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Fall is when leaves change color and lawns become decorated with campaign signs.
Fall is when leaves change color and lawns become decorated with campaign signs.

Politics as Usual

Oct 21, 2014

You’ve probably been trying not to think about it, but there's an election coming our way. Time to drag down to the polling place and figure out what we think about a variety of public issues. When you think about it, voting is a lot like cutting the grass. You know it's the right thing to do. You know it’s good for the neighborhood. But when mowing day rolls around, you find yourself wishing a giant flaming comet would land on your yard and make the entire exercise unnecessary.

As Winston Churchill said, "Democracy is the worst form of government ever devised by man. Except for all the rest."

We all profess to hate political advertising, but it works. During campaigns is about the only time we like our politicians. Incumbents are reelected most of the time, so we must decide that the same person we've been bad mouthing all year long isn't such a bad sort after all. Once he or she is safely returned to office, we go back to hating them.

I read a newspaper columnist recently who said that she was growing a little weary of Congress bashing. There are just two things I have to say about that: One, speak for yourself, lady. And two, how can anyone resist such a huge target, one that seems to spend every working day thinking up new reasons to be bashed. It's as if Congress is the dorkiest kid in school, walking around with a “Kick Me” sign permanently affixed to his back.

In civics class you probably learned the function of Congress in our system of government. Forget that. In order to really understand its role today, you must watch professional wrestling on TV. Specifically, you've got to watch the referees.

Where I grew up there was an adult men's basketball league that met on Sunday afternoons in winter. It was the sort of league where players would sprawl on the bench and smoke cigarettes during time outs. Or if a player was particularly tired, he might excuse himself to go to the water fountain while his teammates played four-on-five at the other end of the floor.

Referees for these contests were usually recruited by a player walking through the crowd carrying a whistle and a striped shirt. "Hey, wanna ref?" he'd ask until someone volunteered. One official was considered plenty, and it was understood by both teams that most calls would go to the home team.

I get the impression professional wrestling referees are obtained the same way. They put on a bow tie and strut around like they are running the show, but in reality they exert about as much control over the matches as they would over an exploding volcano.

Referees resemble Congresspersons during tag team matches. They can usually be found in one corner, bawling out the eventual loser for having the wrong color socks or something. Meanwhile, the evil winners are in the other corner ganging up on his hapless partner, dropping him head first on the concrete, searing him with a blowtorch, etc. The referee never quite sees what is going on. But when it is all over, he holds up the victor's hand and says, "See, it's all fair and square. We have a winner!"

I'll let you figure out all the gruesome parallels.

When you think about it, it should be no surprise that members of Congress are held in such low regard. By far, the largest group among them is lawyers — the very last group in America whom it is socially acceptable to hate.

Personally, I have nothing against lawyers. If I ever fall and hit my head against a multinational corporation I intend to call a lawyer as soon as I wake up. But having them make all the laws for the country is probably not the best idea we ever had.

Consider this: If you walk in to a lawyer's office and ask him to argue that the earth is flat, he will. As long as your check doesn't bounce, he'll stand up in court and say — with a straight face — all sorts of far-fetched things on your behalf.

You gotta love them for that.

The problem is that next month, when Client B comes in, seeking to prove that the earth is shaped like a zucchini, he'll do the same for him. Provided, of course, that Client B is willing to spend every last cent he has on such a quest.

Doesn't it seem odd to let people who think like that make all the rules for all of us?

Once again, I must leave imagining all the gruesome reasons why to you, since I see that we are almost out of space. It is something for you to think about between now and next month's election.

Which we'll get to, provided we don't run into any comets.

Editor’s Note: This column is revised from the September/October 1994 issue of South Dakota Magazine. To order a copy or to subscribe, call (800) 456-5117.

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