Bring Back the Smoke-Filled Room

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I don’t watch reality shows and I haven’t seen any of the presidential debates. But I repeat myself.

Listening to inside-the-beltway friends talk about the debates – apparently they watch them avidly – makes me think that the presidential campaigns are nothing more than reality shows for the intelligentsia. Perhaps because I live in one of the last states to hold a 2008 primary, I find it irrelevant: in all likelihood, the decisions will be made by the time I am given any nominal say in the process.

Even if I lived in New Hampshire or Michigan, I’d find this primary process bizarre. First of all, both political parties agree that Iowa has to go first – why? So that Archer-Daniels- Midland can be guaranteed its corn subsidies for another four years.

Then we have an extremely unpopular war, but most of the Republican candidates are trying to outhawk one another and most of the Democrats are afraid to speak out (or, in the cases of those in Congress, do anything) against it.

But I make the mistake of thinking issues count. Hillary turned around the New Hampshire election simply by shedding a couple of tears. Many said that Obama’s speeches won their support by shivers up their spines when, as near as I can tell, the semantic content of his speeches is exactly nil. Ron Paul lost many votes because so many of his supporters are unsocialized geeks who, until now, hardly left their parents’ basements.

I think we were better off in the days of back-room deals. Donors would save the millions spent on primary campaigns. Voters could concentrate on their daily lives rather than be subjected to empty rhetoric for at least two out of every four years. Congress could make decisions without polarizing every issue. And the outcomes probably would not be much different. The only thing we would lose would be the entertainment, and I’d be glad to give that up.

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