Forget the Sham and Tinsel

Jedediah Bila

By Jedediah Bila, Author and Political Commentator

When I first heard the news that twenty-three-year-old MTV reality star Heidi Montag had ten plastic surgery procedures in one day, I nearly choked on my lunch.  My immediate reaction was why would such a pretty girl go to such extremes?  But my mind quickly wandered to the bigger picture:  An obsession with the superficial is precisely what’s eating away at our country.  People have come to love the ornaments and lights, but what about the tree?

Think for a moment about some of the comments you’ve heard as to why individuals have or haven’t voted for a particular candidate.  Here’s a few I made note of in New York City around the time of the 2008 Presidential Election:

He’s so suave and well-dressed. (re: Barack Obama)

He just looks like a Vice President, you know? (re: Joe Biden)

He’s not charismatic enough. (re: John McCain)

She sounds like a hick. (re: Sarah Palin)

He’s handsome and I’d date him in a flash. (re: Barack Obama)

He looks way too old on TV. (re: John McCain)

She’s one hot mom. (re: Sarah Palin)

He has a degree from Harvard, so he must be smart. (re: Barack Obama)

She’s so not cosmopolitan. (re: Sarah Palin)

What our politicians look like, the clothes that they wear, and the tones of their voices have come to resonate more with voters than their records, policies, associations, and experience.  So what if he sat in a church with racist, America-hating Reverend Jeremiah Wright for twenty years while Wright baptized his kids and officiated at his marriage?  I mean, didn’t you hear his charming speech?  Hope, change, and yes we can were more catchy in 2008 than the fact that only one candidate on either presidential ticket had run anything, and it just so happened to be a state.  Why?  Because hope and change were delivered in a fancy sounding package with a complementary Ivy League bow.  And the state?  Well, Alaska’s so…primitive.  I mean, do they even have a Bloomingdale’s?

At a time when candidates’ crow’s feet, snooty degrees, and lofty talk are paid greater attention than whether or not they actually get things done or have a record of quality leadership and sound judgment, why are we surprised when politicians rise to the top who offer nothing but pretty discourse, handsome swagger, and a whole lot of nothing?  We shouldn’t be.

When it comes to candidates, I don’t care if they could easily be Homecoming Queen or King, if their clothes are well-suited for a Barneys window display, or if their teeth shimmer with all the signs of a recent lunch hour at BriteSmile.  And I’m about as impressed with their Ivy League degrees as I am with my own—as in not very.  It’s time for American voters and the media to get their priorities in order.  Be mesmerized by their policies, not their pontification.  Spend your nights researching their voting records, not the trendy restaurant they were last photographed in or the must-have shoes they sported at the latest D.C. rally.

They aren’t starring in your favorite Tuesday night miniseries or taking you out for dinner and a movie.  They are running your country.

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