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Public policy matters more than a guy you want to have a beer with. What? You say?

A Grown Up Reflection on Electoral Politics

I have a buddy who one time shot a bottle rocket out of his ass. This is not a joke. This same buddy streaked in high school, profited while getting something crazy pierced by charging people to watch and he ate a bottle of peppers at a restaurant and held them down, for a 30 minute time frame. This is a guy you want to have a beer with. Seriously, you may laugh so hard you’ll spit your beer out. That said, he probably shouldn’t be in charge of public policy. This isn’t to say he’s not a smart guy or motivated guy or changed guy, however just because he’s someone you want to have a beer with, it doesn’t mean he’d make a great curator of public policy.

I often think back to the 2012 election between incumbent President Barack Obama and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney. Both of these guys are obviously qualified men and have great experience in public policy. However there was a concern around Mitt Romney and his ability to connect with people on a basic level. Obama, Bush 2, Clinton (Bill), had a unique ability to connect. People often said W was someone you’d want to sit down and have a beer with. The interview I think back to with Romney was on the Today Show. They asked “Do you prefer Snooki or Honey Boo Boo?“ He had to have an answer to show he was relatable and prove to people that he knew something about pop culture at the time.

WHY?! Why does it matter if a person who is going to be Commander in Chief our military, the Chief Executive of our country and our face to the world know who Honey Boo Boo or Snooki is? It blows my mind. We have turned politics into a popularity and relatability contest rather than a contest to see who best understands public policy and has the best ideas to guide our policy into the next few years, decades or centuries. In 100 years it won’t matter who Honey Boo Boo or Snooki is or was. However war, infrastructure development, educational policy and healthcare will all have an influence on the years to come. Why should any of this matter?

I believe it’s the backlash at the “academic elite” of our country. We have news contributors and former governors writing books about the need for more bubba’s. They are pushing a narrative discrediting academia, which becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. As academia is discredited to the masses, people begin to believe actors, musicians and marketers are the people that should be creating public policy. Why? Because they see them on TV, it’s a face they know and they believe one they can trust. It’s all marketing now. Just because someone is a brilliant marketer doesn’t mean they understand the minutia of healthcare policy.

It’s as if the movie Idiocracy is becoming a documentary instead of a low brow comedy. If you’ve never seen Idiocracy, it’s a movie by the same guy who brought us Beavis and Butthead, Office Space, King of the Hill and most recently, Silicon Valley. In the film, a former wrestler becomes president (The Rock 2020 is gaining momentum), people with critical thinking skills are cast away as nerds and know it alls (the discrediting of the academic elite) and common sense has left everything from farming to government. If you’ve never seen it, go watch it now and look at the state of our current political situation. Either Mike Judge is a genius with a crystal ball or he’s an unintended soothsayer!

Now, we know we have a problem. How can we fix this? I’d like to argue that the problem can only be fixed by, “we the people”. We cheer our founding fathers for their academic rigor and fight for change. We cheer them for their idealism, their strive to build the city on the hill and their ability to compromise and grow. However, much of this celebration is lost on us today. Much of the education is lost on us today as well. We the people need to come together and agree first that, politics and policy is important. It’s important on a local level (where it affects us most day to day) and it’s important on the national level. We the people need to agree that education is important. Public policy cannot be understood or properly vetted without an educated electorate. We the people need to also agree on basic Truths. Yes, TRUTH. Truth is not an alternative fact, truth is fact.

The fact of the matter is most people 6 in 10 people get their news from Social Media. In case you didn’t know, this is a self fulfilling cycle and bubble. The second you click like on anything from Trump to Hillary or Republican to Democrat, your newsfeed becomes filled with those like stories. This then creates a platform that caters to what you like and you get more and more of that and less to none of the other. We also know for a fact that there is LEGIT fake news. This isn’t CNN or Fox or other primarily mainstream outlets. It’s people in other countries that run click farms that make fake news articles that are clickbait that they make a lot of money off of because of ad placement in the fake news stories. This is NOT TRUTH, however many whom even I have called smart people have spread rumors online that were obviously FAKE NEWS, but they thought was real.

The bottom line, in order for us to be good grown ups and work to create a better world (which should always be the goal), we need to understand that policy and government is important. It’s important to have smart, educated people, guiding policy to improve our communities locally and nationally. We need to be involved, especially on the local level, to effect change. Public policy is important because it affects our lives. Matters of education affect our personal development and global understanding, health care affects sometimes life and death, infrastructure affects everything from clean water to roads and utilities. Public policy matters more than the guy you want to have a beer with. The guy you want to have a beer with is awesome, but that doesn’t mean he should be making policy about net neutrality, I’ll leave that to the experts!

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