10/20/07 — Coffer inflation: Apathy factors into why campaigns cost so much

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Coffer inflation: Apathy factors into why campaigns cost so much

Between two candidates for president of the United States, there has been more than $70 million donated, raised or otherwise collected — so far.

That’s right. So that means more $100 million is in the bank if you add up the coffers of all those running for the nation’s highest office — and that does include what has already been spent.

A bit of a shock when you think about it, isn’t it?

Many people lament these days that campaigns seem to be bought and sold rather than left to the person best-suited to run the country. And with such large bankrolls, you have to wonder, why do you need so much money to run for president if you are qualified and have the best plan for the future of the country?

The answer might lie in the fact that 40 percent is considered extraordinary turnout for a presidential election vote — and that is just among those who have registered to vote.

It is also indicated in the number of people who still do not know who their congressman is — or the vice president in some cases.

The reality is that presidential candidates need to buy images and face time with voters because otherwise many of them would not bother to learn who is running. They use all sorts of excuses — that they are too busy, that politics does not interest or affect them, you name it and those who try to get them to care have heard it.

And for many of these lackadaisical voters, the issues simply do not factor in. They hear what they want to hear, parrot a few positions and then “check” a candidate’s name on a ballot.

So, later, when they are surprised by a vote, it is understandable. After all, they did not bother to check to see if the candidate they supported really believed in what they said they did — or had the record to prove it.

Campaign financing is a touchy issue. The numbers racked up in the bank accounts of potential presidential contenders are staggering — and influence is related to money in some cases. Yet, the idea of public limits on campaign funds just doesn’t seem practical, not in this age of apathy. How would the messages get out without the costly exposure?

Really, would anyone get out and vote without the barrage of cameras and commercials?

Politics is becoming more lights, camera, action than substance these days — and might have been in previous generations, too. But soon, without more education and concern from those charged with electing new leaders, the viability of a potential presidential contender will be based on Nielsen ratings, not substance.

The key is to get more people interested at a younger age in what their government does and how they can play a role in deciding their country’s future. By getting people interested at an earlier age, they might stick with it long enough to become educated voters when they are adults.

Perhaps voter registration and education ought to be required before you can buy an iPod or a Nintendo.

Or maybe we ought to require a quiz. If you don’t know who the president is — or how he is elected — it is back to compact disc players and Candyland for you.

It is an intriguing thought, isn’t it?

Published in Editorials on October 20, 2007 11:15 PM