Originally published in the Grand Rapids Business Journal, January 14, 2008
We aren’t so much American citizens anymore as we are American consumers. Our role in the world is to select and compare and eventually buy stuff. (Witness the frenzied panic last week in the world’s stock markets — huge plunges on the news that Americans might just have to slow down buying everybody else’s crap for a bit.) It’s how the world sees us — it’s how we see ourselves.
Citizens vote; consumers select. And I think it drives us a bit crazy that this presidential caucus and primary system doesn’t allow us to select exactly what we want. Why can’t we mix and match? We can at the grocery store. We can with our cell phone plan. We can at Starbucks. What gives?! Well, electing a president simply doesn’t work that way and taking the “shopping for president” approach is only going to end in disappointment. That’s depressing. Perhaps we should all head to the mall to cheer ourselves up. (Actually, the other 6 billion people on the planet are pretty much counting on it.)