By BRIAN McGRORY
New York Times News Service
Wouldn’t it be great if we learned a few lessons from whatever it was that just unfolded over the last year-and-a-half?
Wouldn’t it be great if we came to the realization that it’s virtually criminal to spend $2 billion on a presidential campaign in which voters felt worse about our candidates and our country, and less enlightened about our government, than when the whole thing began? Wouldn’t it be great if we started taxing campaign contributions at, say, 25 percent, and put the $500-plus million into an account for new social studies teachers to let kids know this isn’t the way it needs to be or always was?
For that matter, how about requiring that at least one out of every two federal campaign ads contain at least a scant hint of humor rather than the screeching migraine-inducing productions that we currently get?
Wouldn’t it be great if truth made a comeback, if little shock electrodes were affixed to the insides of candidates’ shoes during debates and every time they told an honest-to-goodness, pants on fire lie, they ended up jumping around the stage like the Scarecrow in “The Wizard of Oz”?
Wouldn’t it be great if the Electoral College was abolished so a voter in Ohio or Florida didn’t matter more than a thousand people in Massachusetts, California and New York? For that matter, pick the first caucus and primary states in a blind drawing, three months before the first votes, to finally stop the ham-handed, flannel-shirted pandering to the otherwise good people of Des Moines, Davenport, and Derry.
Wouldn’t it be great if the extremists on cable TV and talk radio were carefully fitted for muzzles that they would be required to wear for the next year. And if Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were banned from ever seeking federal office again?
Wouldn’t it be great if the leaders in Washington, Republicans and Democrats, actually noticed how Mitt Romney’s fortunes finally rose when he started talking about bipartisanship in the last few weeks of his campaign?
How about bringing back the art of compromise, the politics of persuasion, the exhilaration of reaching a bipartisan deal? When Senate majority leader Harry Reid and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell sat together for a recent “60 Minutes” segment on the broken Senate, they couldn’t even look at each other, let alone offer some passing nod to the notion that the way they do things has to be changed.
Division is not addition, folks, and wouldn’t it be great if people in power understood that?
Wouldn’t it be great if they thought big thoughts in Washington again rather than plotted a never-ending series of little fights?
Wouldn’t it be great if Paul Ryan and his little exercise acolytes, along with every officeholder who believes the one thing standing between America and a new age of prosperity is too much government, were all forced to live a week with inner-city kids who ride rickety buses past boarded-up buildings to schools in which learning is the last thing on anyone’s mind? See what they think of the land of opportunity then.
Likewise, wouldn’t it be great if we required the most liberal members of Congress to spend a month owning a small business from which the twitchy hand of government is constantly grabbing hard-earned money and regulators are always getting in the way?
Wouldn’t it be great if it was a federal offense to demonize a political opponent? Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are two wise men who, by every measure, personify different facets of the American dream, yet they painted one another as cartoon characters who will lead this country off a cliff.
Wouldn’t it be great if a new Supreme Court overturned Citizens United, and if whatever tycoon Sheldon Adelson makes in Vegas, stays in Vegas?
Wouldn’t it be great if we learned something, anything, from the extravagant mess that we just survived?