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Citizen Voices

Head Fake

It seems to many that things have gone awry in America.

Gone are the days when the last two weeks of January were dedicated to Super Bowl hype . Today there is nary a media outlet that isn’t pumped with Election ’08 adrenaline. The news networks show back to back to back debates, polls are churned out daily, ESPN-style highlights, graphics and music condense the issues for us and former sportscasters are getting in on the pundit action.

The true blue, red-blooded American used to be able to dedicate this time of year to recognizing a nickel defense, to watching the health of second string quarterbacks, to keeping an eye on the over/under and to be dialed in on the best possible Super Bowl party. But now we are being asked to channel this energy into sussing out where we stand on issues and candidates. It takes a lifetime of Sundays to become an expert NFL fan; to even fake an informed Super Bowl conversation requires a vast knowledge base. Suddenly, the game has changed. The new Super Bowl is Presidential Politics and I have a sneaking suspicion that most of us are fake fans . Sure, we know a touchdown when we see one, fumbles are exciting and getting sacked looks like it hurts – but secretly we pick our teams based on the color of the uniforms.


This Citizen Voices experiment has elevated me from run of the mill political loudmouth to loudmouth with a soapbox. A Humpty Dumpty-type fear of fact checkers has spurred me on to research and consider issues more closely than I would have in my role as anonymous loudmouth. Until last week, I was ignorant of the existence of Super Delegates . Revelation can lead to unwelcome epiphany - the horizon of things I  know nothing about is expanding at a frightening rate.

And I suspect I am not alone.

It is all too easy to support and “like” a candidate because of their stance on “immigration,” “the economy” or the “War on Terror” – but probe for specifics and all too often the supporter is a fake fan. Polls are mostly bunk this election cycle and I have no polling data to back me up, but it appears that a majority of supporters of any candidate have no specific idea what they are talking about. Some fault the candidates. Presidential hopefuls all claim to be aboard the straight talk express , but they know all too well that to speak on specifics is to be marginalized, to be Ralph Nadered.

Hypocritical, allusive and slippery politicians are nothing new. The American electorate is largely at fault for the spiraling state of America.

Most of the candidates from either side of our rigid two-party system seem a vast improvement from those we had to choose from in 2000 and 2004. But voters continue to approach presidential politics as just another  American Idol contest – pick a favorite ( Sexy Rudy or Charming Hillary and Obama or Singing Kucinich or  Singing McCain or My Homey Mitt or Pretty John ) , call in, see who wins and then don’t bother to buy the album or keep tabs on the winner’s career. In most cases, we are still voting for the guy or gal we’d most like to have a beer with or the mommy or daddy we think most capable of minding the store while we forget our worries and get drunk at the Super Bowl party. Sustained and informed interest in the policies of our government are ongoing responsibilities, not timed contests with winners and losers. It requires an effort. Wolf Blitzer, Bill O’Reilly, Lou Dobbs, Keith Olbermann and the news readers on your local network are pushers of the Fake, enabling us to sound informed and remain ignorant.


The increased voter turn out and intense interest in this election are positive developments. Hope and change are the required remedies – but it’s not the candidates who have to change.

-Chris McConnell is a bookseller, freelance writer, former high school English teacher and odd jobber who lives in La Jolla.

kid stardust
February 02, 2008 at 07:57 PM
Tom Brady for President!

Christie Ryan from New York, NY
February 02, 2008 at 07:58 PM
True! Very few of us US citizens have any true knowledge about what's really going on in the running of our nation. I think you're right about the news programs feeding this idea that we are informed, when all we really are is distracted. There are real sources of information, you just gotta look for them. Pacifica Radio (available online) is a good source, as is Democracy Now (online, also). Problem is, there are no sexy sound effects to hold your interest, just raw, unfiltered truth, which is quite unpopular these days. I love sports and will be watching the Super Bowl with Giants fans at a bar in NYC, which will be a blast. But I think that when government/politics devolves to the level of sports and entertainment, (which, as you point out, it has) where we cheer for winners and jeer at losers, that is a sorry state to be in. The good news, however, is that democracy is a process and I do believe that we are in the process of finding our way. Bravo, Chris!

Alma from San Diego
February 02, 2008 at 09:24 PM
I can relate to the fact checking compulsion Chris, and definitely to the feeling the Presidential race has almosst turned into a variety show for the new generation of stars... Unfortunately so much more is at stake than whether someone gets a recording contract. I do want to acknowledge your challenge to continue following the political careers of our leaders rather than treating them like just another castoff. I've been trying to keep up with the comings and goings of particular people who have inspired me, especially if they are not in CA, and it can sometimes be as hard as trying to locate a new Clay Aiken cd. The CItizen Voices project will undoubtedly push the contributors as well as the readers to be as honest as possible. I hope we don't all revert into sounding like Simon on American Idol and just spew criticism without being specific about what's really bugging. Thanks for your honesty, and for digging deeper than the surface.

