Cynical: “believing that people are motivated purely by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.” (Oxford Language Dictionary).
Politically Cynical: “Chris Veninga.” (Me).
As I’ve grown up and watched the world around me, I have jumped all over the political spectrum. I remember my liberal phase in early high school, my conservative phase in later high school, my liberal phase my freshman year of college, and now my libertarian phase. And yet, up until recently, I had never been to a political event in my life. Not one lunch, not a rally, and no town halls. Now, this libertarian is being thrown into the deep end of the very political system he’s cynical about.
“Your vote doesn’t matter. The elites and the state work together to ensure that you voluntarily continue your own cycle of oppression as they get richer.”
This thought, expressed on various libertarian online forums, came into my head as I was sitting down in the cool grass on a beautiful October evening in West Des Moines. I was trying to wipe my hands from the greasy grilled cheese sandwich I was eating at Vivek Ramaswamy’s Vektoberfest.
“Well,” I thought to myself. “If the elites keep making grilled cheese sandwiches this good, then I can get onboard with this whole oppression thing.”
Though I know this way of thinking from politically cynical people like me isn’t necessarily true, some days when I get really angry at the system, I can’t help but think it. “Why do people even bother? They’re just getting screwed no matter who is in office.”
But as I sat and looked at the hundreds of people around me, I couldn’t help but think of something that made this libertarian Grinch’s heart grow three sizes; “This matters to people. The food, the live music, the candidate, and the comradery... it all matters.” People want legitimate change in this country, and they believe that their candidate can provide that.
A few weeks before this, I was at the Polk County Democrats Steak Fry. Again, hundreds of people showed up to chow down on food and listen to prominent Midwestern politicians speak. Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota spoke to the Iowan crowd, making references and jokes about college football — something nearly everyone in the state cares about because the Hawkeyes and the Cyclones are tied closely to their communities.
That’s when another thought occurred to me: “Man, these state-sponsored puppets are really good at pretending they care. They’re really knowledgeable about the problems impacting Iowans. They really have a plan that they really seem to be passionate about.”
“Wait a minute… what if they are really passionate about it and there’s no puppetry involved?”
I still consider myself a political cynic, even though politics do fascinate me. But what I’ve learned as Iowa gets prepped for another crazy caucus season is that people can see through establishment puppetry, especially Iowans. Bullsh*t is only going to get you so far. But showing the people that you care, are informed, and above all else, can talk to the individual instead of the camera will indeed help you win the presidential election.