A Case for a Better Class of Candidates (even fiction)

It remains to be seen whether the 2020 election was an anomaly in the number of people it turned out to vote – a record 2/3 of Americans eligible to vote weighed in on the candidates (we’ll talk about the other 1/3 in a moment). Compare that to the 2018 election (non-presidential), which was at 53%, 2016 (presidential) at 55% and 2014 at roughly 42%.

The fervor of the 2020 election was as high as it’s ever been, so the numbers are not surprising – and, frankly, encouraging. We actually want people to vote and be a part of the political process.

Even so, though, many raised the question of how in a country that looks like America, the final choice for voters on Election Day two 70+ year old Caucasian men. In fact, if you throw in most of the other leaders of our country, the demographic doesn’t look too much like the make-up of the country, and one could make an argument that the ideologies don’t either. It’s an interesting philosophical question that I believe goes back to the foundations of the political process.

So, you can look at the numbers for voter turnout and be pleased with the steady rise. But you can also look at their flip side and see how many Americans didn’t actually get to the polls or send in a ballot. Very often – and these trends extend down to regional and local levels, where at times the voter turnout can hover in the 25-30% range – the reason people choose not to vote is because they “didn’t like either candidate.” We don’t need polls to tell us this. Just ask around at your Thanksgiving table and you’ll see.

The beauty with political fiction is that we make up the candidates as we go. They can either be a good as we want them to be, or as bad as we want them to be. In thrillers, of course, they often lean toward the bad side, so we can celebrate taking them down at the end. But there are the heroes, as well, who have to navigate the trials and tribulations of filthy politics in order to emerge on top.

Either way, rarely are fictional candidates ineffective, and I believe that if real-life voters had the opportunity to choose among some of the candidates that we thriller authors have concocted in our heads, voter turnout might be higher.

That being said, the behind-the-scenes can get ugly, including for the good ones. The 6th definition – and you have to read all of them – for “politics” at Dictionary.com is  use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control. In order to actually get something done, you have to get yourself into a position of power or control, and be able to influence others around you. I worked directly for a number of elected officials who were the pristine, the pinnacles of public service, out in the community. But in a negotiating room with the door closed, wow, did they do whatever it took to get the job done. Fist-pounding, screaming, bulldozing and agreeing to things that, if left to their own devices, they’d never agree to. Their approach makes for fantastic fiction, but you’d never know it was happening from outside the door.

I enjoy writing candidates and elected leaders, especially the good guys, because I can craft them in the way I’d like to see leaders be. And I’m not just a writer – I’m a voter, like anyone reading this. I have my own qualms about the current state of politics, and many of the candidates we’re being offered. It’s why I started The Campaign Coach program (www.thecampaigncoach.com) in 2015 – to help to create a stronger class of candidate in America.

So, will the voting trend continue? You have to imagine that the media and social media will continue to keep voters as fired up as they have been – don’t know if there’s an escape from that, because intensity means clicks, the primary currency in today’s online world.

Well, there is an escape, which is diving into a political thriller where you can get the feel and intrigue and excitement of politics without having to worry if the decisions the politicians make will mean higher taxes for you!