Friday, February 19, 2016

COLUMN: Caucus

Last week, I mentioned the real reason I became a columnist: To one day leverage my fame in order to rule the world. Well, I've thought about it some more and I've changed my mind. Someone else can rule the world. It clearly takes too much work.

The strangest thing happened to me tonight. I got home, kicked my shoes off, sat back on the couch, and turned on my Campaign Ad Box like always. But oddly enough, I kept looking at the screen and it didn't play a single political ad. Instead there were all of these people and images and NONE of them were Donald Trump! After some investigation, I learned that these things are called "television programs" and "product commercials" and they apparently serve as filler between elections.

Who needed TV when we had the greatest soap opera in the world taking place right across the river? Nothing beats a reality show where twelve contestants are stripped from society and forced to survive a solid month in the harsh Iowa winter with only the clothes on their backs, a mobile command center, and several million dollars in SuperPAC money.

Last week was the season finale of "Survivor: Iowa," and it certainly didn't disappoint. After the tribe was slowly whittled down from twelve to five, the remaining contestants made their final pleas to the jury, who then voted on two winners. In a shocking twist, we could've just skipped everything and flipped a coin six times to determine a winner (which is obviously the ideal way to make ALL political decisions.) Coin flips aside, it was a ratings bonanza and I'm pretty sure "Survivor: Iowa" is going to get renewed for another season come 2020.

At 9:34 p.m. last Monday, Ted Cruz was announced the winner of the Iowa Republican caucus. At 9:35 p.m., residents of Illinois looked up to see twelve planes flying to New Hampshire as quickly as their SuperPACs could finance them. Once again, Iowa can sleep soundly knowing that the rest of the country doesn't care about them one bit.

I'll admit it, I get sucked into the buzz of caucus season whenever it rolls around. After all, it's refreshing to see the Quad Cities show up on national newscasts for something other than mass flooding. It's exciting to eat lunch at Ross' and know there's a chance someone famous could bust through the door for selfies and handshakes at any given moment. I try to stay somewhat engaged in national politics, so when it shows up in our back yard, it's kind of thrilling -- at first.

But that thrill fades fast, especially when you live in Illinois and aren't really invited to the party. It's more like when your next door neighbor's party gets too loud and you want to call the police but you can't call the police because they're too busy directing traffic to a Donald Trump rally. When every candidate is peacocking around the state desperate to make the news, you eventually yearn for a commercial break. When every commercial IN that break is a candidate telling how you they're going to save the country, it gets a little old. When every commercial starts telling you that the other candidates will destroy the country, it becomes absolutely unwatchable.

I was invested in this year's Iowa caucus because I was, and still remain, undecided. I'm just not sure who I'd like to see take the reigns come November. Some of the candidates I really like, some I really don't, and one or two I'm downright terrified by. So I watched some debates and saw some rallies. I wanted something to make my mind up. I'm still waiting for that something.

One thing I SHOULDN'T have done, though, was donate money. I might not have a candidate, but I DO have a party of preference, and late last year, I gave them ten bucks so I could get a bumper sticker (which never arrived.) Back in November, I thought I had my mind made up and gave an additional ten dollars to one candidate to get yet another bumper sticker (which DID show up, but I've yet to stick it to any bumpers.) In December, I changed my mind and gave a whopping $3 to a different candidate (who sent me a bumper sticker without me even asking.)

If you've ever wondered what investment level would be required to drive someone insane, the answer is $23. Apparently those campaigns used my $23 to hire someone to harass me for even more money. In the past 30 days, I have received exactly 476 e-mails requesting monetary donations. If you don't believe me, hand me your e-mail address and I'll be happy to forward them all your way. It's mail with subject headers like "Don't Let Your Country Down!" and my personal favorite, "ALL HOPE IS LOST!" (As it turns out, hope is only lost if I DON'T contribute an additional $20. I don't plan to. Sorry, all hope.)

How did it come to this? Did our founding fathers really envision a future where candidates would beg for money in order to afford to continue begging for money? In a perfect world, no political advertising would ever be allowed and everyone running for office would just share their platform in a concise, easy-to-read document. We could even hold some debates and rallies, provided none of them impede my ability to park in downtown Davenport. Of course, those political ads you see in the paper help fund my paycheck, so I should probably just pack up my soapbox and back away.

Running the world might be an awesome dream, but I'm just not cut out for the campaign trail. I can't professionally pander like these people do. What must it be like to shake HUNDREDS of hands in the course of a day? I'd need a SuperPAC just to fund my Purell budget. And every one of those hands you shake is attached to a pair of lips that want to tell you a sob story and expect you to fix it. I can barely fix my own dinner, let alone people's problems.

I still wouldn't mind ruling the world, but only if you people just hand it over to me. I don't want to have to work for it, and I certainly don't want to send you 476 e-mails begging for it. Until that day comes, I guess I'll just have to be satisfied in my role as president of my living room (though I fear my cats may be mounting an independent campaign to unseat me. Send me money before all hope is lost.)

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