Editorial

Voting, once cherished in America, has become a sad circus

Vote for meACHTUNG: This is not a “fair and balanced” story. It is an editorial by the editor.

“If voting really made a difference, they wouldn’t let you do it.” — Mark Twain

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good. Oh, Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood.” — Eric Burdon and the Animals

I hear tell the voting for the annual Major League All-Star baseball game next month in Cincinnati shows that seven of the eight position players leading on the ballot are members of the Kansas City Royals. The only non-Royals position player who stands to be elected to a starting position in the summer classic is Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels.

This gives me an opportunity to further explain the editorial I wrote not long ago, which was a scathing attack on what has happened to our sacred voting process, not on a Wildcat was chosen for an honor. Too many people misunderstood what I was trying to say. Perhaps I need to write more clearly.

It is my humble, but correct, opinion that voting, a cherished part of our supposedly democratic system, has been reduced to popularity contests, beauty contests or alarming ballot stuffing, and these exercises are exploited to generate interest, publicity, or most likely, money.

As I pointed out last month, we vote these days on a lot of things that really don’t matter. We vote on televised acts in talent competitions. We vote on who has the best hamburger. We vote on what team has the coolest uniforms. We vote on the player of the month for Allegan County. We vote on the best athletes in West Michigan. The list is almost endless.

The exercises are futile, phony, feel-good opportunities put together by somebody who wants to generate publicity by exploiting our emotional preferences and promoting provincialism.

I voted for the Wayland Hotel’s hamburger a couple of years or so ago, and it was a finalist. But what of it today? It seemed like a little harmless fun and some good publicity for downtown Wayland, but in the end, it was only a temporary blip on the huge screen of marketing and advertising.

I screamed bloody murder, but was a voice in the wilderness, when Major League baseball abandoned its excellent process of having players, coaches and managers vote and decided instead to give it over to the fans. What we’ve seen since too often is well-known, but undeserving players get the All-Star start. Perhaps the worst one was Mike Schmidt, who won the fans’ vote for third base in 1989, but had retired on Memorial Day.

Even worse than that fiasco was the 1956 ballot stuffing that led to all eight members of the Cincinnati Reds being selected. That was why MLB decided to turn the voting over to players, managers and coaches, with the stipulation they couldn’t vote for themselves or someone on their team.

When MLive has its voting for players or teams, I see so often people on Facebook exhort others to vote for Wayland or a certain Wildcat player. Which means they’ve bought into this hooey.

I suppose winning such a vote can result in temporary bragging rights, but such fame is fleeting, and I can’t help but wonder if somebody behind the scenes is making money or getting something out of this.

And now, the most painful realization of all — we have actual political elections that have turned into annoying circuses in which we’re all guaranteed lots of rob-calls and even more commercial television time to invade our living rooms. That’s because the winner is determined too often by who has enough money to buy public relations, marketing and advertising.

I have grown up all these years believing one the most important things that has separated us from dictatorships and totalitarianism is that we have the power of the vote. Yet, as long as we cheapen the process and are easily swayed by slick and emotional ad campaigns, we’re really not much different in the end.

And as long as we passively allow the State Legislature to negate voters’ state-wide ballot decisions such as medical marijuana, minimum wage and emergency managers, we will allow our beloved country to sink further into the abyss of oligarchy.

As Ranger Rick so often says when signing off: “The rotting of America from within continues…”

 

 

 

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