Dear Up & Coming Weekly Readers:
Super Tuesdays have come and gone in North Carolina and other states, and even though the fields have narrowed to a handful of candidates still standing and time is growing increasingly short, we do not yet know who will bear our parties’ standards as we choose a Ppresident in November.
At the risk of sounding like a grouchy old lady, this entire, remarkable, and in my lifetime, unprecedented election season strikes me as heading down at least two tracks. We Americans — party affiliation notwithstanding — are behaving in two ways. We have either suspended our disbelief about what our wannabe officeholders tell us or we have thrown all reason to the wind and allow nothing to offend us. Stunningly, some of us are doing both.
Let’s talk about suspending rational thought.
I know Ted Cruz cannot singlehandedly do away with the Internal Revenue Service, because American presidents have no magic wands. In fact, they have Congress just down the street. Our Constitution created balances of power — thank you, thank you, Founding Fathers!
I also know the United States cannot afford to provide universal healthcare and free college educations to everyone who might seek them, no matter what Bernie Sanders says on television. We simply do not have enough money. And, goodness gracious, The Donald cannot build a fortress wall along our nation’s southern border, nor can he bus or fly everyone in our nation illegally home to Mommy. Here again, there is not enough money — unless, of course, the Donald wants to spring for all this himself, and, of course, there is that pesky Congress again to manage.
Worth mentioning as well is the U. S. Supreme Court, which can smack down both president and Congress, at which point the cycle of figuring out new plans kicks in, and we are off again. Ours is far from a perfect governmental design, but I agree with Winston Churchill who famously observed about our messy system, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.”
Hear! Hear! Anyone up for another system?
On the other front, American presidential politics have historically been rough and tumble from our earliest elections. Even so, I am hardly the first person to fret about civility and decorum in this year’s campaigns. Our candidates have called names, accused entire groups of people of crimes, joked about the disabled, impugned a former prisoner of war’s courage, made negative remarks about each other’s physical appearances and commented on their own
and others’ body parts and bodily functions.
Many Americans would not allow this kind of talk at the family dinner table, but we are not only tolerating it from our candidates, we are embracing it.
It is as if we are having a collective temper tantrum.
Turn on your TV most any time, and the talking heads are chatting about anger in America, much of it centered on economic insecurity and inequality felt acutely by our nation’s shrinking middle class. I get that. I feel it, too, and worry about the Precious Jewels’ generation of young adults whom economists and sociologists say may not attain their parents’ level of physical or financial health. Our nation
is in a period of transition, and change makes people uncomfortable and anxious.
I have to wonder, though, whether we are doing ourselves any favors by accepting candidate promises that simply cannot be true and by cheering on candidate words and behaviors that we would spurn in our own lives. Is choosing our leader and our face to the rest of the world out of anger and anxiety our best decision?
Elections almost always generate strong opinions and sometimes the passion we are seeing in the 2016 cycle, but I struggle to imagine that decisions based on emotion instead of rational thought will take us where we want to go. That has rarely worked in my personal life, and I do not think it will work in our collective public life.
Having a temper tantrum in the voting booth is not rational decision making.
Thank you for letting me vent.