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McAdams On: American Idle
8/20/2012

STOP, PLEASE: Election season is bearing down on us like a loud drunk in a piano bar. Elections are a crucial component of democracy because of how they redistribute massive wealth between massively wealthy people. The rest of us benefit by getting pummeled with campaign slargon to the point of nearly taking to the hills with bottled water and dart guns. Political ranting is everywhere, carried by every form of media now known to man and soon, those discovered on Mars. But nowhere is it more rampant than in social media.

Facebook has become the bumper sticker and theme t-shirt of the digital age. It’s the perfect playground for we Americans to exercise our love of distilling world views into snarky slogans apparently spoken by a house cat or Bruce Lee. Facebook is not the place to go for a comprehensive understanding of policy. Tax code is something one reads during extended quiet times—imprisonment, for example. Elections are a team sport, after all. They are about winning, which—in combination with the well-established social media component— makes elections the perfect premise for the next great reality TV show.

Television is fast approaching the saturation point for pitchy singers, fire-juggling acrobats, ballroom-dancing actors and crafty housewives. Elections are ideal for reality TV because they are controversial and divisive; and the characters are generally bombastic and catty. They’d have to step up the entertainment factor, of course. There would need to be more than just verbal jabs—maybe a sing-off, a mixed martial arts match and a sailing race on homemade balsa rafts across the Pacific. Voting would take place over a period of months via text and Facebook posts. Ultimately, the candidate with the most “likes” would become the next President of the United States, possibly a black cat by the name of “Bruce Lee.”

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