The political cage fight drug

If you had to design a political system where big, urgent problems can remain unresolved and connected criminals can stay out of jail, without (much) protest or repression, how would you go about it?

I think I’d invent a supposedly all-powerful “grand prize” position called the Presidency, and make sure everybody believes it is a matter of life and death who wins it.

Then, I’d organize a contest every few years to figure out who the next winner is going to be. To make it more distracting for longer, and more polarizing with less or no room for compromise or actual problem solving, my contest would feature multiple winner-takes-all / knock-out rounds. Each round takes months of maneuvering, some must-view television live events, and a cataclysmic “today is the day” to determine the winner of that round. In the final cage fights, I’d absolutely expect 100 million TV watchers.

And then I would make sure I’d have the most colorful candidates I can get. The weirder, the better. Competence, reason etc etc is not only not required for the candidates, but proactively to be avoided. Think the Village People, just in suits and actually believing in themselves.

Voila, a big part of each four-year period is filled with theater that emotionally drags people into the fight, gets totally involved because it “this election, unlike previous ones, is a matter of life and death”, and they will promptly forget everything else. Done!

Until one of your ever-weirder oddball candidates has his small hand on the nuclear button. Suddenly, that show is over. We are not there yet, but I trust if we do get there, he’ll come up with a replacement show real quick. That one won’t be as entertaining to as many.