By Ron VandenBoom
I always find myself looking forward to election years.
The hustle and bustle of political campaigns, the name calling, the accusations flying this way and that, it's kind of like a long drawn out Super Bowl with the winner being the candidate who looks best in a photograph.
You may think I'm kidding, but over the years I've come to believe it's true at least in regards to presidential campaigns.
There's no doubt in my mind that Abraham Lincoln would never even be considered as a presidential contender if he were to run today. The tall lanky statesman with a mole on his cheek, dark sunken eyes, and brooding forehead, would not be judged by the quality of the gray matter found under his stove pipe hat, but by his unsightly appearance in front of TV cameras.
Fortunately for United States history, campaigns in Lincoln's day were not conducted as they are today. Presidential candidates did not press the flesh, give speeches, and buy commercial ads. Mostly, they stayed cloistered away where they could do no harm while their political party did the campaigning. That's why we only hear about speeches Lincoln gave after he became president and nothing about speeches given during the campaign. The parties didn't want the candidate to take a stand on some issue that ran counter to the party line and screw everything up.
It is also why there were so few pictures of Lincoln when he was first elected that photographers had to paste Lincoln's face on the bodies of other politicians.
Today we see things differently. Today we want to see the candidate's face. Today we want to hear their voices and evaluate their positions. Today we want to know who the best liar is prior to casting our vote.
I blame a lot of the problem on the Kennedy/Nixon debates of 40 years ago. For the first time, TV viewers were able to see close up and personal both presidential candidates one young, fresh, and handsome and the other sick, sweating, and without makeup.
Everyone seems to remember the debates for this reason. Can anyone remember what they said or what positions they took on the issues?
Lyndon Johnson was another president who would never have attained the office had it not been for the death of John Kennedy. Fortunately, he was smart enough to resign before he came up for re-election. With a mug like his even Richard Nixon looked good.
Since that time, it has been a virtual parade of Hollywood like hunks into the oval office. One, you recall, even claimed to have formerly been an actor.
Excuse me, did I say formerly?
Looking good also seems to impact Congress during election years, as both political parties jostle to be the first to do nothing.
Democrats are desperate to keep the majority Republican Congress from being successful with its agenda. The last thing in the world the Democrats need is to have Republicans roll out a long list of accomplishments just before the election.
Democrats feel that, to be successful in November, they need to be able to claim the Republicans were a "do nothing Congress."
The end result is legislative gridlock with President Clinton vetoing anything the Democrats in Congress are unable to stop.
Only a modest minimum wage increase is likely to pass before the election and you can bet that both sides will take credit for that. Once again, it's all in appearances. It's not what you're doing that counts, it's what it looks like you're doing.
The only people who enjoy seeing one out of every four years wasted are those who feel government spends the other three years screwing everything up.
I always look forward to election years.