a desperate addiction

Political news is a disease – stay away from the news. I’ve given that advice over and over.  It does not entertain or educate or enlighten.  Unless you plan to do something about it, reading about a tragedy on the other side of the globe will only depress you.  Yet I have a confession to make.  I am addicted to presidential politics.

It started slowly in 2007. I read a column here and there.  I checked out Bill Richardson’s web site.  I drifted by  instapundit and dailykos (no, I’m not linking to them) to see what the right-and-left-wingers were saying, but just once a week.  I gave my mother (a hardcore political junkie) a hard time for her addiction to americablog.  But I was harboring a secret.  I was cruising one political website and news site after another, looking for a quick and cheap fix.  I didn’t care about the consequences, I needed THE NEWS.

Of course after months of furtively reading political news I realize it (a) didn’t even vaguely change my thoughts on who to vote for and (b) didn’t come close to educating, enlightening or even entertaining me. It’s a sad state of affairs to admit you’re addicted to something which doesn’t even really give you pleasure.  I hate the whole sordid business of presidential politics but I just can’t look away.  The personal-finance-blogosphere loves to give opinions on money, but the leadership of this country determine so much of how we save and how we spend that – in a sense – no personal finance issue should be more important than VOTING.  Disagree?  What if the next president changes the tax rate on capital gains?  That would affect your savings strategy.  What if they rescind Roth accounts’ tax-free status?  What if they decide to heavily tax gas to subsidize public transportation?  There are a million possibilities that impact our lives far more than “should I clip coupons”?

regret, shame and recovery

I am ashamed. I waste a lot of time I could be writing, or reading something fun or entertaining or educational or even just silly.  I read about McCain’s latest angry jab at Obama, or Obama’s latest platitude about “coming together.”  I spend 10 minutes thinking about voting for Nader or Barr or writing in myself and then go back to reading about the latest congressional idiocy.

I have a problem.  I need help.  I have to give up presidential politics. Nothing I hear between now and November is going to change my mind, because I already distrust and fear both candidates and the American political systems.  I will leave you with this horrible sobering thought:  I am almost 40 years old, and this is the first time since I was an eligible voter that my presidential ballot will not have the name “Bush” or “Clinton” on it… and that’s only by a narrow margin.

And just in case anyone is wondering about my political affiliation, it is simple:  anti-incumbent.  It’s the only way to go, if you ask me. 

10 comments

  • A man after my own heart. I broke the addiction a few years ago and now avoid most news as much as possible. I get my news from headlines and detest presidential politics. Its so phony. And you’re right, anti-incumbency is the only way to go. I’m going to vote third party for the first time this year.

  • Your addiction is far more wholesome than mine. I’m not even addicted to news, I’m addicted to cable “news” shows. And the worst part? I’m to the left and I’m addicted to conservative news shows!

    Why do I intentionally raise my blood pressure by watching these? I think so I can yell at the TV (something my husband does not allow me to do to actual people.)

    Look at it this way–with either winner we get something we haven’t had in awhile–a president that can form an actual sentence.

  • You’re ashamed? When I was in college I saw my first Bill O’Reilly show and thought, “This chap and I share a lot of similar views.” Then the more I watched I realized how awful the man and his show really are. But for a while there I was a fan and watched a TON of Fox News. I’m glad I got out before it did any permanent damage…I think.

  • Never had the addiction. I avoid political “news” like the plague, but I can see how it can happen. Perhaps you can be more aggressive with the mute button. As a system, we should take a random person off the street and make them absolute ruler. As soon as they begin to like the job, we take them out back and shoot them.

    But you’re right; the laws collectively passed by Congress and signed by the President do affect the nature of saving and spending. For better or (more likely) for worse, our leadership has long chosen policies that support consumption over investment and saving. Perhaps it is an essential nature of being an American; we tend more toward optimism in the future than our counterparts around the world.

  • I too, am a recovering addict. We don’t have cable TV, so I get most of my “news” online and in print. I spend way, WAY too much time reading political blogs and surfing online news sources.

    I’ve come to the same conclusions – nothing is going to change my mind, or my vote, at this point – so I need to step away from the propaganda and start being productive.

    It’s easier to write than it is to practice.

  • “And just in case anyone is wondering about my political affiliation, it is simple: anti-incumbent.”

    Ha. That was sharp … I appreciated it.

    I think you’re spot re watching steady talking heads news coverage. That really does not allow enough for new topics/issues/happenings to develop.

    It can be an addiction … better to find something else to obsess about, and check in on the news/politics/etc at regular intervals, vs hourly/daily.

  • Hi, my name is Deepali and I’m addicted to the blog-o-sphere. Your political news addiction ain’t got nothing on me! 🙂

  • @Heidi: You’re definitely right about being easier to say than do. After getting to work this morning, the first thing I did was read an op-ed piece on potential vice-presidential candidates. Talk about wasting my time. Oh well, the first step is admitting you have a problem, I suppose…

    @James: I’ve voted for third party candidates for president twice, but I was living in a non-swing state. My theory is that if you live in a state that’s safe for one major party or the other you can safely vote for a third party candidate. If you live in Alabama or New York, there is a very high probability that your state is not in play in any way, shape or form. Since I vote in New Jersey, there is a high likelihood that it won’t be in play this time around, so I might vote third party again.

    @Retired Syd: I definitely managed to quit reading political blogs and watching talking head shows. At least I’m restricting my viewing to “news” news for the most part. And it’s a sad thought that this is what it’s come to – like you, I’ll be excited to have an English-speaking president for the first time in 8 years.

    @TWC: I remember thinking how great it was when Fox News came out. I thought everyone would be so appalled at their “fair and balanced reporting” that it would discredit that type of journalism. Guess that tells you how well I can predict trends.

    @Curmudgeon: I do think that at some point the trend of consumption will reverse itself in almost every aspect of our lives – oil usage will go down, obesity rates will decline, deficit spending will be reduced and eventually eliminated and so on. The question mark will be whether we get a leader who comes up with proactive solutions, or reacts to it from a position of weakness.

  • I was a little worse off.

    Ours is a small country so you actually have friends who have friends who know people “up there”. So it was just not the news and the political blogs but also sessions with these guys to hear tit bits not in the news.

    Until I realised that I was suffering from serious information overload. So I have cut off many of these blogs, stopped these sessions (unless I run into these guys at a function) and life has pretty much been the same.

    You are right. Addiction to these news is as bad to addiction to video games.

  • “I am almost 40 years old, and this is the first time since I was an eligible voter that my presidential ballot will not have the name “Bush” or “Clinton” on it”

    Got you beat here. I cannot remember when the presidential office is not occupy by a Bush or a Clinton. I remotely remember my teacher talking about Chelsea in my government class in junior high school when Clinton was running for prez. Geez, I am ready for a change.