Too much presidential choice is a pain

Brian Thornton

The first time I ever bought jeans at the Gap, I had three options: easy fit, relaxed fit and loose fit. For colors, I could choose dark blue, acid washed or black.

Pay a visit to now and you’ll be overwhelmed by the selection: slim, straight, loose straight, boot, loose boot, industrial, easy, relaxed, baggy, carpenter. I won’t even mention colors.

At some point, we decided we needed a lot more choices. Take Hershey’s Kisses, which celebrated their 100th anniversary this year. For decades, that plain drop of delicious chocolate was enough. Then, suddenly, we needed almonds. Then came Hugs. And caramel. And special dark, coconut, peanut butter — I’m looking forward to bacon.

Maybe our need for more choices explains the ridiculousness of the coming presidential election — the 2008 election, that is, which doesn’t take place for nearly two years. Just a few months after the relentless political ads of the last election stopped, already 20 candidates from the two major parties have thrown their hats in the ring, and another eight are rumored to be itching to join the hunt.

If you can name more than five off the top of your head, you scare me. Just a little.

It seems every politician you’ve heard of — and plenty you haven’t — wants to be president this year. Some just need one name: Hillary, Barack, Rudy. Others better fire up their public relations machines: Mike Gravel, Ron Paul, Tom Tancredo, anyone? I didn’t think so.

Much is being made of the variety of the candidates. On the Democratic side, Barack Obama offers the chance for our first black president. Hillary would be the first woman, and Bill Richardson the first Hispanic. On the Republican side — ah, a mess of white men. Way to go with the diversity, fellas.

I like the idea of a president with a different background than who we normally see in charge. And luckily, based on recent polls, the American public is ready, too.

A woman, or a person from a racial minority, ought to bring a fresh perspective than the one we’ve had since the founding of our country. More compassion, perhaps. A greater sense of justice for those not in power. A desire to understand cultures throughout the world different from our own.

Those are some pretty high-minded assumptions, I know. And that’s why, perhaps, in 11 years of voting, I’ve yet to become excited by a single candidate — because they always let us down.

Each of these 20 potential presidents will tell us he or she stands for something new. Each will promise to listen to the voters, to bring a new day to our country. Each will vow to be different than the other guy.

The problem is, election after election has taught me that as diverse as each candidate seems right now, 21 months from now they’re all going to seem the same. By the time the attack ads, the dirty politics, the nasty debates and the name-calling are over, even the ones who inspire us today will have abandoned their ideals in favor of what a campaign requires in order to grab power.

And that’s called selling out, folks.

By Election Day, I predict the grand variety of our 20 candidates will feel like no choice at all. And while easy fit, acid washed felt just fine for a long time, these days I really enjoy my distressed, low-rise boot cuts.

Brian Thornton is a graduate journalism student and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].