I used to enjoy the sport of politics. It was for me, like many, an art form — the debate, the issues, the future.
There are rare occasions in which that art form still exists. One is the Columbia Business Times’ Sunday Morning Roundtable. Another is Meet the Press. The unique atmosphere of those environments places the candidate, official or leader in a position of having to talk about issues versus talking about their opponent.
Every day, either at my office or my home, I receive a call from someone asking me for money for a political candidate. It’s getting as bad as telemarketers and bill collectors! Some candidates I know and some of them are friends. But others I wouldn’t know if I were standing right next to them.
I take that back.
If I were standing right next to them, they’d shove their hand at me and say, “Hi, I’m so-and-so. I’m running for X. I need money.” Heaven forbid you engage them about an issue on a call for money. Like a physician, their allotted time is queued up to make other calls to generate more money. They’ll only give you five minutes to discuss the problems of the world.
While I recognize this is cynical and not universal, it is what the American people think as well. I know because I ran a poll of 15 people, who I barely know, who all said the same thing because I asked the question in exactly the right way. My campaign committee and my national party have structured my response according to strict tenets to support my party’s position and to encourage you to adopt the way of life which I, along with my party representatives, perceive as the most appropriate. I will not vote independently, because, if I do, I will be punished by my party and ostracized into making the decision that they want.
Sorry. I digressed.
I get lots of phone calls for money for one reason: I am a registered lobbyist. Missouri law requires anyone who wishes to discuss a department rulemaking or general public policy to register. That’s what I do for a living, so I dutifully follow the law.
By definition, to be a lobbyist in Missouri does not mean you bother people only in the general assembly. This law actually extends to state departments, commissions, city councils and county commissions, but is seldom, if ever, followed except by those lobbying state senators and representatives. The law of unintended consequences is wholly at work with the ethical requirement to register. Conveniently for politicians who wish to run, a list of potential donors is available from your ethics commission, those being all registered lobbyists in Missouri.
So, if you are a politician, rather than the list of lobbyists being available for its intended purpose, a ready list can be printed for your convenience of those to call to find out who wants to influence you. No more going through the grapevine. Just pull down the list!
The opportunity at this election, especially in Missouri, is profound. If you want bipartisanship, the answer is very simple: It really doesn’t matter who is in charge. What matters is how big their margin is. The tighter the margin of available votes to prevail on an issue, the more cooperative the parties must be. The smaller the majority, the more likely that bipartisanship will take the day.
The parties, of course, wish you to forget that fact because all they care about is how powerful they are. The parties do not care about your well being. Individual legislators may care, but their parties are corporations, no different than any other organization. The product they sell is power. The more seats they have, the more they can demand. It doesn’t matter if they are Republican or Democrat. After all, contrary to their belief, the Constitution does not provide for two parties. In fact, many Americans believe that two parties are in the Constitution and that two parties are all that is required. Naturally, the two parties want you to think that way. They will codify everything they possibly can to force that into culture.
In some elections, I have two friends running against each other: both honorable, both intelligent and both grabbing for straws to differentiate each other for our election pleasure. In the big picture, in a time of crisis, their differences are nominal. One has more hair than the other, one is a little heavier, one has a few more degrees, and they will all call you and ask you for money.
Between now and the upcoming elections, I propose to take advantage of the election season and enjoy it for its hypocrisy. Sit down at a table of your favorite Democrats and just say the phrase, “George Bush,” and watch their blood pressure rise. Sit down with your favorite Republicans and say, “Wasn’t Bill Clinton impeached?” and watch how they can’t get over history. Some other blood pressure risers include, “Didn’t Al Gore win the popular vote?” or “Obama is inexperienced” or “Hillary got gypped.”
When in doubt and at a loss for entertainment value, say something significant like, “Canadians love their healthcare program.” My current favorite is standing next to a gas pump saying, “You know, Dick Cheney’s making lots of money.” All these will help stimulate your election entertainment, watching others go crazy without having to discuss a single issue.
Thank goodness the Supreme Court says I can keep my hand gun.