Electioneering as an Applied Science

Of course at just this moment we’re caught up in the buzz and the drama, the theater and the suspense: will it be the rascally kid from Chicago or the wiry chin from Minnesota (or maybe he’s from Utah? He claims his dad lived in Mexico for a bit so that’s cool I guess…) I believe though that we are missing, as we are swept away by the art of the matter, its science. Count on me to remember there’s gotta be science all the time, it’s likely my biggest flaw.

The economic dynamics of this campaign have, of course, been entirely different from any before for two reasons: 1. The sheer amount of money involved and 2. the Citizens United decision of 2010. Let’s talk a bit about both.

The New York Times at just this instant claims that President Barack Obama has raised 587.7 million dollars for his campaign and that Mr. Mitt Romney has raised 446.4 million. Don’t get too excited, though, most of this money has already been spent leaving Mr. Obama with 129.7M and Mr. Romney with 190.1M (Pretty good considering how long motherfucking Newt hung in there. That guy’s worse than a canker sore.) Let’s just stop, though, and consider, gape in awe, really try to heft the sum we are talking about here: one billion dollars! (::pinky goes to the lip::) Just imagine what you would buy with that kind of money! Just imagine that the Olsen Twins don’t have that much combined! While we stress over our economy, the divide between the rich and the poor, push to pay Nicaraguan farmers better for their coffee, worry about what we’ll do if the alternator breaks down, while for four years campaigns have largely been referendums on government for the middle-income-majority our candidates have already spent a billion dollars and they plan to spend a billion more.

Now that we’ve hefted the sum — and it is large — let us see what it is spent on. Both candidates have really awesome official websites where you can read all about them, sign up to be really cool with them, find out why the other guy sucks, etc. Both candidates have run preposterous amounts of campaign ads. Obama just did one about abortion. Romney just did one about the decade long MediSCare. Both candidates have run a ton of counter-ads against the first ads. Pundits and talking heads say the facts in all the ads are muddy from both sides of the aisle. I got on my screen a picture of Obama with that great-big-working-man-pride smile on and he spent like 20 million just to get the picture on my screen.

In my most scientific possible appraisal: WHAT THE FUCK?! How can our leaders be bandying in millions this way while there is real struggle out there? I, personally, would be a lot more likely to vote for Obama or Romney just now if either decided to spend oh — call it twenty  — thirty million  — creating jobs in the midwest rather than on another snazzy ad.

Of course, I’m raising the question of how I’ll ever find out about what Obama’s doing in the midwest if he doesn’t pepper me with ads but check me out:

  1.  A whole shit-ton of people who suddenly have jobs that didn’t have jobs just a bit before will definitely find out AND
  2.  The news does exist people! I swear to god! I just ran and checked to make sure. There’s news on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and all you need to receive it is a small radio easily made from scavenged parts! It’s almost fucking impossible to get AWAY from the news! If a completely no-name politician from a state with a population of 6 million people (that’s fewer people than like Manhattan on an average day!) slips up and says something stupid he didn’t really mean because he’s obviously too stupid to be talking about what he’s talking about IT GETS ON THE TV FOR LIKE 4 DAYS! You fucking hear about it and hear about it and they bring on experts and his colleagues call for him to step down and a whole rank of biologists shows up on Wolf Blitzer and it’s a motherfucking three-ring circus with graphics of fucking dancing camels demonstrating illegitimate rape! There’s so much fucking news I would actually venture the cautious idea that it would be virtually fucking impossible for any interested individual to fail to find out anything he wanted to find out about any candidate completely free of charge or possibly with a small personal expenditure. Perhaps we can even write that expenditure into law? Free big-screens for everyone!

Look, I really, really don’t give a shit about what Obama’s saying in the latest ad; I don’t believe a goddamn word any of these people say to begin with; if I want a grasp of where these candidates stand on the issues I’ll listen to their speeches and debates; if i want to know their histories I’m sure the media will tell me in excruciating detail; in short I would be much more impressed with Mr. Obama if instead of spending his money on ads to tell us how much he’s done he spent his money DOING GOOD THINGS FOR OUR PEOPLE!

