DECISIONS, DECISIONS 2008
The evil of two lessers
Writer's note: This was originally published in the Oct. 30, 2008 edition of the Stigler (Okla.) News Sentinel.
By Bryan M. Richter
I dread this time of year.
All the childishness, masks, pranks, noise and running around, saying “I want, I want.”
And then there are the trick-or-treaters.
Eight years ago, while working for a small community newspaper in Tulsa, I wrote an editorial lamenting how the national candidates were so similar that the two-party system had morphed into some odd single conglomerate. I had quoted Kurt Vonnegut who said we no longer had a Republican party and a Democratic party, but instead is now two corporate wings of one party.
The punch line of my editorial was to vote — even if it were for a third-party candidate.
“It’s not throwing your vote away,” I wrote. “The vote that’s thrown away is the vote that’s not cast.”
I normally don’t write. My job here is to compose ads and make this paper look pretty.
Today, however, I break my eight-year silence.
Here is my endorsement for president of the United States:
Oh, I will vote. We have state and congressional offices to consider. I know how to vote on the state questions. I’ll even vote on which judges to retain.
But I am leaving the presidential slot blank.
I vote neither.
We received a sample ballot at the newspaper office for a story on the state questions.
There were the two names on the ballot under “President.”
That’s right, two: Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.
No third-party name, no independent name.
I commented, out loud, in the office, “I’m leaving this part blank.”
The response I got from a co-worker was, “Then you shouldn’t complain afterward.”
“I’m complaining now!” I shot back.
The national media — network, cable, public and otherwise — have touted this as “the most important election in recent memory.”
And these are the candidates the two major parties have given us?
I used to work for a local grocery store chain. I once asked why Coke and Pepsi got so much shelf space and were placed at eye level, while RC always got shoved to the bottom.
Paid placement, I was told. Coke and Pepsi pay stores to strategically place their products so that more customers will see them.
I also used to work in television. It used to be that in TV ads you never mentioned a competitor’s product by name. Coke and Pepsi changed that back in the 1980s. It didn’t matter who was No. 1 and who was No. 2 in the soft drink market — just so that they were No. 1 and No. 2.
I quit drinking Coke and Pepsi because I learned of the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup, the main ingredient in most soft drinks. If I want a soda, I look for Jones Cola, because it’s made with sugar, not corn syrup. Jones Cola actually tastes like the old Coke — before Coke monkeyed with the formula.
And here we are now, in Oklahoma, having to choose between Coke and Pepsi.
Where is my Jones Cola?
Sugar-free, caffeine-free, issue-free
Funny how the major parties market their national candidates the same way the soft drinks do.
And funny how it was a bipartisan effort — the McCain-Feingold Act, named after a Republican and a Democratic senator — which affected getting the word out about candidates.
Why is it that after this campaign finance reform was enacted, we actually have more ads from the Republican and Democratic candidates? And, just like Coke and Pepsi, they are competitive, ours-is-better-than-theirs ads? But we have no ads from the other parties and independents?
Limit the money, limit the speech.
This is reform?
We did not pick these two candidates to run for president. The media picked them for us. The big corporate media packaged these two candidates through issue-light, sound bite-fortified, processed nuggets on their pseudo-journalistic Pez dispensers masquerading as news programs.
Paddy Chayefsky was a genius
The media picked Sen. Obama partly because of Clinton fatigue — Hillary or Bill, pick one — and partly because he was against the war in Iraq from day one — or so he says. Obama was a state senator in Illinois when the war started. Last I checked, state senators have no say on war resolutions, so how do we really know he was against going over there?
Obama speaks in platitudes and rhetoric, not substance. He says he’s for change. He says Washington is broken and needs fixing, but he doesn’t say how he’ll do it. Throw in the haircut, big ears and all the money he’s raised, and he’s a black Ross Perot. That frightens me.
The media picked Sen. McCain because they felt sorry for him. They still feel he was jobbed by then-Gov. Bush in the 2000 campaign, so they felt it necessary to throw the old man a bone. The problem is that the McCain of 2000 is not running this time. This is not the maverick McCain of 2000 who said he was going to change Washington. This McCain of 2008 has voted with the current administration “90 percent of the time” — his words.
McCain today reminds me of the Howard Beale character from the movie “Network.” Once respected, he suffers a setback, goes off the deep end, and rants like a madman. The public once liked him because he told it like it was. He has since changed his message, and the people quickly tired of him. He’s no longer a mad prophet; he’s just mad. That frightens me.
Well, to paraphrase Howard Beale, I’m as mad as heck, and I’m not going to take this anymore.
Until the system changes so that we have better candidates — or at least a better choice of candidates — I’m leaving the presidential section blank.
And to the local food chains, order me more Jones Cola.
Bryan M. Richter is the lead page designer for the Stigler News Sentinel and The Country Star. His comic strip, "LCD: Lowest Common Denominator," is online at LCD.comicgenesis.com.