Voting As if Your Life(Savers) Depended On It

The good thing about living in a democracy is we can make our voices heard. The problem is getting anyone to pay attention. Take President Bush, for example. He thinks listening to protesters is like "[deciding] policy based upon a focus group." Of course it was during his election that votes were so highly thought of in Florida they were tossed out. So it's nice to know that there are still people who are not only genuinely interested in what we think and making sure our votes count, but who actively solicit them. So what if they're TV program creators and candy companies?

Television has become a democratic medium. It used to be we watched, we munched, we flipped the channels, we fell asleep. Now we're a part of it. We called in and helped decide who should stay in a house while Big Brother -- I mean, we -- played Peeping Tom 24 hours a day. Then we let our fingers do the voting and selected an American Idol. Not only did 15 million people cast ballots for the finalists, 286,000 of them shelled out their hard earned bucks to buy the winner's single during its first week of release, proving that mailing fundraising letters, speaking while people pretend to enjoy lame chicken dinners, and promising to toss lucrative government contracts at them are very passé ways to get people to fork over money.

Right now we can have twice the fun by voting two times in one week. We can call in and try to get our least favorite washed-up celebrity thrown out of the Australian rain forest on "I'm a Celebrity -- Get Me Out of Here!," even though it's tempting to change our vote so they'll stay and hopefully wind up as Purina Croc Chow. A couple of days later we can watch "Married By America" and play matchmaker for five people who are desperate for a spouse, desperate for publicity and, well, just plain desperate. Best of all, we can do it without having to register to vote. Or even be a citizen for that matter. This is especially good since a new reality TV show, "American Candidate," is in the works, and it would suck to not have your vote count just because you're a 16-year-old illegal alien who recently got out of prison on a felony charge.

The show is scheduled to hit the airwaves in January and you too can apply for the position of Commander in Chief. The first step to fame, fortune, and a license to bully the world will be to sign up at the program's website. Get your finger off the mouse, you won't be able to do this until May. The producers expect 10,000 people to sign up to run, which will be 12 more than the Democrats will have at that point. A "blue-ribbon leadership panel" -- think people who have won 4-H cattle contests -- will use a Magic 8 Ball, tarot cards, and a two-headed quarter to whittle the field down to 18 candidates, who over 13 prime-time episodes will try to woo viewers into choosing them to be the "people's candidate." Kind of like Ross Perot with less money, the same ego, and probably more votes.

If you want your vote to count and taste good, forget reality TV and politics, go online and vote for your favorite flavors of Life Savers. That's right, from now through the end of April you can go to candystand.com and vote for the flavors you think should be in the soon-to-be new and improved five-flavor roll of Life Savers. Not only will you have a say in the future of sugar shock everywhere, you'll also have the chance to win a BMW Z4 Roadster. This is a big improvement over reality TV voting where all you get is the satisfaction of knowing you weren't doing something constructive like reading a book. Or political elections where you wind up with the privilege of being able to place a bumper sticker on your car that reads: "Don't blame me, I voted for _______." Face it, voter turnout would be a whole lot higher if there were prizes involved.

This isn't the first time Life Savers has tried to make a flavor change. Four years ago they wanted to take pineapple out of the 65-year-old flavor line-up and gave people the choice of adding watermelon or strawberry. Fifty-four percent voted to keep pineapple. Twenty-five percent cast ballots for watermelon. The rest voted for Al Gore but made mistakes on their ballot so pineapple stayed put after all. This time, however, they're serious about changing it. You can choose from 11 flavors which include mango, blackberry, green apple, tangerine, and orange, though they don't say how you can tell the last two apart. Other than one won't have seeds. It's a shame they're limiting the choices and we can't vote for Wint-O-Green, the pyrotechnics of candy. Or maybe a few of the old favorites which they don't make anymore, like Choc-O-Mint, Lic-O-Rice, Cinn-O-Mon, or Cl-O-Ve. That would be quite a five-flavor roll right there.

Hopefully all this voting will get people in the habit so the turnout for the next presidential election will increase. Of course it would help if we could vote by telephone or Internet. And yes, giving away a car in a random drawing would be a plus. But more than that, a popular, likeable candidate would be a good thing. After all, 125 million people enjoy Life Savers every day, which is a lot more than enjoy any politician on a given day. Is it any wonder with that constituency they can get people out to vote?

More Mad Dog at www.maddogproductions.com. His compilation of travel humor columns, "If It's Such a Small World Then Why Have I Been Sitting On This Airplane For 12 Hours?" is published by Xlibris Corp. He can be reached at md@maddogproductions.com

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