Our National Electoral Food Fight

“It was a Trump-free week, a week without Hillary and Bernie, a week during which we didn’t have to put up with a Democrat on one side and a Republican on the other making evasive answers and generally telling fibs about the other.”

by Dave Riley

 I HAVE NEVER RUN FOR OFFICE, although I have been elected twice. In my military days in Germany, our unit was granted funds and permission to establish a “club.” Translation: a bar. The permission was questionable. In fact it was probably illegal. We were located in the British sector, not the American,  near Helmstedt, just a wedge shot away from the East-West German border. But someone in authority figured we needed an occasional drink, and that someone was willing to risk his rank to get it for us.

Our unit held an election to determine who would run the place, a job nobody wanted. The day of the election, I was tasked with delivering some papers about an upcoming court martial to headquarters in Kassel, about 125 miles away, so I didn’t participate.

Except when I got back I found out I was the new biermeister. I am told that someone said, “Vote for Riley! He’s out driving the autobahn all day!”

I won in a landslide. I actually did okay running the place, thanks in part to accounting courses I took at Husson back when it was still at the top of Park Street Hill.

Some years later I was part of a citizens group protesting the financial running of our school district in Menlo Park. In frustration, the trustees asked how many would be willing to serve on a citizens financial advisory committee. Much to the surprise of the trustees, just about every hand went up. When it came time to appoint a chair, a minister stood up and said he really liked what I had said about having two kids in the district.

Two for two. Another landslide for Riley.

AS YOU MAY KNOW, Mrs. R and I spent a week in the state of Washington recently. Our host family (my daughter, son-in-law and their two kids) watch virtually no TV except for streaming movies and documentaries. Thus we went a week without having talking heads and political candidates screaming at us. It was a Trump-free week, a week without Hillary and Bernie, a week during which we didn’t have to put up with a Democrat on one side and a Republican on the other making evasive answers and generally telling fibs about the other.

One of the bigger issues we talked about wasn’t immigration or climate change, but whether the eldest grandson, Matthew, could transition from late summer bedtimes to getting up early enough in September to catch the bus to his high school.

Excuse the impending rant, but after that electoral-free week, I am more tired than ever of elections that last four years, cost billions of dollars, and give way too much power to Iowa and New Hampshire, states with a combined population of a little over four million.

“The 2016 presidential election could cost as much as $5 billion, according to top fundraisers and bundlers who are already predicting it will more than double the 2012 campaign’s price tag,” says The Hill, a savvy and influential D.C. publication. By contrast the tab for the Reagan-Mondale election of 1984 was about $280 million.

Canada’s election cycle lasts as little as thirty-six days and never more than a few months. By contrast our presidential cycle never ends. Some candidates have been running, unofficially of course, since the morning in 2008 when Mitt Romney conceded to Barack Obama.

The last British election extended only one month and had a spending limit of $33 million. The British system is particularly brutal when it comes to who occupies No. 10 Downing Street. The displaced PM must move out immediately. (“Hello, Picadilly Moving and Storage? This is Gordon Brown. I have a rush job for you.”)

I want our national electoral madness to stop but of course it won’t. The big money people have taken over, and good luck displacing them. Back at the Mary S. Snow School on Broadway, Miss Eldridge, one of my all-time favorite teachers — elementary, high school, or university — taught us that anyone could grow up to be President and that every person’s vote was important.

But maybe not so much anymore.

As of this writing, there are 430 days, or one year and two months, until our next Presidential election. That’s a little over ten thousand hours of 24/7 cable news. The remedy? Don’t watch cable news.

End of rant.

NOW A POSTSCRIPT OF SORTS to all those who are concerned about whether Matthew is waking up on time each school day. I can assure you he is. In the midst of a family discussion while we were in Washington, I said, “I’ll make sure he wakes up. At six a.m. each morning of the school year, I’ll call his cell phone from California.”

The general response was, “You’ve got to be kidding!”

No I wasn’t kidding. Thus far on the first three school days, he and I have chatted amiably in the morning’s gloom. “Put your feet on the floor, Matthew,” I say when he answers.

I’m not the only grandparent who talks with his grandson every school day, but I’ll bet I am one of the extremely few who does it at six a.m.

Here’s the good news. Matthew’s mother emailed me that he “is expecting your call in the morning!!! … I think he is looking forward to it!”

Matthew (right) and brother Timothy during an energetic beach day this past summer.

Matthew (right) and brother Timothy during an energetic Pacific Northwest beach day this past August. Are those kids fit, or what?

Dave Riley

About Dave Riley

Growing Old Isn’t For Sissies is about aging. It’s stories of how some older people achieve remarkable successes, how some people make the lives of others better, and how all seniors have hurdles to face — maladies, loss of loved ones and more.