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An Olympic Kind of Election

We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog to consider the following thoroughly silly inquiry: What if the presidential election were more like the Olympics?

For reasons I may or may not share in a later blog, I very likely voted for the last time in 2008. I cannot, however, quit watching the Olympics with such ease. I watch everything. And I mean everything. Fencing? Yes. Badminton? Hell yes. Synchronized swimming? Absolutely yes. I can’t help myself. I almost wish I had room and money enough to install several flatscreens on my living room wall so that I can watch all of the NBC networks at the same (damn) time. I get tired of switching back and forth. I love the Olympics so much I actually tolerate Bob Costas, a.k.a. the Dick Clark of sports. 

All of this binging on olympic events got me thinking. Not simply about how the opening ceremonies were more or less a really boring version of The Hunger Games, and how I really wanted Queen Elizabeth to sound like Effie Trinket as she addressed the crowd. My mental meanderings only paused briefly at the fact that all of the black US olympians looked like prep school Black Panthers as they entered the stadium. Where my mind has lingered, however, is on the above mentioned idea. That is, what if we abandoned all of the commercials, boring debates, and stump speeches in states that would never ever award a liberal or conservative candidate half an electoral vote in exchange for an Olympics-like election process?

Seriously. I’m over rehearsed responses to questions on the economy and tax breaks for the wealthy. I’ve grown weary of pundits and twitterers filling their feeds with surprise and righteous indignation when the candidate they don’t like says the exact same thing the candidate in his exact same position 4 years prior did. I’m over the reductive, bifurcated mirage of conservative and liberal. I want to see these candidates on some political parallel bars.

We need to increase and diversify the field. No more political parties. No more 3-year-long campaigns. Everything needs to go down in two weeks. Perhaps we take the gymnastics all-around or decathlon as a the exemplars. We turn the “issues” into categories. Instead of blurbs fed to them by campaign managers and other advisers, candidates must present themselves in front of too legit to quit–and thoroughly objective, of course–experts. Forget that “marriage is between a man and woman” spiel. Candidates must show their fluency of the issue in front of a panel queer theorists, feminists, theologians, and marriage historians. Screw the vote. You get a score.

At the very least, this would be entertaining. The commentary would be delightful. Did the candidate screw up on the percentage of uninsured children during her recitation of her healthcare plan, also known as the election version of the balance beam? A loss of 5-tenths of a point. Did the other candidate stumble in his discussion of the Supreme Court? That’s just like fouling on the triple jump.

Whether or not what I’ve suggested is embraced, I think it’s rather clear that the election cycle needs to be remixed. And perhaps the solution lies in the other, more dramatic, more entertaining, and infinitely more tolerable event that also happens every 4 years: the Olympics. In fact, perhaps we eliminate the “issues” and simply have all interested candidates compete. Think folks swooned when Obama hit that falsetto at the Apollo? Imagine how’d they respond as he and his cabinet perform their synchronized swimming program.

Silly? Yes, maybe. But seeing these candidates compete in the 50M free would be more refreshing–and surprising–than their unimpressive politics. A news report on a candidate convincing factory workers that they would not be laid off should he be elected? Yawn. But a candidate pole vaulting over Wall Street and right into the White House? Now that’s an event I’d love to see.