Elect Mr. Popular for president

It seems every year the presidential election is one step closer to being nothing more than an Olympic-sized popularity contest, with voters choosing candidates like American Idol chose its Rubin Studdard (even if everyone believes Clay Aiken should have won).

Is this sentiment true of all voters? Of course not. I’d like to believe that there are more well-informed individuals who vote in their country’s best interest than those who do not. Or that there are more educated voters than voters who choose trivialities to base their decisions on.

But the fact remains that because any American citizen 18 or older can vote, people are allowed to make one of the most important decisions in the country (and in the world) fall on who they think is hotter, or with the only candidate remaining after you eliminate those candidates whose names sound like the names of Islamic terrorists.

If you think those are jokes, you have not been listening to the right people discuss their opinions of Obama and McCain. And what’s truly scary is that these people are legally able to vote, and will be encouraged to by commercials and lobbyists in the months ahead.

So this raises the question: is democracy, a democracy where everyone’s vote counts as much as every other one, the fairest form of government? Is it really fair to allow one citizen’s vote for Obama after seriously weighing the pros and cons of his views on Health care or world politics to be canceled out by another who voted for McCain because he always votes Republican? Is it really fair for every individual to vote for what is best for them at that moment instead of for the country in the long run?

There is no way to control why people vote the way that they do, and there shouldn’t be. But the news coverage and election commercials in the country make it clear how the media, at least, believes an election is won. It’s won in the same way that companies try to get you to abhor uncool PC’s and drool over the super sleek, easy to use Macs. McCain and Obama are Coke and Pepsi to so many Americans. I’m not sure I trust my own country to make the right decision, and I bet I’m not alone.

According to opensecrets.org, Obama has spent $323,585,292 on the election so far, and McCain has spent $141,397,734. Burger King spent $260 million dollars on ads in 2007. With all three leaders competing for my time, I’m left wanting a Whopper above anything else, since I’m not stuck with a Whopper for four years. But it is still troubling how much money goes into the election, and what a ‘successful’ campaign means.

So how do we as a nation come to terms with that?

To express your opinions about the upcoming election, check out The Northerner‘s open forum.

To vote for your favorite presidential candidate in the College of Informatics and Scripps Howard Center for Civic Engagement online mock election, click here.