For those of you living under a rock the size of Alaska, the presidential election is five days away. It’s. An. Epic. Event. Almost as life-changing for us as it will be for the man who wins. His good decisions will be on the front page of The New York Times, his children’s bad decisions on Page Six of The New York Post. He’ll occupy prime textbook real estate, right after the chapter called “Worst Economic Crisis Ever” and a sidebar on Michael Phelps. On November 4, you will hopefully drag your lazy ass out of bed and to the polls; you will be a part of something bigger than you are.
Still, it’s hard to not be sick of hearing about the damn thing. After 20 months of foreplay; I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get this one over with. And it’s not just because I’ve OD’ed on candidate e-mail spam. I’m tired of the election for the same reason I got tired of elementary school: at this point in my life, I want to be treated like an adult, and everyone from the bigshots to the bloggers is talking to me like I’m a child.
The most egregious example of this “the electorate as children” phenomenon is the way in which the candidates insist they are not extraordinary but are in fact "everyday folks." What’s unnerving is that we have been fed this idea for so long we have begun to champion the cause ourselves. America doesn’t seem to want a president who, with his intelligence and eloquence, reminds us of just how inadequate and inarticulate we feel. We want the president to be just like us.
Presidential hopefuls deliberately dumb down their discourse to appeal to the masses. That, in and of itself, is troubling. Imagine if our founding fathers had done the same: “We hold these truths to be self evident” would be “This is really obvious shit!” But even more disconcerting is that we as a public expect and desire this because we’re wary of a government that appears to speak on a plane above our heads.
The president, just like us. Is there a worse idea? This is the person who has to finish the war in Iraq, provide affordable healthcare for 300 billion people, save our dying economy. In four years. We have a hard time graduating in four years. And the so-called leader of the free world will not have the option of taking Econ pass/fail.
Maybe we’re worried that if the president isn’t just like us, he can’t be on the same wavelength as the rest of the country and understand the needs of its citizens. To be comforted by things like familiar diction — Palin droppin’ g’s, for instance — is only human, but to be intimidated instead of empowered by intellect is so foolish it borders on dangerous. Who commands us, by his own remarkable example, should be better than we are.
As per usual, what we say about other people (in this case, who we vote for) says infinitely more about us than it does about them. We deserve more than average. We’ve had eight years of average. It’s time for someone great.