How To Survive Political Campaigns

For all practical purposes, Democrats and Republicans have chosen their candidates for the 2004 presidential election. The campaign has now begun in earnest.

While the two parties and all of the political junkies in the press will be obsessed by the process for the next few months, most of us have better things to do. After all, we have the rest of this month, April, May, June, July, August, September and October before we have to make a decision.

We will be bombarded with cleverly produced television commercials designed to define the candidates. The main outlines are already clear. The president’s campaign will attempt to paint John Kerry as an indecisive liberal who has been on both sides of too many issues. The Kerry camp will attempt to paint George Bush as a reckless leader who is uncaring about the problems facing ordinary Americans.

Know-Nothing partisans on both sides will be their usual vicious and ignorant selves. Every special interest in the country will try to cover its bets. Political reporters will revert to their true selves, which are sportswriters. They will see the campaign as simply a horse race, and they will dwell often on the polls, which until Election Day are really meaningless. And, oh God, how they will chatter morning, noon and night.

I personally plan to ignore the campaign as much as possible. The coming of spring and then summer are much more important events as far as I’m concerned. I look forward to the dogwood blooms and the fresh green foliage. I look forward to pleasant times with the family, and I might even decide to tackle some of the weeds in my own yard.

The essence of America is neither politics nor government, but the private lives of Americans. Someone once said truly that the whole purpose of government is to ensure that families can gather at their evening meal in peace.

What makes America America are the people, their businesses, their labor, their families and their recreation. I have been in government and spent most of my life reporting on it, but all of the happy moments of my life occurred far removed from politics and government. Thanks primarily to the media, we have a really distorted view of the importance of government.

Whether it rains enough and at the right time and in the right places is much more important than any policy of the Department of Agriculture. Leading a healthy life does not require the National Institutes of Health. Whether we have a job and the means to provide for our families depends much more on the private economy than anything a president does or doesn’t do.

The effects of government are more often than not negative, not positive. That began when the government went from guarding the coast and toting the mail to interfering in almost every aspect of people’s lives. Certainly it is morally wrong to take money from Person A and give it to Person B for the purpose of getting Person B’s vote. But income redistribution, which includes pork-barrel projects, has become so ingrained, I’m afraid it’s irreversible.

At any rate, deciding between Kerry and Bush is not that difficult a decision for most of us, and so in the meantime, we should try to ignore the sound, the fury and the rhetoric of the campaign. Both men have been in public life long enough for people to judge their pasts, which is the only reliable guide to their future conduct. Neither man will change just because he occupies the White House. They will think and act as they always have.

So, until Election Day, don’t forget to smell the daffodils.

Charley Reese has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.