In a Grain of Sand

Dahlia Rizk

Usually, Newt Gingrich and I don’t agree on very much. The former Republican Speaker of the House made his mark on American politics by emphasizing partisanship, therefore blocking off Congress members according to political party and discouraging them from reaching across the aisles. The result was a more divided, less efficient government, whose effects we still see today.

But recently he said something very true: the modern road to the White House is too long, too expensive, and verging on “insane”. Candidates announced their intentions to run as early as November of last year, and the political pundits were let out of their cages as soon as the new year began, with the Iowa contests starting January 3. The weeks following Super Tuesday, even I started asking myself, “Is it over? Are we there yet?” To be this longwinded in just the primary stage is unusual, and exasperating. Now, I’m just getting exhausted, and as you might have noticed, I’m not even running.

It gets more disconcerting when I ask myself what it really takes to be a successful candidate in 2008. Personally, experienced, candid, and inspirational top my list. But I’m apparently missing a major linchpin when looking at this race: exceptional fundraiser. This race is one of the most expensive ever, with both Hillary and Barack spending an average of 1 million dollars a day on their campaigns in January. One million dollars a day. I didn’t think printing out posters and airing 20-second TV commercials needed that much money. Not having as much funds as your opponent means putting your chances for candidacy at risk, as we saw with Hillary in Wisconsin this past week, who was at a 4-1 disadvantage. All due respect to Obama’s victory, but there is something, to use the words of Gingrich, “stunningly dangerous” in allowing money President.

The debates have also become somewhat of a fluff factor. The California debates, for example, were held in the Kodak Theater, with much of Hollywood in attendance. Sure, it’s a fine venue, and sure, Hollywood happens to be in California. But much of the discussion itself seemed too appropriate for the venue: showy and out of touch with the real issues. That debate in particular might have been a little over the top, but I can’t say any of the others truly broke ground and gave confused voters some much-needed clarity. Even Newt agrees. “These aren’t debates. This is a cross between ‘The Bachelor,’ ‘American Idol’ and ‘Who’s Smarter than a Fifth-Grader.'” And we’ve seen that graduating from an Ivy League law schools doesn’t mean you’re smart enough to take off the teeth whitening strips and turn off the media magic dust-spewing machines.

The problem is that these candidates are, more often than not, brilliant people with sincere intentions to lead and to get America of out its mistakes during the past eight years, but are letting the political machinery lead them astray and threatening to further disillusion voters who need to be engaged now more than ever. In this juncture in its history, America needs politicians and a system that is ready for brutal honesty and an end to this game of ring around the rosy. Before ashes, ashes, we all fall down.