Election 2016: Where’s Katniss when you need her?

SALT LAKE CITY — President Snow and Coin are running in the 2016 presidential race. Not really of course, but they probably would have a shot this year considering today’s pseudo-apocalyptic political climate. While actually only alive in Suzanne Collins’ popular Hunger Games trilogy, these characters shed more light onto America’s current political foray than the public might consider.

As “Mockingjay Part Two” was released this past week, the alert kept running through my head: “Attention Katniss. Calling Katniss — SOS.” Are you the only leader whose “aim [is] as true as your heart is pure?”

It’s unfortunate that Panem’s fictitious reality seems more reflective of America’s current political landscape than PBS’s popular documentary “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History.” While the current political scene seems abhorrent, citizenry should still hold off mobilizing with the doomsday preppers anytime soon.

Politics is still necessary and a good thing. While a corrupt government can enact legislation forcing children to fight to the death on an annual televised event, it can also mobilize the resistance by providing a forum for checks.

By its very nature, politics is a two-edged sword. Though often misused to control and manipulate “the masses,” the existence of politics is a necessary good as asserted by political philosopher Hannah Arendt. She finds that “the answer to the question of the meaning of politics is so simple and conclusive that one might think that all the other answers are beside the point. The answer of politics is freedom.”

It may be hard to remember that fact at the moment, when both sides of the political spectrum seem to be embroiled in relentlessly caustic dialogue that may have given Abraham Lincoln, if he were alive today, PTSD flashbacks to his 1860s days.

Politics is good — yes, but sorting through the political rhetoric and authentic belief of a candidate sometimes seems like a K2 ascent itself. This task, often left to the voter’s responsibility, requires substantial work and effort, and one which is easily shirked. I mean who wants to dive into this mess anyway? Especially when the modern world constantly overwhelms our senses by diverting our attention elsewhere: Cate Blanchett wore what to the Oscars?

Besides the typical outrageous Hollywood sound bytes, the media sensationalizes politics into reality-TV-like fodder. Increasingly one can get distracted from the substance by diva drama of politics as well. #CruzScandal anyone? Nonetheless, maintaining quality political engagement is crucial for national survival and freedom.

The first step in quality engagement is thinking beyond a candidate’s sound bytes.

Each candidate alleges as being different from his or her political counterpart. Is Donald Trump really a far cry from Hillary Clinton for example? Yes — on the political ideological spectrum, but, perhaps, eerily more similar than we care to imagine. While no one can truly determine another’s motivations, both candidates have lengthy track records proving that perhaps “their aim isn’t as pure as their hearts.”

Trump has donated money throughout the decades to the Clintons to curry influence. The Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in contributions from Qatar and Saudi Arabia while Clinton was secretary of state. If both are so ideologically devoted to their causes, why is one giving funds to the left and the other receiving donations from countries with gross human and women’s rights violations, contradicting her 1995 address, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights.”

It isn’t possible to see an actual side-by-side comparison of a Clinton and Trump presidency. However, one need look no further than the outcomes of various communist and fascist regimes of the past to note that regardless of ideology, both systems, several times, resulted in mass extermination. Eventually, extremes, whether occurring on the left or the right, become nearly indistinguishable without reasonable and moderate interjection.

The ancient Aristotelian plea for moderation seems like a far cry for most Americans to hearken to. Perhaps if the public listens a little more prudently and less so for pure shock value to their candidates, they could better discern who the authentic statesman is.

President Snow was clearly a totalitarian and cruel despot, but at least an honest one: “I wasn’t watching Coin. I was watching you, Mockingjay. And you were watching me. I’m afraid we’ve both been played for fools. Oh, my dear Miss Everdeen. I thought we had agreed not to lie to each other.”

President Coin was heralded as the political revolutionary of the people, but in an ironic twist of fate actually proved more sadistic in the end — killing both Capitol and District children in a “wasteful” and unnecessary attack, even according to Snow. So, while Coin is the heir apparent spokesman for the people, she clearly doesn’t have their interest at heart.

Perhaps Clinton or Trump won’t be throwing children into a Gladiator ring anytime, but just because one claims to be for the people by the people doesn’t necessarily make them one.

Of course, all is not as it appears to be. Political rhetoric is still political rhetoric regardless of whether a “revolutionary” or the “establishment” Republicans or Democrats use it. Victory usually goes to those who wield rhetoric the best. But if this election cycle’s fact-checking record shows, whether a statement is accepted by the public doesn’t make it any truer.

After all, Coin offers these words in public: “Welcome to the New Panem. Today, on the avenue of the tributes, all of Panem, a free Panem, will witness more than a mere spectacle. We are gathered to witness an historic moment of justice.” This promising statement comes shortly after Coin calls a private meeting together made up of former Hunger Games victors to vote on whether to initiate another Hunger Games. She chooses this course after deciding that using the Capitol’s children would be a wise political move in order to satiate lingering, revolutionary bloodlust.

So who is better? And if there isn’t a viable selection, perhaps, then it’s time to make room for a third option. After all, neither Snow nor Coin was leading Panem on The Hunger Games’ last page, but an emergent third party — albeit one with a little less flare for the dramatic, but perhaps better intent and purpose for the fledgling new government.

Obviously, there isn’t an exact correlation between the policies of Clinton and Coin or Snow and Trump. The ins and outs of Panem’s political infrastructure can only be assumed. The lesson learned from both Coin and Snow though, regardless, echoes an age-old adage: “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Of course most who run for office desire some degree of authority — or they would not run. However, when we elect those for whom power is the sole driving motivator, so recedes politics into the foreground, and democracy becomes an archaic notion.

So, pick your candidate, but do so wisely.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Originally published at www.ksl.com.