In the swing-state hotbed of Southwestern Ohio, election season has already reached fever pitch. Depending on your view of the coverage, it’s either an exciting or terrifying proposition that there’s still more than four months to go until Election Day.
Much of the talk surrounds Mssrs. Obama & Romney and how who ends up in the Oval Office will impact fiscal cliffs, tax rates, and future as a nation. It seems like as worried as we are about the many questions that face us, we are equally certain that they will be handled precisely one way if candidate A wins and precisely another if candidate B prevails.
In no way do I take lightly the times we live in, the important decisions we face and the impact those decisions will have on generations of Americans. I do, however, want to put some perspective around the weight we place on the impact one person elected to one office truly has.
When I was in 7th grade, I ran for student council and it was a two man race (I was in an all-boys school). The other candidate had his supporters, I had mine. As with most elections, it came down to the handful of students that neither of us had swayed. I needed a platform. I needed something that would cause them to vote for me. So, I asked my fellow students what they wanted. Almost to a man, easy access to a pop (soda) machine was an overwhelming favorite. “It’s the soda, stupid”, could’ve been our campaign mantra.
So, that was it. In our debate, I announced my plan to put a pop machine on both floors of the building and was victorious in the election. The student body could taste the cold Coca-Cola waiting for them just down the hall.
In my first student council meeting, I asked the principal about putting together a fundraiser so that we could install the machines in our building. The swift and resounding “No” almost knocked me over. Apparently, over the summer, the school board put a no-soda policy in place. I had to deliver the bad news to some disappointed constituents.
I tell that story realizing that our current political and economic issues are many degrees of magnitude more critical than an 11 year-olds’ ability to conveniently purchase a soda, but there are some similarities. Despite what they may say in their campaigns, there are no set tax rates, fiscal solutions or other economic certainties that instantly spring into action based on November’s outcome. These decisions will face a tough fight, both in Congress and the White House, likely for years to come. Many a President has made pop machine promises, only to find the bureaucratic process tougher to manage than a Junior High School principal.
This isn’t to say to walk away from the coverage or to stop caring about who wins. In fact, it’s partially the apathy of the average American voter that helps create political gridlock as both sides only have to deal with the noisy extremes. Instead, I’m suggesting we don’t pin all our hopes for the market, jobs, and future decisions of Congress, courts and corporations on one vote, on one election. That will almost always lead to disappointment.
I propose that we spend that energy better focused on the issues that really matters to us and then remain active in the process even after Election Day has passed. It’s the only way to shift the incentives of our elected officials away from gridlock and towards making real steps towards solving these difficult issues.
Rant complete. Have a great week!