Are you having as much fun as I am this election season? Seriously, waking up each day to the never-ending stream of slick, slimy attack ads, double-speak, and chummy, misleading recorded telephone vitriol, well, hey, it just makes you happy to be alive, doesn’t it?
Simply turn on the TV. “Good morning, folks,” the handsome, graying-but-distinguished gentleman on TV says sincerely. “I’d like to talk to you personally for a moment about the problems we’re facing in this country, and what I’d like to do about them. For example, my opponent wants to tax everyone into oblivion, which is obvious from his consistent refusal to debate me, and from the fact that he never tips a waiter more than 15 percent. This man hates children and widows and … oh, yeah, animals, he really hates animals, which is evident because he has no pets, and everyone knows his great-grandfather was a bootlegger!”
So, you change the channel. “Hello, North Dakota,” — for the record, I have no idea what’s going on politically in North Dakota, or if there’s anything going on in North Dakota at all … I’m not even sure there is such a place as North Dakota, which I may have made up in a dream — says the sweet, carefully coiffed and dressed soccer mom. “I want to go to Washington to fight for the things you care about. For example, I will introduce a bill to take every food that actually tastes good out of every school cafeteria in the nation, and to use healthy options to motivate our children: extra carrots for every A, more spinach and grapes for each winning football game … not that I think children should be playing football, which can be hurtful and competitive and therefore should be avoided. But, my opponent, on the other hand, has shown from his pants size alone that he wants your children to eat fried and processed foods until they can no longer move and must be rolled to school like giant watermelons, where they should all play football, even the girls!”
Riiiing. “Hi, there!” says the automated voice on the phone. “I’m Joe Candidate, and I hope you’ll take a minute to listen to my message for Missouri (again, possibly a made-up state). I want to return to Washington to represent you the way you should be represented — by someone who cares, someone who listens, someone who, unlike my opponent, loves flowers and puppies and long walks on the beach. And, I want to make it perfectly clear: Those racy twits … I mean tweets … that I sent to my old college roommate were in no way from me … uh … what I mean is … my opponent’s mother is huge!”
On the way to school, I turn on the radio. “I’m Johnny Incumbent, and I approved this ad. Did you know that my opponent has vowed to take money from seniors, force schools into bankruptcy, outlaw medical care and allow convicted felons to work at your local Starbucks? Yes, it’s true! Whereas I, as my record clearly shows, have always been against felons working at Starbucks. My opponent is also a lying atheist, nonbathing, sexually experimenting, flag-burning bunny-hater with ties to organized crime, and he may have murdered three people last week! So, please vote to send me, Johnny Incumbent, back to Washington. … This message paid for by your neighbors at Sendhimpacking.org.”
I walk up the drive with the dogs, opening the mail. “Dear Constituent and Friend,” the letter starts (and this “friend” hasn’t written me in … um … ever). “I need your help. I’m fighting to return to Washington and fix all the problems that, well frankly, my colleagues and I caused to begin with. Yes, my friend, only someone who voted the wrong way the first time can possibly know how to vote the right way the next time, am I right? Now, I won’t be able to do everything I want to do, of course, but if you send me giant, bottomless vats of money, I’ll see what I can do. So, please attend my upcoming breakfast, where I will answer spontaneous questions from my family members, which have not been prescreened at all, and I’ll take a picture with you as long as you don’t get like really close to me or anything. And, for good friends like you, it will only be a thousand dollars a plate. Come on, Utah! I miss Washington!!”
Hey, I’ve got an idea: “Hello, my name is Rookie. Listen up. I’ve never been in politics. I’ve never run for anything. I don’t know “how Washington works.” Maybe I’m not qualified. But, I’ve read the Constitution — has my opponent? Thank you.”
Now, that will get me to the polling place … plus, they have really good Starbucks coffee there.
Vicki Wentz’s column, which appears here on Sundays, is published in newspapers across the country. She is a high school teacher who lives in Chapel Hill, N.C. Readers may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.