OMG, Sarah Palin Stuck a Banana in Her — The Problem with Personality-Driven Politics

The human beings who designed our republic took great pains to ensure that our political processes be stripped of monarchical trappings. Yet 200-plus years into this democracy science fair experiment, our political system finds itself controlled by a narcissistic overlord: when it comes to politics in the United States of America, Personality is king.

We are a mere 54 words in, and already I’m concerned that without cracking a joke about the Speaker of the House’s erectile-sounding surname or without defending Candidate Clinton’s presidential trail tipping behavior, readers might question whether this essay is even about politics.

By the way, I have a good friend who posted a serious policy article on hedge fund tax breaks on Twitter the other day. He’s not been heard from since.

Politicians are well aware that the average voter (who typically only flexes his or her political muscles every four years) is not the least bit interested in plopping down on the couch after a long day at the office and digging deeply into a Brookings Institution report on the shifting political landscape in Taiwan or the National Governors Association position on child nutrition.

Seriously, is anyone actually interested in the proceedings of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans other than Aquaman? Of course not. Americans live their civic duties vicariously through a Hollywood Squares of political thrills of victory and agonies of defeat (with Senator Ted Cruz in the center square in place of Paul Lynde) in their Facebook feeds. We wait for politicians opposite our ilk to fall, then chortle through the talk show tar and feathering they must subsequently endure whilst justifying our “superior” beliefs to anyone who will listen.

No matter your place on the political spectrum, dear readers, such behavior does not advance civilization. It is unreasonable. It is, in fact, a complete waste of individual political power.

Oh, please shut up! I’m in the middle of an important Progressives Who Hate Non-Progressives Facebook group discussion about how to solve our crumbling national transportation infrastructure! I don’t have a clue about the subject, but I remember that Chris Christie had something to do with holding up traffic on some bridge that leads to Manhattan. And he’s a dummy conservative. And overweight. So I’ll regurgitate some late-night joke about how he’s unfit both to hold office and get into his pants—then post this whammy of a meme. Hey, cool—7 likes already!

And thus the progressive agenda is propelled forward. Such magisterial social media discourse magically causes brand new bridges to appear all across the New Jersey Turnpike, right?

Ha-ha! Stupid liberal! Boy, I can’t stand liberals. Lib-tards make me steaming mad—why, them and their liberaling liberality! Their Obamaing Obamacaring Obamaness! Taking over everywhere—can’t even buy conservative, God-fearing rutabagas at the grocery store no more. I’m telling you, if an Obama-drama lib-tard showed up at my business, the only thing I would sell him is a .357 Magnum pointed in his Earth Day-loving face. Heh. Here’s a wedding cake for you, you cross-dressing lib-bama-tard-butt. Remember Benghazi! BAM!

Honestly, I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard someone in my current state of residence say something like that. I’d have enough money to fund Bernie Sanders all the way to the Oval Office. (By the way, not a one of them can articulate even one cogent reason why he or she opposes “that {BLEEP} in the White House” on any policy issue—although I am reminded of the gentleman I interviewed back in 2014 who explained that the Affordable Care Act “is too tall.”)

Oh, and speaking of the Oral Office, get ready for the tsunami of Hillary –> Bill –> Monica –> cigar –> “How could she possibly serve as leader of the free world?” fecal hooey. I don’t know about you, but I would much rather know Candidate Clinton’s stated position on the Arab-Israeli conflict and gun control than the bygone erotic stances of her aging husband.

Of course, none of this is really a surprise, is it? And Americans certainly aren’t the only citizens on Earth who obsess over a ruling class that isn’t particularly motivated to improve the conditions of the masses. Ahem, England.

Is it just me, or am I making an obvious point that no one else seems to want to make?

It’s one thing to rock the boat of Political Clickbait Media—but it’s another thing to call out the Political Paparazzi Industry. Because that’s not just calling out readers—it’s calling out writers and publications, too.

Trust me, it’s much easier and more lucrative to write about politics and the likes of Sarah Palin or other Tea Party celebrity grifters from a TMZ POV than to compose and promote in-depth content. (As an author of a regular satire column, I don’t exempt myself from that statement, by the way.) Just how long do you think it took writers to whip up the following three articles that I just trawled off my newsfeed:

In case you question the integrity of the sites that published those three articles, here are the main political headlines I pulled off CNN today:

  • “Bush 41 Home Alarm Down”
  • “Rand Paul’s Son Charged”
  • “Girl to First Lady; You Look Young”
  • “Wacka Flocka for President”
  • “Kock Brother Picks 2016 Favorite”
  • “Clinton Answers Gift Probe”

In short, policy awareness—let alone discussion—is dead. Long live Personality.

Is there a solution? Honestly, I think the answer is no. Or: not within our lifetime. Or: not until communities can be convinced again of the value of fact-checking, critical thinking, reasonable dialogue, etc.

Of course, as individuals, we can—and should—make personal commitments to seek and promote substance, to confirm facts, to advance Policy over Personality. Perhaps you’re already there. If so, fabulous! Thank you for your contribution to Civilization. If not, here’s an opportunity to begin.

Personally, I renewed my commitment to advance Policy over Personality during my recent writing hiatus. I spent time carefully examining newsfeeds, news programs, newspapers. On a number of occasions, I witnessed people indignantly post articles completely unaware that the information derived from satire sites. Time after time, I watched people justify positions on issues based on the day-to-day behavior of politicians. “Global warming is a threat to us all—you saw what Rand Paul’s drunk son did, right?!”

Core information about political topics (or about any topic) rarely resides at the media surface anymore. You have to dig for authentic facts and history, for relevance—or find tools and resources that reliably dig for you.

For instance, here’s a website, OnTheIssues, which purports “to provide non-partisan information for voters … so that votes can be based on issues rather than on personalities and popularity.” Also, Wikipedia provides a number of “political position” pages for current and even former politicians; here, for example, is the Ronald Reagan policy page.

For my money, the Bernie Sanders Facebook page contains more daily policy references than almost all other politicians combined. Seek out politicians and political talking heads interested in discussing issues rather than pointing fingers at the foibles of their opposite-aisle foes.

At the end of the day, politicians are human beings. Progressives and conservatives alike are going to commit stupid acts in their private lives until Michele Bachmann’s Jesus returns. But don’t cede your individual political power for the daily game of Washington Hollywood Squares.

Become knowledgeable in the subjects that matter to you. Then share that knowledge and empower others similarly. Advance issues; promote policy.

Oh, and by the way, Sarah Palin just stuck a banana in her—

Arik Bjorn

Arik Bjorn lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party / Green Party fusion candidate for U.S. Congress in the 2nd Congressional District of South Carolina. Visit the archive for Arik’s campaign website, and check out his latest book, So I Ran for Congress. You can also follow his political activities on Twitter @Bjorn2RunSC and on Facebook. And be sure to check out more from Arik in his archives!


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