Cook: Tuesday isn't so super with Shrek and Newt Gingrich

Cook: Tuesday isn't so super with Shrek and Newt Gingrich

March 5th, 2012 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

For Valentine's Day, my young son mailed construction-paper letters to friends near and far. On that list was a stamped letter to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady.

Brady, as my grandmother used to say, is easy on the eyes. I understand why my wife would send him a Valentine, but my son?

My son, his green Nerf football like a satellite nearby, wants to be like him. Thinks the dude is pretty cool.

I wonder: Do you think he'd ever feel that way toward a presidential candidate?

How many Valentines do you think Newt Gingrich opened?

Super Tuesday looks more like happy hour at Ruby Tuesday, as the candidates listed on tomorrow's ballot are about as exciting and inspiring as chicken stock. How did we get to the point where choosing our leaders seems like elementary school math, reducing it all down to the lowest common denominator?

Comparing presidential candidates to NFL stars is unfair - to the candidates. It ought to be unfair to the quarterbacks, as presidential candidates should be the best and brightest among us.

I'd bet a season of NFL tickets that if you put Peyton Manning's name on the ballot for Tuesday, he'd win Tennessee.

And that is tragic. (Mainly because he's got more seasons to play before he retires.)

We ought to easily look up to our presidential candidates as role models, guiding lights in the 21st century dark.

But looking at the primary ballot is like walking by a mirror, expecting to see a version of yourself, and instead seeing Shrek staring back. Or a Newt.

And if we are a democracy - meaning that all people have equal voice (stop laughing now) - then why are all candidates so, so similar?

Will the day ever come when a black woman will be a viable candidate?

I would like to see a presidential candidate with an Afro. Hair matters (ask biblical Samson) and I wonder what it would take for our American consciousness to vote for a candidate with a 6-inch Afro.

I'd also like to see a presidential candidate who was disabled. Who held a doctorate in theology. Earned as a first-generation American whose family immigrated from Central America.

Or anyone whose net worth - when listed as a number - does not require more than one comma.

Is that outrageous?

Is it more outrageous than a presidential candidate who believes gay marriage will lead to "man on dog" bestiality (Rick Santorum)? Or a candidate (Gingrich) who says women shouldn't serve in combat roles because "females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections, and they don't have upper body strength."

Thomas Paine, hear our cry.

I blame television.

The American political process has devolved into a television show spectacle, where no issue is discussed more than one centimeter in depth, and sound bites - like commercials - sell votes.

Santorum wants to "throw up" after reading a John F. Kennedy speech about separating religion and government. That's so ... middle school.

And it's about the same intelligence level as the messages coming from the 7,293 channels on our TVs.

"When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility," writes Neil Postman in "Amusing Ourselves to Death."

In 2009, we Americans watched an average of five hours of TV each day, according to the Nielsen Co. Most nights, after I turn off the boob tube, I have the same feeling I'll find this Tuesday at the voting booth.

Is this the best we can do?

David Cook can be reached at davidcook@blumail.org.