RIP, political campaigns.

Presidential campaigns are so popular right now – maybe too popular for our own good?  Of course it’s everywhere, on the news, incorporated into just about every website that I go to for news, even in commercials during baseball games I’m trying to enjoy.  And maybe I get an even bigger dose than most because I work with a few political junkies (myself included), so we’re always sharing articles and John Stewart video clips with each other.

However, it’s mighty frustrating for me to see some of the best people I know become so consumed by the campaigning.  Of course, this election is important.  Depending on who you ask, it ranges from being the most important presidential election since 2004, or 1980, or 1960, or 1932.

What I keep trying to tell myself is that no matter who wins, there is still much work for social and economic justice to be done.  Obama consistently talks about how McCain has no plan for the middle class, but neither candidate is talking about the most economically marginalized – the working poor, the homeless.  I figure no matter who gets elected, the community organizing profession will not suffer for lack of anything to do.

The other frustrating thing that I am observing in this election is that one of the candidates who is running is someone that ran in an election that I voted in 4 years ago.  In 2004, I was living in Illinois when Obama ran against Alan Keyes (yeah, remember that?).  Obama won in a landslide victory.  Then, perhaps 2-3 years later with 3-4 years left in his office as US Senator, he announced that he was running for president of the United States.  I see him on the road all the time, speaking in this state and that city, going to the Middle East to learn more about politics, etc.  All this is taking him away from the office of US Senator that the people of Illinois elected him to serve.

The same goes for the people of Arizona, whose US Senator is missing in action while on the campaign trail.  Alaska had their governor swooped away some 6 weeks ago.  And I’m sure that Joe Biden isn’t making it to that Home Depot back in Delaware as often as he would like since being named Obama’s running mate.

What I’m thinking is that there needs to be a serious examination of campaigns, how much resources go into them, the amount of time that candidates, their families and their staff spend on the road.  We can only do so many things at once well.  Perhaps if we decide to run for an office of this magnitude that requires so much time and resources, we should consider stepping down from an office that we were elected to serve in.  Of course, we are a country in overdrive for different reasons – parents who work 2-3 jobs to support families, parents bustling suburban kids to soccer and piano and tutoring.

I’m sure it would help with the spiritual focus of our country, starting from the top down, if we could just admit that it’s only possible to do one or two things well and not spread ourselves out too thin.

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2 thoughts on “RIP, political campaigns.

  1. You make really good points here. I’ll be attending a rally with Hillary Clinton tomorrow; I followed the Hillary / Obama contest even more closely than I follow the current contest, and I remember thinking so many times, “These are just people. They need to eat, and sleep, and relax,” but yet they’re constantly traveling, constantly speaking and studying, and unlike me on four hours of sleep, they have to look professional and be articulate and endearing, and if they slip up and make one rude comment, everyone replays the clip and analyzes it endlessly. That is definitely going to produce some wear-and-tear on everyone’s spirit. As I ease out of working two jobs (terrified by the thought of less income in these tenuous times), I often wish that this choice between being financially secure (not even comfortable) and spiritually secure was not one that I have to make. I’d love to see an example at the top of people who care for themselves and make it a priority for others to do the same; instead, they model just the opposite.

    And like you, I also feel disappointed that there is so little talk about the working poor. Of course, the middle class is struggling so that more of them are on the borderline of poverty all the time, but it’s discouraging to know that the middle class gets so much service more because they’re a big voting block than because they’re truly the ones who need change and compassion the most.

  2. In Iowa, there’s a big push for public financing of campaigns. Unfortunately the state leadership refuses to bring the bill to the floor each year, but the idea is getting more and more support. Each state candidate has to raise $5,000 to be considered a viable candidate and then he or she is eligible to receive public financing, the money coming from unclaimed state property.

    Could you imagine this at the national level? What if each presidential candidate could only spend a million or so for the campaign? Instead of being bombarded with ads and such a voter could much more easily investigate the candidates’ views and decide for him or herself which person to vote for.

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