television makeup and sweated profusely under the bright studio lights. He also had a severe "5 o'clock shadow" and appeared nervous, smiling stiffly and sitting awkwardly.

John F. Kennedy, on the other hand, looked as though he were attending some type of society tea, calm and coiffed, his youth and charm apparent and shining forth even through the picture tube.

The world was in trouble in 1960. There were problems in Cuba, in Berlin and soon in Southeast Asia. While viewers might not have had inside information about these various hot spots, we knew things weren't doing too well here at home. The Civil Rights movement was bubbling beneath the surface. And to top it all off, the 1960s were about to arrive, bringing social change and nuclear awareness to every home.

So here we were watching these two candidates and analyzing which one would be best to guide us into the future. We were actually viewing and comparing these two men based on -- what else -- appearance. There might have been smoke-filled rooms at play as alliances were formed. But millions of viewers made up their minds right there that one of the candidates looked more "presidential" than the other. The die was cast.

Prior to the 1960s, information for the public was heavily filtered by the press. For instance, I didn't know that Franklin Roosevelt was a polio victim until I was out of college. There were certain facts that were not openly discussed -- the fact that he could not walk unaided and the fact that his personal life was less than ideal. Such topics weren't the subject of tabloid fodder because, well, there weren't tabloids and talking heads making a living from other people's troubles. But FDR was a heck of a president and got us through The Great Depression and most of World War II without a hitch.

It would seem that decorum in politics is a thing of the past. I recall when President Clinton was being interviewed on MTV that he was famously asked "Boxers or briefs?" After a moment of obvious embarrassment, he smiled and responded, "Usually briefs."

Perhaps that was the moment when the public decided that each and every detail of our presidents or even presidential candidates was fair game.

It's too bad. We don't really need to know personal details about each candidate, whether his/her name appears on the national or local ballot. We need to know if the candidate has sufficient credentials, has good character references and whether he/she will give a hoot about the job and community. We do not need to know if those running for office have expensive haircuts, capped teeth or wear designer clothes.

It's not a fashion show, folks. It's an election.

Most aspects of civilization could use a little more decorum. Decorum is defined as "dignity or correctness that is socially expected." It would be nice if someone could design a new fast food or vitamin supplement to help us rebuild our decorum. It looks as though we are deficient in that area.

No comments:

Post a Comment