Friday, August 12, 2011

Presidential Elections: Get with the Times!

I was listening to the local news radio, WTOP here in DC, on my way in to work tonight and heard a commentary by commentator Chris Core mocking the "Straw Poll" and the many unorthodox ways we currently electing our president. At first, I was found myself chuckling to myself about  how the Iowa Straw Poll actually occurs, but then found myself in deep thought over his tongue-in-cheek suggestion to this growing problem. He suggested (or maybe I imagined) that we do something like, "America's Got Presidential Candidates!", where there is a panel of 3 who, each week, ask the candidates questions individually and, each week, America calls in and votes one Candidate off until we have our President! Funny, Huh?
But think about it! It really has many benefits and is very practical.Let me outline a few of the points I have come up with:
  1. The 2008 Presidential Election cost an estimated $5.3 Billion - With the TV reality show model, there is no need spending billions of dollars on campaigns and elections. Instead, this TV program would make millions (if not, billions) of dollars - all of which could go toward paying down the deficit. If the program netted $100 million, that money could go straight to the principle on the deficit, and would-be donors could invest their money into growing their businesses and creating jobs - a unique idea! If you think the $100 million is far-fetched, in 2009, a NY Times article claimed revenues from advertising alone for American Idol in 2008 was $97 million. Dancing with the Stars revenue from advertising the same year was $223 Million. That is advertising-only money!
  2. Have you ever felt that we never really have a candidate that represents the common people? It takes a lot of money and a lot of connections to win an election. Very little is about advancing ideas and principles. It is more like selecting the Home Coming King and Queen - it's a popularity and beauty contest, not a leadership contest. The Reality TV Program Model can change that around. The election wouldn't be open to just the wealthy who have the money to campaign, but open to anyone and everyone. In fact, we can tour cities across America searching for the talent and credentials to be the next President of the United States. It does not cost a dime to get on, you just have to have real substance as a presidential candidate.
  3. Enough of the Electoral College! Everyone knows this is not the best way to currently elect a president. It may have been good for a fledgling country when communication was slow, but not now when information and communication is instant. Further, by voting candidates off one at a time, we are more accurately getting the consensus, All-American candidate for president. Three and four-way races are not fair. The field should be whittled down to two candidates to present the most fair election. you don't hold a Superbowl with three teams! instead, you whittle it down to two. The presidential election should be no different. 
  4. Ever noticed that voter turn-out is usually somewhere down around 20%? We can turn that number almost completely around, getting upwards of 50-75% voter turn-out. The Reality TV Program Model could break records if it is entertaining enough (obviously a little adjustment and work through on the actual voting process would need improved). But, I think this can really be accomplished for several reasons: First, it only happens once every four years, kind of like the Olympic Games and World Cup. Second, no one cares about current presidential elections because candidates just say whatever they think will get them elected, and not what they really can do. Imagine with me the possibilities:
  • The show could be hosted by Howie Mandel and include a panel of perhaps Simon Fuller, Jay Leno, and Oprah. The contestants would have to present something inspiring and thought provoking about their policies and views on the world, one topic a week per the candidates choice, and risk getting voted off if his policies and views become too far one-sided or even if the candidate is not believable. introduce short sparring segments - debate style on one topic for 3-4 minutes between two candidates (rather than long, boring, drawn-out debates). Challenge candidates to give "minute to win it" speeches (60 second speeches of inspiration) to test their ability to inspire America. We could even put the contestants on a deserted island for a couple of weeks and deprive them of food and sleep and them put them through competitions to see how they react in real life under pressure and under stress, without the ability to hide behind the cameras (find out their true character).
Can you see it? We would have educated voters and not just people who walk up to the ballot box and select along party lines without even looking at the candidates. Further,  why spend so much money on elections when they can be more representative, more accurate, more fair, more insightful, more entertaining, more informative, and extremely profitable - investing in our countries future rather than putting more strain on it.