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Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Blast From The Past

A few nights ago on one of the C-Span channels, I saw what, in political campaigning terms, could be called the 'good old days.' It was the second Presidential debate between then President Ronald Reagan and former Vice President Walter Mondale. This debate did epitomize the good old days.  It did so not necessarily because of the cast of characters; it did so because of how the debate was carried out. There was no mention of the size of someone's hands or what seedy things one of the candidates said or did in the past. And the debate made no mention of emails nor were the debate questions favorably leaked to a candidate.

Yes, some of the same stuff that was going on then still goes on today. There were American interventions that led to chaos and violence in 1984. Only then, the focus of American interventionism was more on Central America than on the Middle East despite the fact that the Middle East required a great deal of attention. However, we weren't trying to overthrow regimes in the Middle East back then like we were in Central America or like we do today. 

What made this presidential debate a blast from the past is that the debate focused on the issues. Those asking the questions asked specific questions about issues and policies. The debate participants tried to answer those questions in detail as best as possible. And the participants didn't interrupt each other. It was one way in which a presidential debate should be conducted. But a debate like that one could not be conducted the same way today.

What most qualifies today's presidential candidates from the two major parties is who each candidate is not. Hillary is not Trump and Trump is not Hillary. And so in the eyes of the party loyalists, that is all that is required for them to vote for their respective party's nominee. Thus, the loyalists from each  party will vote for the not-them candidate. Loyal Republicans will vote for the not-Hillary candidate and loyal Democrats will vote for the not-Trump candidate. In addition, many voters who call themselves independent will only vote for Hillary or for Trump. Such voters are not independent, they are bipolar.

Those of us who are disgusted with this year's presidential campaign might want to consider an ugly truth. Just as art reflects life, so too a nation's candidates reflect its people. These candidates just might be us minus their privileges and resources. And so if we want better candidates, we need to be better people. And just as better people would demand more from themselves, so too would such people demand more from their candidates other than being not-them candidates.

Our nation is really divided by multiple groups who feel they are superior to all other groups. And we are told that the solution to such division is to be united. But such rhetoric is really too vague to act on. So instead of saying that we should be united, I think we should work on sharing more with those who disagree with us. We need to share dialogues as well as power. The more we look at our democracy as  an arena of competition, the more the same-old, same-old continues. And the more the same-old, same-old continues, then the greater the probability that future elections will, if we are lucky, only be as bad as this year's presidential election.


 

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