I've been reading more and more about our presidential candidates in the news lately, and I've come to the conclusion that there needs to be some sort of system of accountability put into place to prevent that from happening. I squarely blame our nation's celebrities for being negligent and allowing me, as one of the voting masses, to accidentally become aware of some of the issues. It's been ages since anyone has done anything scandalous to distract me, and even when they have, it's been no surprise. Ashton and Demi getting married? Old news. Ben and Jennifer breaking up? What, again? Michael Jackson in court trying to prove he's not a deviant? Honey, he's been doing that since I was young enough to be of interest to him. Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin letting his infant play 'pat the gator'? Everyone knows he's an utter lunatic. Where was his wife? She's probably had so many heart attacks watching Irwin at work that her brain has found a way to naturally manufacture Paxil in quantities that would render a large elephant into a calm, drooling, unreactive lump. No surprises there, either.
Out of sheer boredom, I've accidentally happened across news of the assorted candidates and their campaigns. As I've frowned over these articles, one pervading thought keeps recurring to me.
Who are these people?
There's the one that everyone supposedly hates. There's also the one that was in the military. Then there's Al Sharpton. (Isn't there always Al Sharpton?) Besides Dubya, Al is the only one I know anything about. He was the road manager for James Brown for a while. Aside from that, I think his career has mainly consisted of running for elective offices and trying to get quoted in the media. I guess there's also Lieberman. As I recall, he was the one the Democrats picked to be "designated sane person" to run with the mildly delusional Al Gore when the last circus came to town. (Al Gore took the initiative to create the Internet, you know.) But when you look at what I know about the upcoming election, it's hard to tell if I've been following presidential campaigns or reading character sketches for a new sit-com.
Fortunately, the educated people at Minnesota Public Radio are aware of the large number of mouth-breathing simple folk like myself at the polling place. You know people like me who have voted for every stupid idea and inept candidate on the ballot since the day we turned 18. Some people have bumper stickers that say, "Don't blame me I didn't vote for him." I have a bumper sticker that says, "You might as well blame me I'm not sure who I voted for. What were their names again? Which one had the good hair?" (Al Sharpton is at the top of my list right now for that very reason. Plus I like doing James Brown impersonations.) But the folks at Minnesota Public Radio know that skittery voters like myself won't necessarily sit through long blocks of text describing the candidates and their stances. It's not that I don't want to, mind you. It's just that I need my mouth to breath through and if my lips are too busy moving while I read something lengthy, I tend to pass out. But if you go to Minnesota Public Radio's website (www.mpr.org), you can find a handy dandy little survey called, "Select A Candidate".
With "Select a Candidate", you can go down a list of political views and select the position you favor. ("Comb over or toupee?") You can also note whether the issue is very important to you ("Yes, the federal government should subsidize reality shows") or won't affect your choice at all in the upcoming campaign. ("Mom, how do you spell NAFTA? Isn't that the stuff that burns the hair off your legs so you don't have to shave?")
The idea behind this survey is, I think, to capture the short attention span of Generation X'ers like myself. At first I thought it was a fashion magazine quiz and was a little puzzled at how my position on gun control and abortion was going to relate to my skin type. Sure, lure us in with a survey, and then hope that the links to more in-depth explanations of the candidates and the issues will make for a more educated electorate. Not a chance!
I tried answering honestly the first time through, and ended up selecting, "Ignore this issue" for all of the choices listed. Honestly, the legalization of marijuana? The No Child Left Behind Act? Drilling in the Arctic Wildlife Reserve? Oh, please. Who wrote this survey? What about the really important political considerations, like "Where do you think the proper location to have an affair with an intern is?" and "Do you think it's necessary for a candidate to have a higher IQ than a filter full of used coffee grounds if he is at least literate enough to form taxation policies by reading his daddy's lips?"
Even if I did select "Ignore this issue" for all the choices, I have to say that the survey's response was very helpful for my final decision come November. The answer came up, "Al Sharpton". The reason why he was the candidate who best fit my choices read: "Six words: 'Inaugural Ball performance by James Brown'."
2004's gaht tah be FUNKY! Aaaahhow!
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.