Extremism running politics [UPDATED]Published 9:53am Monday, October 29, 2012 Updated 11:56am Monday, October 29, 2012
As election day draws near, many candidates have talked about the need to “stop the gridlock” and work “on both sides of the aisle” to get things done.
Such an idea is laughable. No matter who gets elected on Nov. 6, those who say they can stop the gridlock to the degree that they can solve the large problems our state and nation are facing are either lying, or completely naïve.
The reasons why are many, but I think it has mostly to do with the types of candidates we are electing, and the type of voters we are: All or nothing.
It’s no secret that most candidates are either extreme liberal or extreme conservative, and always will vote with their party.
Voters, however, are all or nothing these days too, but not necessarily the same way. I’m convinced that voters are really into politics, or not at all.
If you look at what it takes to get into office, that fact shines loud and clear. These days, to win office, most new candidates — long-time incumbents don’t count — have to fall into one of three categories: rich, famous or an ideological poster child.
I’ll tackle one at a time.
• Rich — It costs a lot of money to run a campaign. Campaign staff, lawn signs, and most of all, television ads are extremely expensive. Even in a race such as the Minnesota U.S. Senate race in which even the most conservative Republicans would admit that Kurt Bills has no chance against incumbent Amy Kloubuchar, Kloubuchar’s campaign is still spending millions.
And yet, the salary for a U.S. Senator is only $174,000 per year, and the pay decreases substantially down the ladder of political offices.
While there are ways to raise money (I’ll go through those in a minute), the easiest way to come up with the cash is to have it in your own wallet. For an average joe candidate with a regular job and a family to feed, it’s hard to run for office knowing that you might have to go into debt to do it, and if you’re successful, the job you are elected to won’t exactly help pay the debt.
Candidates such as Steve Forbes, Donald Trump and Mark Dayton don’t have to worry about such problems.
• Famous — There’s a big reason why people like Jesse Ventura, Al Franken and Arnold Schwarzenegger were elected: Voters had heard of them. The Republicans in Minnesota were baffled in 2010 when their party won majorities in the House and Senate, yet, in an extremely close race, Mark Dayton defeated Tom Emmer for governor. Why? My bet would be that many who don’t pay attention to politics, had heard of Mark Dayton — heir to Dayton’s, former U.S. Senator and perennial candidate — and had never heard of Emmer — one of the gobs of state representatives in the Twin Cities suburbs.
• Party poster child — Again, it costs a lot of money to run a campaign, and the salary for the job you’re elected is relatively low. The only way for a person who isn’t wealthy, famous or both to get elected is to get financial help from the Democratic or Republican Party, and the many political action committees and other groups that associate themselves with one party or the other.
The problem, however, is that the leaders of the political parties, especially in recent years, only support candidates that are ideologically pure.
If, for example, you believe in most of what the Democrats stand for, but disagree on an issue or two, it is likely they will not endorse you, because I guarantee there’s someone else running for office who agrees with the party on everything.
The reason? Those who are involved in running the parties are really into it, and many are because they have extreme views.
In other words, like it or not, qualities such as leadership, business acumen, salesmanship, and even speaking ability don’t seem to matter much these days.
So to review, the key to being a successful candidate is about gathering enough money, either from yourself or from political extremists, so that you can put commercials on television to convince those who don’t pay attention to politics to vote for you.
Where have we gone, Joe Dimaggio?
Joel Myhre is The Journal’s publisher. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org