April 2012

Signs of the times

By David Feela

The most fabulous video game of the 1980s turned out to be Pac-Man, its object to direct your Pac-Man (with jaw working) through an elaborate maze, eating every dot you spot along the way, all the time moving to avoid being eaten by the various ghosts and monsters. The game raked in billions of dollars, one quarter at a time.

The newest video game is political, tentatively called Super PAC Man. Its object is to bolster a political candidate by spending millions of dollars on negative ads that disclaim (with jaw working) any political opponents.

The ghosts and monsters the ads create are designed to scare off voters, not to educate them. And the PAC men (and women) don’t have to reveal themselves until after the election. They just appear out of nowhere, and they don’t raise their money one quarter at a time.

You see, the Supreme Court in 2010 decided that money talks, and because it talks it deserves to have its freedom of speech protected. It’s not as if politicians of the past haven’t bankrolled their elected offices, but the Super PAC makes it even easier for big money to launder its opinions and unfairly influence election outcomes by creating a syndicate of television bogeymen.

The entire PAC (Political Action Committee) issue is a complicated money trail for the news bloodhounds to follow, but what’s worse for the general public — it’s still a long, long time before the 2012 elections finish and the politicians finally PAC it in. If the Republican primaries are just the appetizer, let me confess I’m already fed up. I’m not looking forward to the political wars continuing all spring, summer, and fall.

The public shouldn’t have to suffer through another political overload, because the FCC caters to politicos. It’s not as if Americans should drop out of the political process, but voters’ ideologies are not being directly or honestly communicated through the unending smokescreen of campaign ads, which is why I’m in favor of creating a new PAC — an Ice-PAC — of grass and glacial roots, an anti-inflammatory movement to reduce the swelling of all those political egos.

It appears that once a citizen has accumulated several million dollars of personal wealth, he or she suddenly believes the gift of social insight has been bestowed. Billionaires, of course, feel entitled from birth.

If the Supreme Court or Congress continues to refuse to moderate how politicians get their campaign financing, then we’ll just have to adjust how politicians get their message out to the public.

It would be nice if the Ice-PAC could simply say, Cool it, and the politicians would take notice. Unfortunately, the negative ads, no matter what the public says, will continue to run, but wouldn’t it also be nice to confine them, say, to one afternoon or evening, like a political Super Bowl, or a truly Amazing Race. We could stay up late, just like on the real election night, and find out through a kind of People’s Choice awards which political campaigner might be the next President, and which got voted off the continent.

I know, an Ice-PAC could be accused of trying to control the media, though aren’t we all pretty much victims of whoever decides to plunk enough cash down on the networks’ desks right now?

Maybe we need to adjust our message. Even if the media won’t listen, how about a revolution when it comes to campaign signs? Let’s abandon the traditional goose step of political parties and instead, into every neighborhood lawn, plant our opinions so they boldly express what we believe, not the candidate for which we’d most likely vote. “I’d vote for health care” would be an excellent campaign slogan instead of Obama/ Biden, or “I support fair taxes” instead of Romney/O’Donnell 2012 — signs of the times, not of the politicians who occupy the moment.

Of course, the radical opposition will always pop up like weeds, counter-signs declaring “I vote for loaded guns” or “Environmentalists, make my disaster” but that’s what’s so invigorating about a diverse culture — the ability to hear what’s in our hearts instead of the noise the political intelligentsia wants to PAC into our heads.

And besides, I would feel so much more informed walking through my neighborhood if I could more clearly see what instead of who is on my neighbors’ minds.

David Feela writes from Montezuma County, Colo.