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American Enterprise Bank

Time to reform the system

By the time you read this column you will know the identity of the next president. The election will be over and either President Obama or Gov. Romney will be celebrating a win.

Maybe. It could be so close that like Bush/Gore in 2000 we still don’t know the victor. I hope we don’t have a repeat of that debacle. We need to get this over and done with right away so we can move on.

On Facebook, I posted the following: Whoever wins on Tuesday let’s agree to stop talking politics, griping about the election, predicting a coming apocalypse or the collapse of the country, sour grapes and name-calling. Instead, let’s be Americans and get on with it.

That’s my hope after this divisive election.

I’m a college speech teacher, but I for one will be so glad to be finished with political ads, direct mail and phone calls from both parties. On Saturday, I pulled five direct mailings out of the box and didn’t even glance at them. On Friday, my mother-in-law complained of 10 phone calls from political candidates. That’s not counting the absolutely ridiculous number of campaign commercials being aired.

It’s even worse in Ohio, the key battleground state. In a single day a viewer in Columbus counted 331 television ads from both candidates and their political PACs. And most of those are so far from reality as to be fiction.

In my college speech class this morning I slipped up and called political commercials “political cartoons.” I stopped, thought about it and had to agree with my Freudian slip. They are cartoons because they have no basis in reality.

Aristotle, the father of public speaking talks about Ethos, the need for ethics and for a “good person speaking a good message.” It is obvious to me that neither the Obama or the Romney campaign and certainly not the political PACs have read Aristotle.

So much of what we’ve seen on television has been blatant falsehoods and skewed statistics as to be almost outright lies.

There’s a theory called Cognitive Dissonance that basically says that if you tell a lie often enough and loudly enough it begins to be believed – even by the person telling it. It is obvious that both political campaigns have heard of and subscribe to the theory of cognitive dissonance.

If you believe the campaigns, then not only should their opponent not be president, they should be in jail.

I think that if we took away all the hype, all the money, all the pressure that both these men are probably good men and patriotic Americans. I believe that’s probably true of most politicians. But the power and pressure of the job turns them into something else again.

It’s silly to think that this is new. Nothing is ever really new. If you watched 60 Minutes on Sunday, historian David McCullough did a wonderful piece about the 1800 election between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.

They were Founding Fathers, giants of their time and great figures in history. Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence after all.

But they both were desperate to be president — kind of like President Obama and Governor Romney — and were willing to say anything to get elected. Jefferson called Adams a “blind, bald, crippled, toothless hermaphrodite.” He claimed that electing Adams would cause a war with France. He claimed that Adams spent most of his time “importing mistresses from Europe and trying to marry his daughter to the son of King George of England.”

Adams countered by saying that if Jefferson was elected, “murder, robbery, rape, incest and adultery would be openly taught and practiced. The soil would be soaked with blood and the nation black with crimes.”

So there it is. I guess the stakes are so high even the politicians we consider “great” were willing to sling mud.

Is there anything we can do to stop all this mess? I don’t know. There is just way too much time spent campaigning and way too much money. This campaign has been going on officially for 18 months. That is too long.

It makes people running for office concentrate on campaigning instead of doing their jobs. A congressman runs for reelection every two years. How can they do their job when they have to constantly campaign and raise money? That’s Congress. Some state senate campaigns raised half a million dollars for a job with a salary of $29,000.

We need to follow the example of the Brits and the French. As of October the candidates spent $1.5 billion dollars to get elected. The Brits cap political spending at what amounts to $33 million and the entire election cycle is one month of whirlwind campaigning. The French hold their elections in two months. Something has to be done and soon. I’m not looking forward to the 2016 campaign. Which will probably start in next week.

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