Politics, Fans, and Distractions

by | Oct 30, 2014 | In the News

(micro) Electric Fan courtesy Flickr user Vincent Lee
(micro) Electric Fan courtesy Flickr user Vincent Lee

(micro) Electric Fan courtesy Flickr user Vincent Lee

In the midst of October, we’re simultaneously in my favorite and least favorite time of the year.  My least favorite would be midterms, which means extra papers and exams on top of my already full schedule.  To quote one of my latest not-so-guilty pleasures, “Are we out of the woods yet?” Luckily I’ve got my favorite time of year to distract me – campaign season!  With only a couple of weeks to go until Election Day, it’s prime time for candidates to take to the air waves, parade routes, and debate stages to make their final pitches for why they deserve your vote.

A little over a week ago, one of these debate stages was the setting for what might be the strangest incident of the 2014 election cycle:

Florida’s second gubernatorial debate got off to a bizarre start Wednesday evening when incumbent Gov. Rick Scott (R) initially refused to debate his opponent because he had a fan under his lectern.

Democratic candidate Charlie Crist, the former Florida governor hoping to unseat Scott in next month’s election, had a small electric fan placed under his lectern. This, Scott’s campaign claimed, violated the debate’s “no electronics” rule.

‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have a an extremely peculiar situation right now,’ debate moderator Elliot Rodriguez of CBS Miami told the crowd, as the camera panned to two empty lecterns onstage. Seconds later, Crist walked onstage, but Scott was absent.

While I have no interest in getting into a conversation about who was in the right on this question, I do have to ask: was a vigorous exchange of ideas about how one can best lead a State of 20 million people really, seriously, nearly derailed by a fan?  Could any piece of plastic, metal, and wire like that really be more important to either of these candidates than the chance to share their plans to meet the challenges facing the State that they aspire to lead?

It seems to me that both of them, for a few minutes, gave themselves over to being utterly totally distracted by a fan (and the opportunity to make the other look unreasonable).  As a result, they lost sight of what they actually came to that debate to do, and so did a disservice to those they hope to serve.

I guess this story caught my attention because I’ve got plenty of proverbial fans in my own life.   Even when I’ve got plenty of work to do, sometimes it is far easier to let myself get wrapped up in things that simply do not matter as much – checking what’s new on Facebook, reading review after review of this year’s new running shoes, reorganizing my sock drawer, the list can go on and on.

I suspect I’m safe in saying we’ve all got these sorts of fans.  A little distraction here and there can be a fine thing, but I find it helpful to stop every now and again to ask myself what I’m really focusing on – something that I actually hold to be important, or a passing concern like a fan behind a lectern.  And maybe that’s one of the lessons of this year’s campaign season: how do we recognize these “fans” in our lives, and how do we help each other get back to what’s really important?


(micro) Electric Fan image courtesy Flickr user Vincent Lee, found here.


Danny Gustafson, SJ

dgustafsonsj@thejesuitpost.org   /   All posts by Danny