Thursday, November 13, 2008

Campaign, Election Provoke Humor and Gratitude

(From the November 13, 2008 Grand Haven Tribune.)

If you’re like me, you are glad the election is over. Citizens were tired of the barrage of advertising and allegations. Both candidates inspired a lot of people to vote, but they also inspired comedy as a coping mechanism for campaign fever. By the end of the long campaign, it seemed the true winner was Saturday Night Live and other late-night comedy programs.

In fact, the campaign and election made me so punchy that I considered, facetiously, announcing my candidacy for president in 2012. It occurred to me as I reviewed the past campaign that I have many of the apparent qualifications to lead this country. Excuse me, this “great land of ours.”

First, think of McCain. Now look at my picture. Bald white guy. Enough said. Sure, he ultimately lost, but he came close. I would have a better chance. I wouldn’t say “my friends” so much, unless of course we’re talking about the people who “friend” me on the numerous social media Web sites I plan to join.

That’s right—I can use a computer. Vote for me. I’ll be on Facebook.

You might also see my face on a book. I’m pretty young yet, but between now and 2012, I plan to write two autobiographies to extend my personal brand. Bill Clinton had a book called “Man from Hope.” Obama has a book called “Audacity of Hope.” The working title for my books are: “Man! That’s Audacious!” or “No Hope for this Man.”

Of course, Obama will be running again, so I’ll have an uphill battle against an incumbent. My strategy is to compete with him head to head.

Obama campaigned on change. But in four years, I will represent the change. My slogan will be: “Is it that time already? Change.” One of my ads is already in production. It goes like this: “You change your shirt every day. Shouldn’t you change your president at least every four years?” We will adapt the ad for southern states: “Shouldn’t you change your president as often as you change your shirt?” The voice-over on the second one will be provided by Larry the Cable Guy.

Obama impressed many because he edited the Harvard Law Review. So did my first cousin. (It’s true. Look for the name Robert Niewyk just above Obama’s in the roster of the Law Review in the Obama biography video). But I have also edited newspapers, yearbooks and magazines not only in college, but as a professional.

Obama has an interesting international experience, with a multi-racial family and experience abroad. Well, I am the son of an immigrant, and have worked for short periods of time in Mexico, Japan, the Philippines, and France. Obama spoke overseas to crowds of thousands. I spoke overseas to crowds of 37, but I have time to build on that.

Speaking of family, I should tell you that my dad is a retired plumber. With all the mentions of Joe the Plumber in the last election, this fact has to score me some electoral points. I’ll recall the story of how I asked my dad, Butch the Plumber, to spread the wealth around. He just muttered something about what I was spreading and told me to go mow the lawn. People will eat that up.

A lot of people, when pressed to explain why they voted for Obama, point out that he ran a good campaign. Well! I’ve run many campaigns. In fact, I’ve won awards for them. I teach classes on campaigns. This should be a cake-walk. Since policy seems secondary to the American voter, I’ll just run a whiz-bang campaign, short on policy and long on platitudes.

There is one major liability I face. My middle name is Scott. The opposition will no doubt start Internet rumors that I am secretly Scottish and wear a kilt around the house. Not true! I’ll protest. Then they’ll accuse me of skirting the issue. It’ll be hard to win that one.

Yes, it’s fun to poke fun at our political system, the candidates who run for higher office, and the ridiculous 24/7 media cycle that is more opinion than news. But the truth is, the alternative to our system is not that funny. In many parts of the world, the people have no voice. Violence is the only agent of change. For all the flaws and follies of our elections, and regardless of which candidate wins, we are blessed.

The best part of the past campaign was the humanity of it. The gracious concession speech by McCain, the fighter whose love of country did finally show through. The drama of Obama’s grandmother dying just hours before her grandson achieved his improbable goal. The multi-hued sea of faces in Chicago, oblivious to the cold and the colors of their skin, yearning to breath history. Jesse Jackson--who was on the balcony with Martin Luther King on the awful day the articulator of that dream was silenced—crying at the sight of the dream realized. The Obamas and Bushes, greeting each other at the White House, the people’s house, and walking inside calmly to discuss the peaceful transfer of power.

Yes, I’m grateful the election is over. I am also grateful that we have them.