Our next president?



Ryan Bendinelli

This past weekend, the GOP’s candidates for president met at a debate in Florida. They used the same set of one liners that everyone has heard for nine months and failed to offer any elaborate reason they should be distinguished from the rest of the field. Some voters have picked a candidate as a way of ignoring politics so as to enjoy football season in peace. Many others have lost interest because they either see the election as lost or have begun to see politics as a lost cause. It is hard not to fall into this trap.

For the past few years, people have adorned “Stewart/Colbert ’08” bumper stickers. Though in jest, these refer to the possibility of comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert running as a ticket for president. The two bring to light the problems they see in the political world by satirizing them. More importantly, they come across as intelligent and real.

This was all a joke until Colbert’s recent announcement that he will enter into the South Carolina primary. Though Colbert’s intent is most likely not to run for president, within days half a million people were in a Facebook group “1,000,000 Strong for Stephen T. Colbert.” By comparison, the largest group for a serious presidential candidate is for Barack Obama, with 100,000 fewer members over the course of nine months.

It is a lot easier to get excited about a candidate who is not actually running and is not a politician. Politics is the dirtiest of games. However, maybe it is not such a good idea to get wrapped up in the idealistic world where a comedian can run for president and win. Take a look at the last two presidential elections and what candidates were nominated.

John Kerry was seen as the anointed candidate and the inevitable winner of the Democratic primary. He lost. Obviously someone will lose an election, but he lost to an unpopular incumbent president. Kerry could not relate to the American people. He was a series of botched jokes and miscalculated statements. One may ask what in the world did people see in him as a candidate in the primary?

Then there is Al Gore. He also lost. The man was successor to a popular president and could not ride that to save himself. He had no ability to relate to the American people. Gore had challengers in the primary but was seen as “inevitable.”

Of course, someone did win both of those elections. Say what you will about President Bush, he had some of the most intelligent political operatives ever. His team understood elections. More importantly, they understood how to get the American people to like him. This nation did not end up with John McCain – the decorated Vietnam veteran whose early advice on Iraq could have minimized the destruction there. It ended up with George W. Bush – the likable candidate.

All of these people were selected in a primary election. It can be comforting to see the primary as a joke and to half-heartedly support Stephen Colbert.

The amount of time a person spends following politics is inversely proportional to their happiness in many cases. Treating it as another edition of the Daily Show/Colbert Report hour is the easiest way to pretend it isn’t real, as is the case with both shows on any normal day. However, smarter primary voters can give America smarter presidential candidates.

So, before you decide to turn off Fox News or CNN until next October, just consider the value of choosing between a Republican and a Democrat who are truly the best our country has to offer.

Then maybe take a minute or two to find out what the current candidates have done in the past and listen to a speech on what they want to do for the future. It may hurt now, but perhaps politics will be a little less painful in the future.


Ryan Bendinelli is a senior political science major from Millington, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected].