Kent Barnhardt: And if elected, I promise … (yawn)

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 17, 2011

By Kent Bernhardt

We stand upon the crest of yet another presidential campaign season. Like colonoscopies, root canals and visits from your least favorite relatives, they just won’t go away.
We’re already feeling the breeze of hats on their way to the ring, and being peppered by the speculations of so-called political experts who already seem certain of how 2012 is going to end.
Forgive me, but I’m already fighting the urge to yawn.
Our preview system of deciding who our nation’s political leaders will be is, bluntly, broken. Or to say the least, it is in need of serious overhaul.
Comedian David Frye once said that the presidential election season is “the time when Americans carefully examine the issues, cautiously weigh each participant’s qualifications, and then rush down to the polls to vote for the best looking candidate.”
We just can’t seem to get this campaign thing right.
Soon, we’ll be entertained by well-crafted speeches, almost never written by the candidates themselves, promising us a glorious tomorrow in exchange for our votes today. And like the sheep we are, we fall for it every time.
That “glorious tomorrow” never quite gets here, does it.
I’m going to make a rather radical suggestion here, knowing full well that my politicized friends on both sides of the aisle will demand my head and suggest that this newspaper ban my columns for life.
I’m going to suggest that we vow today to never attend another political rally for a presidential candidate.
My thinking is, pep rallies before football games are fine, but it’s the game that matters. The pep rally is merely the promise of the great and glorious victory to come; victory that fails to materialize for a full half of the teams that stage pep rallies. Political rallies are similar.
Everything is staged for TV these days, and political rallies are no exception. When you look good on television, you look good to America.
Look carefully at the crowd of people standing behind the presidential candidate at a televised rally. The makeup of that crowd is no accident.
Organizers of these events work carefully to ensure that the enthusiastic faces you see in the background are people just like you … if you happen to fit the correct demographics they’re trying to reach. No sea of faces must be too white, too black, to old, too young. Only Mr. and Mrs. “target voter” need apply.
Enthusiasm is a must. You must cheer everything a candidate says. Even if they promise to flood the country knee deep in cow manure, cheer like you’re in a “Price is Right” studio audience and your name was just called. They’re talking about your future, you know.
Enough with the political pep rallies. I suggest instead that we vow to become the informed voters we should be.
Vow today to dig deeply into each candidate’s background, incumbent or not. Discover where they came from, what experience level they have, what they’re accomplished in the past, what drives them and, specifically, what solutions they pose for our nation’s ills.
And in the previous paragraph, underline the word “specifically.”
Statements like “We’re going to get deficit spending under control” or “We’re going to realize the dream of affordable health care for every American” are worthless generalities. Forgive me for getting picky, but I need to know a little more about how you represent the hope of accomplishing these goals.
It might do a lot of these candidates some good to play to a few empty campaign halls and discover that Americans are instead at home or at the library learning a little about who they really are.
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Kent Bernhardt lives in Salisbury.