Over the past couple of decades, South Park has become one of the most popular comedies on TV, due to the writers’ fearless, yet surprisingly accurate, satirical depictions of current political and social topics. One episode that was an especially accurate depiction of the United States election was Episode 8 of Season 8: Douche and Turd. During this episode, the elementary school is holding a vote to determine the new school mascot. The students write-in joke candidates and the vote ends up between two vulgar candidates — literally a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. One of the main characters, Stan, is sickened by the election process and does not see the point in voting between such ridiculous options and refuses to cast his ballot. He is expelled from the town, but upon his return, passively casts his vote for the Turd Sandwich, only to discover that the Giant Douche still easily won the election. Stan’s parents reveal the moral of the episode and inform him that, even though he chose the losing side, his vote still mattered. (Of course, in the end, the original mascot is replaced, the election results are ignored, and Stan finds that his vote actually did not matter anyways.)
So often in the political arena, when the candidates are weeded out and it is does to the last two survivors, those are the options given — a Giant Douche and a Turd Sandwich. A perfect, and recent, example would be the 2016 Presidential Election. Trump is the essential definition of a Douche, and Hillary exemplifies all the ingredients of a Turd Sandwich and that is the choice that the American people had to make. It astonishes me that voters were so surprised with the results of the election, when the bar was set so very low.
A powerful weapon of the resourceful politician is to smear the name of your opponent, attempting to reveal their true nature and change the view of the voters. Most of these attempts, though initially successful, will extract retaliation, in order to even the playing field. Very few, if any, of the candidates that have run for President, have had a clean record. The path to a position of such power is paved with skeletons, surrounded by vultures, and lined with bandits. There are three ways to reach that seat in the oval office, and all of them murk the waters: power, money, or connections.
The easiest way to reach the seat is through connections — the road of the politician. They may require massive amounts of campaign contributions, or to strong-arm some constituents, but they draw their power from the people they know. Some reach office through power. This power may have been bought, or given, but is used to crush adversaries and deter opposition. Others use money, to buy the loyalty and fund campaign strategies that brainwash the population of voters. The resourceful candidate with combine a mixture of all three paths, but usually, has to rely heavily on one of the choices to take the throne.
The road to the presidency filters out the players not considered elite in the eyes of the elite; it allows the people in control to determine who their successors will be, ensuring that the power stays in the “right” hands. But WAIT….I thought we were a democracy and the people had the power to determine whom head the government? This is true, but the established system allows the current powers to set the ballet and push through the candidates that they deem worthy. Essentially, a democracy limits the power of the people to a choice between two options provided by the parties — the Turd Sandwich v. the Giant Douche.
What is the answer to this limitation of voting power, then? For starters, the Republican-Democrat stronghold on the election process needs to be re-evaluated. These two parties have become so polarized that they attack anyone daring enough to venture the unknowns of the political middle-ground; greatly limiting the options that are suitable for the presidential seat. This severe party polarization has also left the country divided on every important issue, creating confusion and chaos when any bills are presented or statements are made. This confusion and chaos directs individual anger towards each other, rather than at the people responsible for creating the mess in the first place. The gentle teeter of the left and right free the politicians to conduct business as usual, without having to respond to the anger of the masses, or listen to their opinions. The best way to direct emotional responses of the people away from D.C. and towards their neighbor is to allow for only two sides of thinking for each issue, and force each individual to dedicate themselves to one side. The politically-forged, socially-driven cultural war distracts the voters from the underlying issues of the system and direct the thinking of the masses to the people that have bought, arranged, or forced their way into power. The whole facade of a two-party system excuses the slow-moving gears of Washington, gives cause for drawn-out funding campaigns, and restricts the free thinking of the American citizen.
The creation of a strong third party could be the answer to the dilemmas of the two-party system. As was stated in Season 5 of HBO’s House of Cards, “Ah the third party. Always the party of the future, never the party of the present.” People want to believe in their power to establish a significant third, or independent, party that could challenge the bilateral entrapment of the current system. The problem is that not enough people are willing to “throw away” their vote and choose the candidate that reflects the issues that are important to them. Bernie Sanders, in 2016, was something of a political enigma. He was running on the Democratic ticket, but did not have strong support in the DNC, but still gave Hillary Clinton a run for her money. Not that I was particularly supportive of Mr. Sanders, but I think this small victory showed that the people, when organized, can choose the people that they support, to lead the country.
Another thing that needs to be re-though in the election process is the way that candidates raise their campaign funds, and how that money is actually used. A good chunk of the money that is raised by politicians, comes directly from public offerings of support. Those people have the right to know how their money will be used and if it will actually help to advance the things that they find are important. Super-PACS and other campaign finance tools have ruined the integrity of the campaign platform, and turned elections into a carnival of stuns to raise the most funds, rather than a serious debate about the future of the country. For years, these issues have been known to the public and have not been answered for. We need to speak up if things are ever going to change. If you sit by and hope that these elected officials will someday wake up and say “Hey, I am going to make campaign fundraising much more difficult and transparent for myself and my co-workers,” then please show the way to the idealized utopia, in which you live. The only way for the people to have power in this country is to make those running for office aware that it does not matter how much money they raise, if they cannot run the country based on the virtues of the people, then they will not be invited to lead/allowed to stay.
There are so many other topics that need to be re-evaluated with the election system, but we will discuss those at a later date. For now, keep your mind on the next election. It is not that far off, and we need to build up the candidates that we want to see in office now, and when the time comes they will be in the perfect position to be elected to The Office.