The NH Primary: Bring on the animals!

It’s that time again, time to do an ethological analysis of the American political process to see how we measure up to lower life forms. Alas, so far and once again, not so good.

In animals, the goal is to produce viable young, and ensure their survival. This is a two-step process. First males and females compete among themselves to prove who has the best competitive skills. The second part is that those who proved their superiority among their respective peers must then prove that they’re sufficiently compatible and qualified to mate, produce viable offspring, and successfully raise them. In both parts of the process, the most successful candidates and actual leaders are those who can accomplish this using the least amount of energy.

What I find so frustrating about the current political process is that it focuses almost exclusively on the ritualistic competition among competitors (first within the parties and then between them), and that I’m suppose to believe that the winner of those squabbles posses the qualities necessary to be a good leader. That’s like saying that the winner of a barroom brawl has proven his or her ability to be a good partner and parent.

However, it’s not a total loss.  Like members of other species,  I can get some idea of the candidates’ potential by running a cost-benefit analysis on the posturing to see how much they put into the process in terms of resources vs. what the public gets from them.

If we equate resources with money (which I consider reasonable), alas right away we’re in big trouble relative to attracting anyone with leadership skills to the race in this country. This occurs because we’ve set up a system that, for some unfathomable reason, equates the amount of money a candidate can raise with his or her leadership skills. In fact, quite the opposite is true: the more an individual can accomplish with less, the more skill he or she has.  If you calculate the amount of money the candidates spent in Iowa vs. the percentage of the population they inspired to publicly declare their support for them, all of the candidates performed like exhaust-spewing gas guzzlers.

Such inefficiency doesn’t bode well for step two of the process: proving to one’s partner (in this case, the country) that one is capable of thinking and acting like a mature adult with a long view dedicated to ensuring the survival of the country, its population, and the environment in perpetuity as the lawyers like to say.

Part of the problem is that, unlike as in animals, there is no part two in our political system. There is never a time when the candidates aren’t trying to get more face time on television or sound bites on radio to make themselves look better than the competition. And because they’re always in their winning-is-everything mode, everything they say is suspect.

So in spite of all the money, all the handlers (talk about an employee whose mere existence denies a candidate’s leadership ability!!), and war chests (another nonleadership term), when it’s all said and done and unlike those lucky lower life forms who will have shaped, softened, and transformed the winner in the courting process, all we Americans can say is that we wound up with the winner of the fight. Whether that person will turn out to be a compatible partner for the country or we’ll be screwed and abandoned to pick up the pieces yet again is anyone’s guess.