With the election just a few days away, check out this animation made by a former student of mine at Lyons Township High School. As long as there are no follow-up questions, I taught him everything he knows about humor and animation. Alright fine, you got me. I know nothing about animation. But maybe he picked up some humor pointers from me while being in my classes. You never know.
With Election Day just weeks away, I think we as a nation are going about voting all wrong. Instead of trying to get people out on just one day, what if we took a page from reality TV?
Folks like reality shows. If you doubt this, just look at the taggering ratings of shows such as Dancing with the Stars on ABC, Survivor on CBS, and of course the annual favorite, the parade of pop-idol wannabes who come out in droves to audition and then vote in even larger droves when the show takes to the air each January — American Idol on Fox.
These shows are ratings gold mines. Viewers watch, advertisers purchase time, and networks make out like kings. So why not put the election of our next president into the hands of reality TV viewers by creating a weekly show, where presidential hopefuls compete for your votes to become President? I am proud to introduce to you the concept for America’s Next Top President. After all, how much worse could our system of elections get? In fact, I will argue that on at least three levels, we as a nation could only improve it.
Higher Voter Turnout
Look at the voter turnout numbers. The last presidential election saw 5.2 million of Illinois’ residents cast votes, with more than 122 million people coming out nationally according to research and statistics from Dr. Michael McDonald of George Mason University. The record for American Idol voter turnout was set in 2005 at 32.5 million. While numerically this number is lower than 122 million, in reality it is not. Consider that near 30 million viewers vote each week for the contestants on Idol. Imagine if we had the nation following every move, word, thought and comment of our presidential candidates, and then they turned around and voted each week, for, let’s say 16 weeks. America would be better informed, more focused and more involved. Sure the candidates might just say things to get votes, but we should be used to that.
End “Endless” TV Coverage
Campaigning has become a bit ridiculous, especially during the 2008 elections, and 2012 isn’t any better. Politicians began declaring themselves candidates almost two years before the election is to even take place. Let’s tone this down a bit. If we switch from our traditional first Tuesday of November election day to weekly voting on America’s Next Top President, we will end the seemingly endless debates, campaign stops, bus tours, straw polls, primary election date disputes, and campaign commercials. Each candidate would get their time each week on the show, and thus the networks and news channels could actually go back to covering “real” news, such as the African AIDS crisis, the crisis in Syria, or the treatment of it people in countries such as North Korea and Myanmar. Or they could fill the time with more reality TV shows, which is more likely.
Reform Campaign Finance
Finally, if we switch over to this reality show format of elections, we could quickly and easily end the discussions and debates on campaign finance reform. Instead of fundraisers, special interest groups, corporations and personal donations, elections would be financed by the television program. Sales of ads spots and sponsorship opportunities within the program could provide the candidates all they need for campaign dollars. And it would also ensure that each candidate, regardless of their charm, wit or ability to soullessly sell out, would be given the same amount of money, creating an even playing field. This might even lead to having America elect the best candidate, not just the best candidate they were able to hear about because they were able to raise more money than the others.
The driving force behind this idea came from an American television icon herself—Oprah Winfrey. In 2008, Oprah came out and endorsed then Illinois Senator and now President Barack Obama as her pick for president. While it is not unusual for celebrities to through their support and money behind candidates, few carry the power that Oprah does, or that her television show did. Take for example her book club. New York magazine reported in 2001 when Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections was selected as her next book, the publisher ordered an additional 680,000 copies to go with the original order of 90,000. As it turned out he never even appeared on her show, but the mere mention of him from her lips was enough to increase his initial press run by more than 700 percent. Imagine if we could apply that power to our elections.
Of course you would need a good host for the show, someone who was unbiased, fair, and entertaining all at the same time. Possibly even a citizen of another country who has no interest in the political workings of the United States. I suggest Simon Cowell of Idol and X Factor fame. He’s British, he surely would be entertaining on air, and most importantly, he would be brutally honest—something this country could use a little more of.
I have always enjoyed writing, but the writing bug really bit me in college when I started writing a column for my college's newspaper, the Wartburg Trumpet.
