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March 27, 2008

The Anonymous Campaign

By: Bernard Chazelle

Jon pointed out a major flaw in Michael Kinsley's argument.

I see another flaw: majorly fatal that one. Think about it. Most presidential candidates know they'll never win and yet they run. Why? Do you still lust for power when you know power is out of reach. (I do, but you, do you?) I submit they run because of the celebrity status it confers upon them.

Having hereby submitted, let me hereby suggest. I suggest we test this hypothesis. Candidates would remain anonymous. Actors would replace them. Only when the election is over would the real winner be revealed (but none of the losers would). Now the real candidates would be shipped to a Siberian salt mine for the entire duration of the campaign, where their job would be to write speeches for their body doubles while they bake pretzels. (Why pretzels? hint: salt mine.)

Think of the side benefits: (A) we could merge the Oscar ceremony with a presidential debate and hope against all hope that dull+dull=exciting; (B) we could try to guess if Ahnold is his own body double; (C) instead of asking our finest political analysts (like James Wolcott) to interpret the significance of Julia Roberts's makeup
(do I see in that purple mascara a planned expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit?), we could just ask our finest movie critics instead (like James Wolcott); (D) it'd be Julia Roberts on your TV screen, not the bullet-dodging Ice Queen of the Balkans.

Oh yes, and also we would know, through the power of the scientific method, if candidates run for power or for attention.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at March 27, 2008 08:36 PM

I have another suggestion. Make Presidential candidacies a civic obligation, like jury duty. Once every four years, a random group of American citizens is drafted to the candidacy. They are then inspected by the media, and the public votes on which one gets the office. This would make the candidate slate a truly representative sample, in the statistical sense.

Posted by: paradoctor at March 27, 2008 09:44 PM

Since most people vote based on the candidate's ability to act the way we want, I'm not sure your proposal would work. We'd have to guess how well they could act based on their proxy's performance - not an easy feat.

Posted by: saurabh at March 27, 2008 10:32 PM

Would the candidates be allowed to, say, eat some of the pretzels?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 27, 2008 10:48 PM

Also, would there be any beer( Budwiser) allowed?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 27, 2008 10:50 PM

We've already got what you wish for, except they run the credits before the movie. A movie within a movie. As Neil Gabler figured out, the movie is real life.

Posted by: donescobar at March 27, 2008 11:15 PM

I'm gonna vote for the pretzel, President Pretzel has a nice ring to it.

Posted by: rob payne at March 27, 2008 11:44 PM

I, for one, hope that Bush starts eating pretzels again.

Posted by: j at March 28, 2008 01:56 AM

Does that mean the winning candidate will say,

"You like me. You really like me. That means I can kill anybody I want."


Posted by: Jonathan Versen at March 28, 2008 04:44 AM

I propose a different experiment. Put all of you jokers into a little camp with barbed wire and barking dogs. Side benefits: less annoying drivel on internet, deep sense of satisfaction watching you suffer. Scientific purpose: none really needed to justify "experiment."

Posted by: xyz at March 28, 2008 08:40 AM
Most presidential candidates know they'll never win and yet they run. Why?

1. Because it allows the "outsiders" to bypass the consolidated media filtered message?

Courtesy of Kucinich and Gravel you have some surprisingly lucid moments (not many but some) where the mainstream choices had to answer uncomfortable questions. Conversely on the other side you get Ron Paul actually saying that, maybe, just maybe, there may be political reasons people don't care for us. Rudy took exception, and got to frothingly grandstand, but people thought: "Hmmm? Really?"

2. Because some people enjoy direct confrontation and believe that being "on" 24-hrs a day is a high risk activity with a neural rush payoff. You can call it ego, but people get their drugs from wherever they're conveniently available.

3. Because the trilaterals want to make it look like we have a choice.

Posted by: angryman@24:10 at March 28, 2008 10:09 AM

angryman: Number 3 is not as tight as one might thiink. Just a theory, but what if one of the illuminated saw everything in a different light?

STUBBY: Didn't get none last night, huh. Hair trigger, as one might say.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at March 28, 2008 11:43 AM

I have a much more boring proposal: why not vote for parties instead of individuals; you know, parties with clear platforms, parties that then will be proportionally represented in the parliament by faceless bureaucrats. And the president... He or she should be a purely ceremonial figurehead, like the president of the Swiss confederation. No fame, no ambition, just reading boring speeches no one is listening to.

Sorry about the unfunny comment.

Posted by: abb1 at March 28, 2008 04:55 PM

Yeesh; pretzels. That'd keep me from running, all right.

Posted by: Kip W at March 29, 2008 09:40 AM

xyz - wouldn't work. we would make friends with the dogs and have a grand old camping trip and even sing around the campfire

Posted by: Susan - NC at March 29, 2008 06:08 PM