Candace Suerstedt
February 02, 2008 at 09:39 PM
Chris, How true. The more I research and learn, the more I comprehend how much is unknown about the true nature of these candidates or the various agendas of the political parties. What does frighten me is the "rock star" frenzy that surrounds the candidate's political events. I have never understood what drives one to create a "deity" out of a mere man or woman. As my Grandmother would have said, "They put their pants on just like the rest of us-one foot at a time." Since it is unlikely I will be invited to sit down and eat a meal with any of them, where I can get a feel for them, listen to what they say when their guard is down, see how they treat other people on a one to one basis, I guess I will have to keep researching, trying to get at as much of the truth that I can. I do want to vote for the best possible candidate, but I don't want to look back in three or four years and say "Oh God, what have we done." Candace

February 02, 2008 at 10:57 PM
I can never get enough of those CSPAN2 moments of open mic and live camera where nothing's going on - the end of council meetings or press conferences where you hear politicans get boringly real and be more straightforward than they can ever be on camera - they really do start to seem like Candace's grandmas one foot at a time pants people. Alma have you really shopped for a Clay Aiken CD? thanks for Pacifica and DNow - and for you, Arts and Letters Daily ( culls through a vast sea of articles and always comes up with good stuff

February 03, 2008 at 11:43 AM
Good on ya sir for calling the majority out on their (our) blatant ignorance! I feel like I lost my mojo for politics sometime between high school and my beer battered 20s... and now it's back. Yes, Christie, there are no sexy sound effects when reading, listening to and talking about politics. However, I do find something very sexy in men & women when they can back a conversation up [about politics or anything] with knowledge and not just ignorant passion - the passion is only cute for a minute. You seem to be on the same page, Chris, as our 16 year-old friend Laith who commented on "Still Hung up in 2000" : "... The president (so called leader of our country) is just a front man that the government uses as a pawn to distract the ignorant masses of the United States. The government controls all the decisions that happen in our country. I’m only sixteen, but if i were old enough to vote, I would vote for Obama." Posted on January 29, 2008 at 8:14 pm by Laith "I agree with Laith… It is up to us to be aware of the issues our society is posed with. So often in conversation, I find people are very heated about one issue or the next, but they are not actively involved in pushing for change. It is up to us to start small and work on positive, exponential change. Too many [Americans] take a lackadaisical approach to politics and then wonder why change is not happening. Go to it Laith - encourage your peers to get and STAY involved!" Posted on January 31, 2008 at 9:35 am by Bianca Unlike Natalie , I haven't lost faith and I'm back in the game.

JaniceNW from SE of SEattle, UCSD alumna
February 04, 2008 at 01:29 AM
Well, personally I'd like a consitutional amendment that states: Presidential candidates cannot declare until Augist 1st of the Election year. Media blitzes are forbidden until 2 weeks before election day. Let's use that money in better ways. Oh wait, no freakin' conventions cuz they just be an another reason to spew propaganda and they cost the taxpayers'. I have never in 28 years of voting chosen a candiate through a convention. Hell, I can't even watch five minutes of one. YAWN. I have always been involved and believe voting is a right and a responsibility but I think 2 years of campaigning is silly.

Mama Zen from USA
February 04, 2008 at 04:00 AM
The Super Bowl analogy is a good one. It seems that all of the major news networks are hyping debates like they are sporting events.

Fin Prendergast from Cal State San Marcos
February 04, 2008 at 07:22 AM
Well Mr. Loudmouth with your soapbox you have hit the nail on the head here. However the reality of it all is that this way sells and it works. The media's American Idol/Sports Center themed programming for election 2008 is what the average person will pay attention to. Besides its easy to watch and the average person doesn't have or take the necessary time to really look into each candidate or current election issues. So the media thrives off of this, they get to feed us their own agenda and are the deciding factor in how people vote. What the media puts out is what we vote on. I really did enjoy the part "we are still voting for the guy or gal we’d most like to have a beer with or the mommy or daddy we think most capable of minding the store while we forget our worries and get drunk at the Super Bowl party". I believe that this statement is as true as any about the current approach to voting in America. Lets just hope that America doesn't want to have that beer with Hillary Clinton. This country has seen and felt enough by the Bush and Clinton families, and it is time for change. P.S. Chris McConnell was the greatest High School teacher of any kind to walk the face of the earth. VOTE RON PAUL!!! -Fin Prendergast-

Chris McConnell
February 04, 2008 at 03:23 PM
Thanks Fin - Ill see what I can do about a retroactive grade change for you...

Green Forest and a Stream from Encinitas
February 04, 2008 at 06:21 PM
I've spent most of my cognitive years following sports and politics. football does take time to really know, helps if you have played in pads before. but politics, especially presidential politics, is much more elusive. virtually every fact you can absorb is filtered through the media. with football, you can watch the game yourself and form your own opinions based on personal observation. only a few people have personally observed facts about these candidates. the media is supposed to report these facts, but their driving force is selling add space and ratings, not informing the masses. the internet age gives us hope if it can remain free media. Chris, you give us hope. Keep it up brother. all of us married with kids guys need to live vicariously through the single, but not gay guys. p.s. home cooked meal for you anytime up in Encinitas

Dave from Oceanside
February 04, 2008 at 08:00 PM
Can we change?? We are just Zebras at a watering hole.. a few individuals wander to the water.. the Crocs get some of em... the group hangs back and notices that one Zebra (they can tell the difference between the individuals).. one Zebra seem to drink and not get bit.. Each manages to do this fairly often.. Now when he drinks the herd rushes to the water.. the Crocs get some of em.. but not our lone leader Zebra... he already had his water and wasn't there to get eaten.. So no he is even more legendary.. gains more celebrity.. we'll do anything he does! (or she).. by golly that Zebra has it figured out.. Of course.. that Zebra is always surrounded by others.. so the odds of him getting eaten are pretty slim.. so he gets more and more famous... Is that Zebra a leader?? or was he just lucky on those few times he drank alone?? Does it matter?? Unfortunately it doesn't seem to matter... He's got the label.. the herd follows... Our herd swears by a couple of Zebras.. it doesn't matter what they say.. we'll twist the words to fit what we want them to mean... I believe the Zebra that is smart.. and not just lucky (in the right place at the right time).. is Obama... but ya know what.. he could be Fred Flinstone and he'd be better than what we've got now.

Jenn from Solana Beach
February 04, 2008 at 08:26 PM
Good points! and congrats on the Citizen Voices gig... I look forward to hearing more from you and the rest of the Citizen Voices gang.