Oh that free speech thing

The American political Superbowl, commonly known as the Presidential Election Day, is less than three weeks away. Even though political punditry and campaign advertising are on some mass media source at least 25 hours a day, the election build-up has seemed to go pretty quickly. It’s probably just as well. In 20 days or so, barring some repeat of the 2000 Election fiasco, we can actually get back to liking our friends again.

Every four years I feel a little more dumbfounded. At least this time, however, I am not dumbfounded by either of the two remaining presidential candidates nor their running mates.  All four of them seem like rather intelligent, somewhat charismatic fellows with high-functioning brains, though I do wish Biden was not so proud of his pearly whites. Still I can live with them, and kind of admire all in different ways.

Yet I remain perplexed. I’m perplexed by how little politics has to do with substance, the actual policy aspirations of each party and how much it has to do with money. Are political campaigns, and the politicians they support, publicly traded companies? If so, then I would understand why so much money is devoted to trying to win the presidency.

Sadly, I think both campaigns combined have raised over $2 billion. Even worse, I can’t believe how much money individuals donors give. One wealthy Floridian has donated over $50 million to the Romney campaign. Do you really think any politician is worth that much dough? Does the outcome of this election really hold a value of $50 million to you, money that could otherwise feed millions of children in Africa and build much needed schools in underdeveloped countries.

If a certain party’s control of the country really means that much to you, maybe you should run for political office yourself. I hardly see the point of even donating $500 and I’m a pretty damned generous, politically sensitive person.

But how much the Super-PAC loopholes allow rabid donors to give, and how astronomically absurd the cost of campaigning has become isn’t really what has mystified me the past few days. This is America after all, and most things in the good old U S of A (Thanks Borat) are taken to exaggerated proportions. What bothers me are the hordes of signs in front of shops, houses and public parks. Call me a cynic, but I really don’t see the point.

My neighbor to the left, ironically, has two Romney signposts, some other Romney banner, and Romney-Ryan bumper stickers on both of his black Camaros. I’m still figuring out why he needs two identical cars. My neighbor the right, meanwhile, has an Obama sign and a matching bumper sticker. I’m not sure if anyone was curious who they planned to vote for, but now the entire neighborhood knows. Do they feel better knowing they have advertised their preference? When I was getting my teeth cleaned on 8th and 55th Ave the other afternoon, my eyes couldn’t help but fixate on the 20 or so Romney-Ryan signs adorning The Lighting Paradise storefront. By the way, am I the only one who thinks the Romney-Ryan logo looks like it was “borrowed” from Carnival Cruises.

The last time I checked, all of us registered voters have the same number of presidential votes – 1. I could shout my preference all day long. I could cover my entire property with Obama or Romney or the Green party candidate’s name, but I will still only get one vote. So should it really matter to anyone other than myself whom I plan to vote for? If people really want to know for whom I plan on voting, they can always ask.  I don’t feel the need to advertise to every single bystander who I feel will do the better job over the next four years. Besides, unlike most people, whose loyalties to political parties are even more blind than their loyalty to their favorite sports teams, I don’t decide for whom I’m voting more or less until I get in the election booth. As a free-thinker, I believe it’s best to try to be as well informed and patient as possible before making such a big choice.

Perhaps I’m the one who is wrong here. Perhaps the beauty of American democracy and the purpose of the 1st Amendment is that we can and should parade our political sentiments for everyone to see. If so, then all I ask is one thing. If either Obama or Romney wants me to put a sign bearing their name on my front lawn, then they first have to put an “Elman” sign on theirs. In that case, I would almost certainly have to vote for Obama. For the next 20 days at least, I’d much rather see my name on the White House Lawn


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