In reviewing some previous columns while going through a flashdrive recently, I came across a few that I thought I would share here. Tonight's comes from January 15, 2001. At the time, Wartburg was in the "talking phase" about the plans for a new student center. In the old one there was a chapel. The talk that was making some people mad was that the chapel was going to be replaced with an interfaith room instead. Students were irate, especially at a Lutheran college. I had another view on the matter.
Discrimination is discrimination
Being a college of the church means we should act like one
Wartburg Trumpet, January 15, 2001 By: Chris Thomas
In this line of work, I don't go searching for controversy and pressing issues; they somehow seem to find me, especially after two-and-a-half years of writing my opinions. This week is no different. Here's the story.
Wartburg College is in the process of designing a new student union. Something we can all agree that we desperately need. However, that isn't the issue. The issue is the Danforth Chapel and whether it will stay or go. When that is settled the next issue is what will replace it. The architects are recommending a meditation room, which would be a place where people of all faiths can come to pray, think and reflect. This has some of the campus up in arms. How could we, a good Christian, Lutheran institution aid the worshiping of other gods? Others say that it is everyone's right to worship who they want. Some call it freedom of religion. I think it is in the constitution.
As you can probably tell, I am with the people who would like to see an inter-faith meditation room as part of our new student union. And of course, let me tell you why. First of all, using the argument that we are affiliated with the ELCA is not really a strong point. Yes, we are a college of the church; but by being a college of the church, that does not make us a church. If this issue was raised at a local church, the obvious answer is no, an inter-faith room is not right. But since Wartburg is a college and not a church, why is it wrong? If we as a college are going to recruit international students and students of other faiths then they should have a place where they can feel safe and worship as well.
Second, if we do not allow other faiths to worship on campus, we are in turn saying that we shouldn't allow other faiths on campus. By this theory, someone should go over to the Vogel Library and remove all non-Christian books and the world religion class should be removed from the religion department.
Third, if we build a Christian-only worship room, what type of Christians are going to be allowed? I am an ELCA Lutheran. But if we are going to discriminate on the basis of religion, why stop with other faiths? Let's restrict the rooms use to only ELCA Lutherans. No Catholics, Methodists or Baptists. Sorry as well to all you Missouri Synod Lutherans, Presbyterians and United Church of Christ members as well. If we are going to discriminate, let's go all out.
Are my statements a little strong? Yes they are. But so are the statements that other faiths should not be allowed to practice their religions on campus. By allowing other faiths to practice on campus you are not denying your own faith. No one is going to make Christians worship Buddha or Buddhists worship Jesus. That is not what this is about. Not allowing other faiths to practice just shows everyone how closed-minded we are as a campus.
Maybe if you took the time to learn a little about other religions you could actually strengthen your own faith. In Philippians 4:8 (and yes, I'm actually quoting the Bible), Paul said, "Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is a lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or worthy of praise-think about such things."
Paul didn't say convert to Islam, he simply said think about such things. Maybe we can learn from each other and from each other's faiths and practices. But if nobody gives anybody else a chance, where will we be then?
As a side note. It is now 11 years later. The new student center has been built. The chapel is indeed gone, replaced by the Lilly Reflection Room...an inter-faith room meant to be used by students and faculty of all faiths. That makes me feel good.
I have, or I should say had, no idea who Mac Davis is. That was until yesterday when I popped into our local Goodwill Store and saw him staring back at me on the shelf, drinking a glass of wine (which by the way has an ice cube in it. I'm not knocking the idea of an ice cube in a glass of wine, but seriously, not on your album cover).
Mac Davis was born in Lubbock, Texas in 1942 and had a successful career as a country singer, actor and most impressively to me as a songwriter. He penned three number one hits for Elvis Presley, including one of my favorite songs of all time, In the Ghetto.
In listening to the above album today titled It's Hard to Be Humble, I was pleasently surprised by its quality. The songs were catchy, enjoyable, and most importantly, well worth the 99 cents I spent on the album. And before you ask, the radio is a 1962 Zenith Hi-Fi that I also purchased at Goodwill for $19.99 about this time last year.
So that you can enjoy the music of Mac Davis as well, check out the video below of Mr. Davis singing the title track from this album on an episode of The Muppet Show.
Chris Thomas is a full-time teacher, part-time freelance writing, father of three, and most importantly, a very, very tired man.
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