Politicians Into American Idols
by Mad Dog
We’re used to
being able to sit back in our Barcalounger and order a pizza, CDs, an
Air Turbo Microwave Pasta Cooker, and a new recliner just by getting
someone to hand us the phone, so why can’t we vote that way?
||It doesn’t take a lot to
get people to vote. Really, it doesn’t. Launch a promotional campaign,
take out a couple of ads, and 10 million people will cast ballots for
their favorite new M&M color. Put a singing talent show on the air
and watch the finale draw 65 million votes. Yet if you hold a
presidential election and spend $343 million, as the candidates did in
2000, somehow it only manages to eke out 105 million votes. As my
neighbor in Virginia used to say, it ain’t right.
Think about it, if the season finale
of American Idol can draw 31.4 million viewers casting 65 million
votes, why did the last presidential election only get 51.3% of the
eligible voters out to the polls? Sure John Kerry is no Fantasia
Barrino, and George Bush can’t pronounce Reuben Stoddard better yet
sing like him, but that doesn’t mean we can’t get more people
motivated to leave the house on election day. All it would take is a few
changes to the process itself. After all, if we can’t learn something
from American Idol then we might have to admit that it’s just
mindless entertainment, and you wouldn’t want that, would you?
1. Allow call-in voting. Hey, we’re
Americans, we’re lazy. We’re used to being able to sit back in our
Barcalounger and order a pizza, CDs, an Air Turbo Microwave Pasta
Cooker, and a new recliner just by getting someone to hand us the phone,
so why can’t we vote that way? As it is we have to get in our car,
drive to a fire station, school, or someone’s garage, stand in line,
remember our name and address, and then if we’re not comatose yet,
figure out how this year’s voting machine works. And what do we get in
return? A little sticker slapped on our shirt that says we voted. Big
whoop! If we have to go through all that we should at least get a decent
consolation prize. A piece of candy. A pen with a small Statue of
Liberty inside the barrel with robes that slide off when you tilt it,
showing her wearing a Miracle Bra® from Victoria's Secret. (Hey, someone
has to pay if we’re going to have cool voting party favors.) Heck,
I’d be happy if they handed me an “Our condolences on your vote not
meaning Jack” greeting card. Something. Anything.
I say if all those
potential voters aren’t going to use their ballot, why not let others
who are actually concerned about what happens to this country use them?
Why let all those votes go to waste?
||2. Hold the election
during prime time. Since we’ll be able
to vote by phone, the polls don’t have to be open for long. Besides,
being an A.D.D. nation, we want our election to be short and sweet, not
a miniseries. So why not hold it after dinner when we’re relaxed, we
can focus on it, and we can comfortably fall asleep in the middle of it.
If they really want to try to hold our attention they could make the
election results immediate and interactive. Use a tote board like they
do for a telethon so every time someone votes we see it change. And why
not have celebrities make appearances and perform? This would be
infinitely more interesting than listening to Dan Rather, Peter
Jennings, and an endless stream of so-called experts blather on while
trying to fill time until the next time zone’s polls close.
ZZzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Wouldn’t you rather listen to Tony Bennett, laugh at
— I mean, with — Don Rickles, and watch Regis Philbin pretend he has
talent? Hell, I’d even rather see Jerry Lewis, and judging by the
shape he was in during his last telethon that clues you in as to just
how boring elections have become.
3. Let people vote more than once. Sure
we like to think that a democracy is about one person, one vote, but
it’s not. There’s that silly Electoral College thing in between. And
please, if you’re about to start griping about Al Gore and the popular
vote be warned, I’m this close to proposing that cry babies not be
allowed to vote. If you figure that only 76% of those who are of voting
age are registered, and of that group only 67.5% bothered to vote, that
means just over half the people who can vote did. Meanwhile each American
Idol viewer voted an average of twice. Have you spotted the trend
yet? I say if all those potential presidential voters aren’t going to
use their ballot, why not let others who are actually concerned about
what happens to this country use them? Why let all those votes go to
waste? Use them. Remember, there are children in China who go to bed
They could dump the boring commentators and hire Simon
Cowell to handle election night coverage. After all, someone has to tell
George Bush he mangles the language more than Norm Crosby.
||4. Make the candidates
perform. We want to be entertained, not
bored. They sling mud, jabber a lot but say nothing, and roll up their
shirt sleeves to prove that they’re just common folks who happen to
wear gold and diamond cufflinks. Forget that. Sing. Dance. Spin plates
on a pole. Learn ventriloquism so you can put words in someone else’s
mouth for a change. You say it’s degrading? I guess you haven’t seen
them kissing babies, posing next to farm equipment as if they have a
clue what it does, and shaking hundreds of hands at a taffy pull. Hey,
they couldn’t be any worse than William Hung, and look at where it got
That’s not all. If we knew the
also-ran would get a record contract we’d be more prone to vote. Sure,
he won’t be any more successful than Justin Guarini, but if he’s
lucky he might get to star in a flop movie with Kelly Clarkson. Next
they could dump the boring commentators and hire Simon Cowell to handle
election night coverage. After all, someone has to tell George Bush he
mangles the language more than Norm Crosby, and John Kerry that singing Hound
Dog would be a natural. And lastly, there’s the name. The 2004
Presidential Election just doesn’t cut it. Call it, say, American
Idle Rich, and see if that helps. Hey, it can’t hurt.
©2004 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country.
Read them while waiting to vote.