by Meryl Neiman
Every other day it seems, someone is throwing their hat into the ring to be considered as the next president of the United States. As the world seems to be going to hell in a handbasket, I think this next election is going to be pretty critical so I've been giving it a lot of thought. And here's what I've decided.
We haven't been doing the best of jobs lately picking presidents the old-fashioned way. Very few people are pleased with the current president even though a majority of people cast their votes for him. The election before that, we're not even really sure who won, and the guy before that couldn't keep his pants on in office.
So here's what I'm suggesting. Maybe Americans aren't cut out for traditional democratic elections. We're not getting a good feel for our candidates via paid commercials, stump speeches, and staged debates. We need to see more of our candidates. We need to REALLY get to know them. We need Reality TV.
Sounds crazy I know, but hear me out. Americans are used to reality television. We're interested in it. We watch it. More people watch the final American Idol episodes than any political debate.
Let's say we followed the American Idol model for choosing our next president. Party strategists would travel the country to a few cities, combing the land for political talent. Those selected would journey to Washington where they would compete on live television before a national audience. There would be three "professional" judges. Let's see. . . . Maybe George Will (he'd not be bad in the Simon role -- he has that same ability to make intelligent, cutting remarks); Katie Couric (give her some narcotics and she'd do fine as the political version of Paula) and Al Roker as Randy (okay Al doesn't do political commentating much, but come on, they both had the same gastric bypass surgery).
Instead of singing, each week the candidates would be forced to respond to a serious political issue -- healthcare, the war in Iraq, global warming, America's dependency on foreign oil, etc. -- or handle an inprompu contrived political crisis, or engage in debate. The judges would give their recommendations and then the people would vote. No hanging chads. We wouldn't even have to leave our homes. We'd text message our way to our next US president.
You don't like American Idol? How about Survivor? Don't laugh. I think we'd weed out the idiots and the narcissists pretty quickly. It's hard to hide your spots for long on a deserted island with cameras following you 24/7. We'd toss in the five or so biggest contenders for president and then a healthy mix of non political challengers. I can assure you that if we'd followed the Survivor model, we would all have known about Clinton's little problem with women before he got near the White House (have you seen those skimpy bikinis?). We would get to see how our candidates forged alliances, observe their athletic and mental prowess, determine how they perform under extreme conditions, how they strategize, whether they can make fire . . .
And really, isn't Congress pretty similar to Survivor? A group of people obstensibly trying to get along, but really each one looking to advance his/her own career. We would just have to make one minor alteration. The jury at the end of the show would consist not of other contestants, but the American people.
Not convinced? How about The Great Race. We'd have teams of President and Vice Presidential candidates (yes, they'd have to come right out and pair up at the beginning, none of this pussyfooting around at the end) competing around the world. We'd weed out the ugly Americans, those who can't pronounce the names of foreign cities, those who can't work well in tandem with their partner. It would be a great way for the new president to introduce him or herself to the world at the same time as demonstrating his/her political mettle.
So, what do you all think? Couldn't hurt to try, could it?