The White House Auction

“Professor, the more I see of these so called debates, the more convinced I am that we are losing that element of geniality and inspiration that used to make this country great. Listen, I spent a few minutes watching some politicians accusing each other of real or imaginary sins, delivering the same sing songs about a few issues and in general talking as if their words were heard and their meaning understood.”

The Professor, busy with a breakfast that again raised Antoine’s expertise a few notches, smiled at me and replied:

“Before we solve the problems of the republic, have you tasted that salmon?”

Of course I had tasted it and it had a peculiar effect on me. It made me realize that perfection is not unreachable. It made me think that quality is not totally elusive. It made me realize that attaining excellence is not a distant aim that is beyond our means. And, unfortunately it reminded me of the sad episode represented by those stupid presidential debates that are regularly inflicted upon a semi literate public.

“It was unique, Professor. Antoine continues to improve on anything that reaches his kitchen. This salmon was divine. Do you think there will be leftovers for tomorrows’ breakfast?”

The Professor smiled and said in a serious tone:

“You have not recovered from the moments you spent watching those debates. I wonder what those citizens that retain the capacity to think feel about this magnificent farce. I wonder if some of them who have the power and the vision, supported by honesty and integrity, feel that we are coming to the end?

Can they do something about it?”

Yes, I thought, there must be a healthy percentage of Americans that feel that things have gone too far with our political system. Someone said recently that the best auction on the planet was the US presidential elections and lamented that participation was limited to US born citizens. He added, with tongue in cheek, that if such requirement was removed, candidates from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, China, Singapore, Brazil and Super Chavez of Venezuela would have the opportunity to buy into the most attractive and profitable market ever created on the planet.

I mentioned that to the Professor who shook his head and said:

“He was not far from the truth. Our elections in general are nothing but auctions. If you have the means, or can obtain them by associating yourself with persons or entities possessing sound economic resources, or even one of those nation-wide religious sects that have developed their own gold mines, you can opt for an elected office. Even the Presidential office!”

I asked:

“How about the political parties? There is a long tradition and valid concepts propping them up. Can they do something?’

“Not anymore. Keep in mind that the party system is moribund. The parties as such do not count anymore. They are just a label or a clever television phrase.”

I thought for a moment about the changes in the party system in the US. While never perfect, it did steer public opinion, created the visions and injected the necessary optimism. It developed, in most cases, acceptable political platforms that blended practical policies with the chosen candidate’s own visions. I said so and the Professor came back with a serious evaluation:

“Well, these days political parties are limited to raising funds, maneuvering with the media and dream up the catchy phrases you mentioned. In my opinion, we should revise the entire process, beginning with the unnecessary complication of primary elections instead of individual state conventions. If not, soon there will be Secondaries and then Tertiaries and so on, so that we will have a steady menu of elections every day of every year. Would you stand something like that?”

“You make it sound as a lost cause, Professor. But every time I think of those debates and the attending circus I have to agree with you fully. Now, is there any salmon left?”

Marco Miranda Sr.

Chemical engineer by training, international executive by merit and writer by addiction. Former syndicated columnist of Technology columns, has written for television and movies. His humorous articles contain fine satire and have been published in 4 languages.

Quote: “Love and smiles teach tolerance; days without either are days wasted”

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