The presidential candidates are out of touch with voters, and as such it seems rare that the right person makes it to the Oval Office. We try to believe otherwise by choosing to support the candidate with whom we can most relate on some personal level or topic after watching a presidential debate. This stands whether you are a Democrat, Republican or an independent.
Out of a majority of prospective nominees, we look for fundamental elements in either the individual’s political message, personal character, or previous records that allow us to justify giving them our vote. Ultimately, our vote allows them to make decisions about our country and, essentially, our lives.
The leaders we elect can determine our circumstances for the next 4 years, so why don’t we stop to think, “Is this really the ‘cream of the crop’ that we have to pick from?” more often?
Money often sits at the heart of this dilemma. Why is it that we see only senators, governors, or CEOs running for office? Are they, without question, the most savvy, intelligent, and innately ethical people available? I would argue that the answer is no. Now, this is not to take credit away from present and past candidates, as they all have attributes worth mentioning. However, one thing is certain, they all amass significant personal and public wealth for their presidential aspirations. In an article for CBS news, Michelle Singer cites an estimated $400 million in presidential campaign costs back in 2008.
It would be a reasonable statement to suggest that this sum disqualifies the vast majority of Americans from being considered for the Oval Office, although I suppose I should only speak for myself here. Regardless, I would argue that in a truly democratic society, being represented by a multimillionaire does not indicate that we are significantly more democratic than another. If this does, I am worried.
Simply put, as a country we have lost the ability to stand up for the our opinions. We’ve shifted to discuss in private what should, in actuality, be the public discourse, and thus we are allowing our leaders to separate us from the decisions they are making on the national level. They tour the country and visit constituents, touting their empathy, saying “Oh yes, we’re listening to ya.” We allow them to run this show. Within our political system, we have reached an unprecedented boundary in our national collective — we have, in effect, become muted citizens.
Despite these arguments, I do not have the answer, only the ambition to point out a few simple factors that seem to contribute to this never-ending cycle of hegemonic power in our government. I will leave you with this: perhaps if we, as a collective people, refused to vote for individuals who pushed other potentially advantageous candidates out by use of their overwhelming wealth and power, we would see a nominee who can actually relate to the everyday needs of the middle class majority. This would be a new kind of candidate; a candidate with whom we might be able to relate to on many levels, one who is in multiple respects, you and I.
Credit: Pete Souza