If you were addressing the nation on Wednesday, Nov. 7, the DAY AFTER the election, what would you say? What advice would you offer to your fellow Americans about the next four years?
As a political science major in undergraduate studies, I
took a class on “The Press and Politics” during winter quarter in 1980 in the midst of a presidential election. My classmates and I watched news coverage of the candidates, their debates, and their “spin” on plans and proposals. We gathered together to watch primary returns and discussed implications at length. I was fascinated. I was hooked.
Until this year. This year I avoided news coverage of the election. I did not watch debates. I occasionally read editorials in the newspaper, but only occasionally. I quit listening to NPR’s All Things Considered because I knew they’d cover the election at some point during the program. This year I had just had all the attacking, spinning, sound biting, empty promising, and avoiding of reality that I could take. I will absolutely vote, but will do so
based on my values and understanding of what’s been happening in Washington for the past 4 years. But I have stayed away from the election itself. If I, who have been a political junkie of sorts, was turned off by the election, how much more those who’ve never gotten very involved? No wonder our younger generations tend to be so cynical.
I want not to feel this way again. I want us to conduct elections that are worthy of American democratic ideals and worthy of our
constitution. I want to watch and be fascinated again. So, in the aftermath of this election, I find myself wishing I could promote meaningful conversations about our elections. I’d start with these two concerns first:
1. Surely it is past time to have a national conversation about
campaign finance reform. Two billion dollars spent on an election is simply obscene. We have a huge national debt, are struggling to fund quality education, provide health care for our wounded soldiers or health insurance for the working poor, repair roads and bridges, etc., but we have just spent 2 billion dollars on a presidential campaign that was negative and did nothing to lift up the country. Periodically preachers rant that God will bring judgment on America for failure of personal morals (usually meaning sexual misbehavior
or abortion). But I would point out that the Jewish prophets, and Jesus along with them, talked at length of God’s concern for the most vulnerable people in their land (“the poor, the widow, the orphan,” and the “least of these”). The most vulnerable members of our country are still in need of better housing, better nutrition, health care, and quality education. But while we are cutting those budgets due to lack of resources, we spend $2 billion on an election. I wouldn’t blame God for bringing judgment on us for this obscene spending.
2. About a month ago I thought that I’d like to ask both candidates this question: Are you embarrassed that, in a campaign for the highest office in our land, we must have “fact checkers” at work on your speeches and debates? Since then I’ve changed my mind. Instead, I think we, the voting population, should ask ourselves: Are WE embarrassed that we must have fact checkers at work in a campaign for the highest office in our land? The need for fact checkers tells us that the candidates believe our votes are swayed by attack ads, sound bites, style over
substance, and telling us what we want to hear. As long as they believe that, we’re going to get exactly the kind of election we’ve just had, one dominated by spin doctors and half truths (thus the need for fact checkers). So, if we want better elections, then we must be better voters.
Responsible campaign financing, responsible voters…
Come on, let’s do this!