Here’s a novel idea: elections should be like christmas that comes once every four years and every one knows they’ll get a bit. All the big money people pitch in, lots of us little money people pitch in too, the candidates all raise a ton of cash (2 billion dollars!) we spread all that good green stuff around doing good things and helping each other and having a good time and in the meanwhile we can have some informed debate, discuss our views, a couple pretty big dinners, be proud of our American heritage and even pick a pretty smart guy who we all agree should lead us. Fuck, it kinda sounds like what used to happen at my fraternity every April 20! (Hu-Ah! Delta Zeta!) (While I’m on that, a personal note to a guy named Blossom, just in case he ever reads this: That time I hit you is probably the most embarrassing, stupid, childish, selfish thing I remember doing and I am sorry. I do wish you well.)

Back to Christmas in November, it is not unfortunately what happens here. Ultimately, from the view of the applied sciences, all the money we should be using to help ourselves and each other is spent instead on influencing our views, ideas and allegiances, ads and counter-ads mainly. Rather than being spent on uniting us it is being spent on dividing us.

Wow! 1000 words and we’ve just got past the Blossom thing and Christmas in November and on to part 2! This is long! Y’all better grab a big-gulp or something and come back for the rest.

I’m sure anyone interested enough to get this far in a political blog knows and understands Citizen’s United by now. It’s the dynamic it creates for this election, from the scientific view, that I’m interested in. For instance, one question we can certainly decide this coming November, if we’re so inclined, is: Will big money always win? Or, it could be: Are we going to decide if big money always wins?

Citizens United allows for essentially anything to happen in the fiscal arena up to and including, for instance, General Motors giving Bob Motherfucking Barker 3 billion for a saturation-ad-campaign victory. Guess what? the price is right, bitches! Let us, as Schrödinger might, play a thought experiment then:

  • One candidate amasses a sum that dwarves the other and despite the general mediocrity there appears to exist now wins in a landslide, i.e. big money always wins. Near future campaigns are competitions between big money advocacies to fund facade candidates. America begins to deteriorate into virtual bastions of civility surrounded by giant slums of the disaffected.
  • Both candidates amass sums that are more roughly similar but one is able to use his war chest to edge out the other in despite of the mediocrity, i.e. big money always wins but the public must continue to be courted. Near future campaigns are still competitions to buy facade candidates but they also involve increasingly sophisticated psychological techniques to court the public.
  • One candidate amasses a sum that dwarves the other but is still generally unpopular and loses, i.e. the people do have a say independent of the financial influence exerted by giant campaign war chests. The game’s a free-for-all then, I’m running too.

I’m leaving out a lot, of course, and expanding just a choice of outliers to highlight that, in conjunction with the truly epic amount of money already spent this time around, we really are voting on how Citizens United will affect the future of our campaigns than on the candidates themselves. The examples I’ve shown are less to the point than that we should understand the choice. We are, as a people, testing the future of how we will choose our leadership. Or whether we will choose it at all,perhaps! Maybe it’ll be done electronically. Maybe the human element will be read out of our subconscious. Excepting those in existence every empire before has eventually fallen, many in tyranny; many in a decadent oligarchy with a relatively benign bent; and democracies too have fallen! No, America, our existence is not certain though I would suggest we have at least a century or two left in us. Nonetheless, we are, just as predicted for long, here in 2012 about to tryst with the fate of our society!

As an applied science the manner of this presidential campaign’s victory may influence the manner of our electioneering for a long time to come and I don’t believe many Americans are aware. We must be careful for we are treading on treacherous but hallowed ground, ground where our forefathers once walked, ground which they gave in charge and faith to us, ground hallowed by their and now our own very blood. While we sweep on with the art — the theater and the drama — I believe we have forgotten some part of the duty to be true which we were given, the duty written in the living words of our founding documents.

In light of all that I, an avowed agnostic, can only say: God Bless America.

(As an interesting footnote everyone does know that Mayor Mike is flirting with changing the law again so he can possibly run again, or, he’s had a thought or two on creating a law that would allow him to influence the choosing of his successor.I swear it’s true, go check it out, I shit you not he’s like Caesar on 8th Ave. He can do it, go ahead, make the law; but if he does, I’ll say it now, not as a personal threat but so that he understands that all tyrants cavort with wyrd fates: beware the ides of march,sir!)

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About Ask Liesmith

All that is gold does not glitter. Not all those who wander are lost. The old that is strong does not wither. Deep roots are not reached by the frost. From the ashes a fire shall be woken. From the shadows a light shall spring. Renewed shall be blade that was broken. The crownless again shall be king. (---J.R.R. Tolkien)
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