By Andrew J. Wilhelm Congratulations to the latest “American Idol” David Cook, who received the majority of the 99.7 million votes cast. While the inconvenience of college cut into my T.V. viewing, , I am a big fan of the show. The overall premise of the show, to give an amateur singer the chance of a lifetime, is a good one. It is also one that the American public can buy into–who doesn’t want dreams to come true? Still, 99.7 million is a daunting number! Since fans of the show can vote mutliple times, it doesn’t accurately reflect the actual number of viewers. Yet “American Idol” finales typically garner around 30 million viewers. Having 10% percent of the country captivated by a single television show is pretty impressive. Props to Simon, Paula, and Randy!
Although the 2004 presidential election garnered 40% of eligible voter turnout, “American Idol” judge Simon Cowell almost always gets more Americans to vote than political candidates. Primaries, even in this extra-thrilling campaign season, often struggle to reach double digits. Most people just don’t care enough to drive to the polling station and hit a button. Why are people more willing to vote for the nation’s next rock star, but seem lackadaisical about picking the next leader of the country? While his good looks and throaty vocals may make David Cook the next big thing; he’s not attempting to rule the free world (by political force anyway). Why do American citizens have more interest in pop stars than presidents?
I decided to ask a few of my friends, mostly college students like myself, about this issue and have elicited several interesting answers to my inquiry.
The most popular answer was that politics is “boring.” A vague expression, but one I’ll try to uncover more fully. Most people fall into three categories of “political boredom”: they believe their single vote couldn’t possibly make a difference; they simply don’t understand government workings and don’t care to learn; or they have been disenchanted because of corruption, scandals, etc. In fact, among those who choose not to vote, I would conjecture that all three possibilities would apply.
I have heard an enormous amount of people say that they are unhappy with our current options–John McCain, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, who’s hanging on by the skin of her teeth. Their remedy to such disdain is to simply not vote. I’d urge everyone to at least limit the damage by voting for whoever they deem the lesser of the two (or three) “evils”.
The weather also has a lot to do with whether or not people show up to the polls. A sunny, pleasant day can yield up to twice the voters as a cold, rainy day. Lame? I sure think so. Unfortunately, Americans have become uncontrollably lazy. They are used to being able to do everything from the comfort of their own La-Z-Boy. What if voting could be done via the Internet or even text messiaging, as in “American Idol”? These are possibilities that would dramatically change the voting landscape, but must be explored to keep up with this generation’s demands. Can you imagine Hillary standing on stage urging viewers to vote for her by calling 1-888-PREZ-001?
The level of disengagement from politics is being felt as severely as ever. Some everyday Americans–the ones who who go to work, pick up the kids from school, go to bed, only to repeat the process don’t have a clue what’s happening in Washington. But the politicians don’t seem to know what’s going on in middle America either. Like the a monarchy, the wealthiest tend to rule (and make the rules for) big-time politics It seems our government will be ruled by older, wealthy, white men in the foreseeable future, which doesn’t bode well for the “American Idol” voting crowd. In fact, many might want to replace the President, Congress, and Supreme Court with the checks-and-balances of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson, with AI host Ryan Seacrest as press secretary naturally.
In fact, the start-up of “American Idol” is arguably the best part of the show, and a lot more exciting than the primaries. The show’s preliminary auditions present viewers with freaks and tone deaf contestants that give us all a chuckle. After that, a few contestants who can actually sing make it through to the voting stages. Each contestants has his or her unique personality, hair style, vocal range, personal story, and connection with viewers. Not so in politics. While there has been some diversity in this year’s presidential election, politics is sill mostly wealthy white men who enjoy listening and arguing with other wealthy white men. Those who push the envelope threaten this hierarchy of power and can rarely penetrate the deep layers of aged power in Washington.
When it comes down to “American Idol” versus the American President, it seems we choose entertainment over politics, unless of course there’s a political scandal brewing. Nothing shoots up ratings like an old-fashioned affair or deep-seeded corruption. I enjoy “American Idol” as much as anyone else. In fact, I’ve for more AI contestants than politicians. In all fairness, I’m 19 and have only been eligible to vote a couple of times. I have voted every time since registering to vote and was proud to do so.
Though it’s a little more time-consuming to research and uncover the candidates’ positions, policies, and experiences, it is of the utmost importance. “American Idol” simply feeds its audience with stories, songs, flashing lights, and snarky judges; your vote only makes a super star. Despite dissatisfaction with politics and awe at “American Idol”, it is essential for Americans to get off their couches, put down their remotes, and head to the polls. As the United States continues to be the dominant force in the world; your vote will not only impact you, but millions around the globe. If you have the power to turn an obscure rocker into an “American Idol”, you have the chance to turn a candidate of your voice into the next American President.
Andrew Wilhelm is a sophomore at Wheaton College majoring in political science with a minor in economics. His two main passions are playing piano and golf. He also enjoys learning about and analyzing trends in culture, economics, and politics. For some strange reason, he consistently refuses to send his Nintendo Wii to Amy.
Andrew Wilhelm a sophomore at Wheaton College majoring in political science with a minor in economics. His two main passions are playing piano and golf. He also enjoys learning about and analyzing trends in culture, economics, and politics.