, Newburyport, MA

October 30, 2012

What election season teaches us

Newburyport Daily News

---- — To the Editor:

Candidates are expert salesmen. As Steve Jobs could dress up a sophisticated supercomputer in such a sleek design that everyone wanted to have and show it off, so do political candidates know how to market something as complicated as economic policy as a fashionable catchphrase small enough for a poster board. This poisons democracy with opportunistic, uninformed, and often self-righteous voters.

The candidate doesn’t expect you to know the first thing about economics; he just wants you to buy his trendy product, something so sexy and conceivable that the desire for independent, objective investigation is arrested. Anyone who believes in the value of rational inquiry must agree that campaign products do not compete practically with the extensive, sober, and intellectual discussions that such issues as the economy require to be had.

For all its ugliness, however, election season is at least a scheduled healthy pinch in the butt that doesn’t let us forget there’s work to be done. Without its recurrence, many would never think to attend to the world’s dirty laundry.

In saying that, it should also be said that our notion of policy as the world’s best medicine is troubling. We always look first to the government to feed a hungry neighbor, then we pass him by. During election season, we self-righteously preach atop soapboxes about promoting healthy society and helping the needy. But as this feverish spirit is only fostered to gain political victories, the causes we spotlight during election season quickly thereafter blend into the white noise of everyday life, like traffic passing by, unworthy of our attention until a candidate’s black limo cavalcade returns.

Furthermore, government frequently proves itself to be slow-paced and hostile anyways. We should retain our ability to help rather than delegate it to deadlocked politicians. We should reach out to the hungry man ourselves--not ignore him and later feel good inside for regurgitating talk show opinions about which policy can best help him. Policy does not have to be the primary remedy. Our obsession with government ought to be exchanged for a more humble, consistent, and individualistic approach to improving society.

Joe D’Amore Jr.