The 2012 Edition
The illusion of freedom will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, pull back the curtains, and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater. (Frank Zappa)
This is a column I seem doomed to repeat every four years because every four years we elect a new president or reelect the current White House occupant. The summer of our discontent will surely turn into the fall and winter of increased agitation and frustration with the current state of our political process. The Occupy Wall Street movement is but the latest in a series of disillusioned groups trying to influence the political landscape. They're against corporate greed and government bailouts for the mega banks and financial institutions who seemingly escaped punishment for the illegalities they committed. I get it. But this group so far hasn't presented a leadership structure strong enough or demands so compelling to prevail upon elected officials. It would have been nice to have these demonstrations four years ago. At the time, both the Republican and Democratic candidates for president voted for these bailouts. At times, The Occupy Wall Street movement seems like a fun, frolicking day at the park – a mini Woodstock without the great music. In time it might turn out to be something worthwhile. For now, I'll pass. I'll also pass on the Tea Party. They're mad as hell and they're not gonna take it anymore as the Howard Beale character from Network exclaimed. But I'm past mad. The Coffee Party, (yes there really is one), presents itself as an alternative to the tea party. A spokesperson described the movement as being "not liberal, centrist, progressive, or conservative". Sounds a little like a lukewarm cup of coffee without cream or sugar and decaf to boot. Blah! I'll pass. But staying on the coffee theme, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz announced this past summer that he would cease all political donations to Washington lawmakers until they get their act together. He also urged companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange to follow his lead. Schultz may be on to something. When the spigot of campaign cash dries up, pols tend to change their behavior at least temporarily. Nope, I think the Whiskey Party is a nice fit for me. Call it a place where men and women can go and settle their political differences over rounds of drinks. But alas, there is no Whiskey Party. There was a Whiskey Rebellion in the 1790's that stemmed from a tax on corn liquor. The tax was instigated by treasury secretary Alexander Hamilton as a way to pay off the national debt. The national debt is still a political hot potato over 200 years later.
And perhaps by the 2016 presidential election, the act of casting a vote at your local schoolhouse, church, or civic auditorium will be a thing of the past. The 100 year old woman who has presided over your local voting precinct for the past 50 years will be dead. You will vote using your cell phone or some other wireless device. The primary and caucus nominating system will be a thing of the past. The eventual nominees of their respective parties will be selected in an American Idol type format. Each week, prospective candidates who have been weighed in the balance and found wanting will be sent home. And just like American Idol contestants who have been dismissed, losing presidential candidates will not go home empty handed. Oh no, there's book deals, television appearances, paid speeches, a brand new mansion in Florida, and New York Times op ed pieces to write. As Sarah Palin has recently said, the title of president is too "constraining" anyway. Losing it seems provides some excellent parting gifts. So after having your identification authenticated, your vote cast and tabulated, your mind set at ease for having performed your civic duty can go back to more important matters like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I'll miss those 100 year old ladies. Welcome to the new democracy.
Even with the possibility of world economic collapse, illegal immigration (We can't crack down too hard, who do you think is going to build that border fence?), simmering Mideast tensions, the war in Afghanistan, health care reform, and all the talk about the electorate being pissed off, we still want to tinker around the margins. Of the established contenders, only Ron Paul represents a deviation from the norm of playing it safe. But even members of Paul's own party despise him. I kinda like the old geezer and gadfly. I don't always agree with him, but respect his principled libertarian views. I feel the same way about Ralph Nader and his unorthodox views but so far he has declined to enter the 2012 fray. Not content with the choices presented to you? Let's send in the clowns.
Robert "Naked Cowboy" Burck – A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Burck has been a fixture at New York's Times Square for years. Performing in his trademark cowboy hat, boots, and strategically placed guitar, Burck has shown that a little luck, shameless promotion and the proper physique can gain a man a rabid following. However, it's debatable whether that following will actually vote in an election. It's safe to assume that Burck's minimalist attire will translate into minimalist government. Let the good times roll!
John "Green" Ferguson – From his base in Azle, Texas, Ferguson welcomes any defectors from the established political parties to join his National Eco/Green Party. He has managed to combine a business and presidential campaign site into one. While I admire his enterprising spirit concerning green tech products and his passion for sustainable living, his political views are another. At times reading like stream of consciousness babblings and at other times reading like a political manifesto (I think the Unibomber Ted Kaczynski wrote one of those) one would be hard pressed to take Mr. Ferguson seriously. I hear he sells a damn good porta potty though. He is looking for a running mate if anybody is interested.
HRM Caesar St. Augustine De Buonaparte Emperor – Yes, it's our old friend HRM. He got a mention four years ago and now he's tanned, rested, and ready to make another run for the highest office in the land. This time around, he is utilizing YouTube as his preferred vehicle for his message of conspiracies, government vindictiveness, and assorted incoherent rants. At times amusing, at times downright scary, HRM goes where angels fear to tread.
Charlie Sheen - Yep, that Charlie Sheen - King of Dysfunction, Junction. He's not bipolar, he's biwinning. Winning here, winning there, winning everywhere. Sheen promises to be the anti-Josiah Bartlet (The virtuous character his father Martin played on West Wing. Right now, it all appears to be a prank but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
So in conclusion, once again I'm beginning to see more and more of that proverbial brick wall at the back of the theater that Frank Zappa so aptly described. But I'm still laughing…for now.