The epic fail of the American electorate

By Petula Dvorak

In a letter to America, Petula Dvorak writes that it’s the electorate’s fault this year’s election has been like a reality TV show.

Hey America, do you like this election?

No?

But this is what you created.

You, America, stopped listening to facts you didn't agree with, stopped reading newspapers or watching broadcasts that didn't entertain you or confirm what you already believed, stopped trying to understand legislation and policy, stopped bothering to engage in civil discussion or master the basics of civic responsibilities.

You, America, blame Washington for everything that's wrong with this country, but then told pollsters that the federal Government isn't doing enough to help you.

You, America, actually believe that reality television is real. And that politics is a form of reality TV. And thanks to that, we have an election that's more American Idol than American Constitution.

Canvassers this week actually found voters who thought they could vote online.

What? There's not an app for that?

You realise we're probably just one election cycle away from a Kardashian in office. Because, what the heck? Let's try something new!

The epic fail of the American electorate goes beyond the possibility of The Apprentice presidency, starring the always entertaining and always horrifying Donald Trump.

Check out the mayoral race in Richmond and see what voters in the Old Dominion want in a candidate these days.

Leading the pack is Fightin' Joe Morrissey, a 58-year-old former Democratic state delegate who is a one-man E! network. He is living out his own reality show.

This guy did 17 months of jail time after he denied that he altered documents to get a cute, underage intern to work for him, denied he had sex with her, denied he sent texts bragging about having sex with her and denied that he was the father of her baby.

And then, during last season's June finale of Say it Ain't So, Joe, there was a grand Virginia wedding for Morrissey and the now 20-year-old Myrna Warren, complete with a Swarovski-encrusted gown and white tents on the family farm.

Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, accompanied by performer Pharrell Williams, appear on stage at a rally. Photo / AP
Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, accompanied by performer Pharrell Williams, appear on stage at a rally. Photo / AP

Voters love the guy and somehow believe that between his five children, three mothers of his children and his spotty career - including a disbarment for fist-fighting in the courtroom - he is the right man for the complex and labour-intensive job of governing a city.

He'll be entertaining, right? Season 2 will be ah-mazing.

You can't get further from Washington than Hawaii, where the certifiable Angela Kaaihue is running for a US House seat with the help of demons and devils worthy of a heavy-metal album cover. The cloven ones on her campaign posts say her opponents are Satan and she is the only true "messenger of God". Don't worry if the Republican doesn't win, because one of our fave characters, Carlos Danger, still makes election news even when he's not running.

Anthony Weiner, the soon-to-be-ex-husband of top Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin, can text his dysfunction to you anywhere, his disgusting shtick knows no boundaries. (OK, New York City did send the Democrat to the US House of Representatives, but didn't elect him mayor, so some kudos there.)

Are we sure this election season wasn't scripted by Netflix? But no, we can't go on a 72-hour binge-watch bender to see who wins.

The demand for politainment isn't anything new. Ronald Reagan made the leap from B-movie actor to GOP politician in 1967, when the future President was elected Governor of California.

Then came singer Sonny Bono as Mayor of Palm Springs and Republican congressman, then actor Clint Eastwood as Mayor of Carmel.

Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally. Photo / AP
Donald Trump gestures as he speaks during a campaign rally. Photo / AP

California found its formula, giving the boring process of political debate and governance the Hollywood treatment. Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger as Governor of California? The Terminator will fix the state's budget crisis, right?

Except, no. And nobody wanted him back.

But wait, sensible Minnesotans did the same thing, electing professional wrestler Jesse Ventura as a third-party Governor. His one term may not have been as disastrous as the Terminator's.

Minnesotans did it again with Democrat Al Franken, a former comedy writer for Saturday Night Live who has had zero entertainment value as a senator.

Boring.

But guess what? Sometimes, government is boring. And it's hard work. And it's important. And it is absolutely incumbent upon Americans to take it seriously.

Being a patriot is not about decorating yourself or anything you own with an American flag. Loyalty to this country isn't measured by how you carry your body when the national anthem is played.

Being an American citizen is about the full-throated involvement in the civic process, with no expectation of entertainment.

It is about understanding that all those immigrants risking their lives to get to America would do anything to have the honour and opportunity that each American has at local council meetings, town halls, state assemblies and voting booths all year long, every year.

Making election decisions based on who's going to make you laugh, who you'd rather have a beer with or who comes up with the zippiest one-liners is borderline treason.

Save that for your Saturday night laughs. And take responsibilities we have as citizens seriously - all year long.

- Washington Post

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