In what I consider easily the most important presidential election campaign in my life, the final countdown is underway. America will hold its 57th presidential election on November 6th, and including this one, I have distinct memories of 15 of those, beginning in 1956 when my mom held me up to see her pull the lever for what became President Dwight Eisenhower’s second term. Nothing in the political world has such importance, I believe, just as I am certain that far, far too many in our country fail to understand that fact.
As we proceed through these final days, I am mindful of the lessons of a career in and around our nation’s political business, and I will share the “top five” – in reverse order of importance – of those with readers who care to consider them.
For all the worrying many of us do about whether our presidential elections are overly influenced by Democrats or Republicans, we would do well to understand that the lust for ultimate human power exceeds mere party i.d.
Mainly situated inside the Washington, DC, Beltway is a mass of people who make and/or take huge amounts of money to control our nation’s – the world’s? – levers of power. This kind of power, by the way, is the ultimate kind for humans, not mere influence. Those who gain, then control, then deploy this power are far less concerned with their political party than with their power to control our federal government, regardless of the nook or cranny in which that power resides. If Democrats are in power, these legions send in their affiliated “Democrat” teams, and if Republicans are, they send in their team members wearing those particular uniforms. As the Tea Party movement demonstrated in 2010’s mid-year elections, nothing fazes, much less frightens, these bosses and operatives like an uncontrolled mass of just plain folks who never got the memo about what is and is not “allowed” by the powerful in this most important business of America.
To be biased is to be human, and working diligently to be unbiased where one’s job supposedly demands it is the pursuit of a few deeply committed people.
It is very good that many of us worry about the degree to which bias – especially in the news media – now dominates (and has always dominated) our electoral process. We know, though, that it is as unrealistic to believe or assume a reporter can be unbiased as it is to believe or assume a minister is any less tempted than we. Rather, the issue is whether or not we can find a minister who shows over time that he or she knows this, and strives harder than most in the struggle not to succumb to those temptations. Among the many journalists, analysts and other political practitioners are many who prove over time that they are fully aware of their biases, and are willing and able to reveal them to us when they know such is necessary. This makes these people not only good journalists, analysts, etc., but also good and honest people. Who, exactly, these admirable people are is up to each of us to decide. (Hint: America recently lost and misses the work of a man included in my list of these women and men, David Broder, for more than 40 years a journalist extraordinaire at the Washington Post.)
In the relatively recent past, America has devolved to produce candidates for key elective offices who run for all the wrong reasons, and, when elected, are really lousy – or worse – in doing what we elected them to do.
In my lifetime, I have watched in (relative) despair as the bar of and for public service has been dramatically lowered. Most of this phenomenon is attributable either to the far too high salaries and benefits – both legal and illegal – such jobs now offer, or to the paucity of good, honest and decent people who will tolerate the abuse now implicit in such public service. Then there are those who are elected and quickly demonstrate that the words “steward of the public trust” are five words which either they have never heard strung together in that order, or which form a phrase meaning no more to them than “it’s five o’clock somewhere!” There are no mulligans in elections: when we the voters fail in our homework and elect charlatans and misfeasors, there is a very real and negative price to pay. More to the point, we are thus failing in our homework more and more often these days.
What the vast majority of Americans know and believe is – precisely, I would argue – what our nation’s founders knew and believed. We are hard-wired to know that much of what we are offered today by politicos is horse-hockey and, at best, tortured logic.
Nothing is more frightening to me about America today than the number of people who seem intellectually and morally available to entertain debate about what makes America the best place in the world. A good example is how our Democratic Party argues loudly – and non-stop – that requiring a person to positively identify themselves in order to vote is somehow an attack on that person’s human rights. A huge majority of us, of course, knew more or less from the jump that such an argument is so deeply wrong that the person peddling it should be embarrassed to even consider it, much less speak it! Many, many of us in and around politics know very well that all such arguments are the necessary first step in election fraud, which is to say, in stealing elections. For a host of reasons and needs, any person legally living in America can easily obtain any one of many kinds of personal identification necessary to vote. The fact and truth, and a feature installed by God at the factory, is that not requiring positive voter i.d. is specifically and literally an official invitation to cheat.
More than anything else, it seems to me to be most important – by far – to remember as we vote that only the very hard things for America remain to be done. We are not voting on November 6th for a good American President. For the sake of the Union, for we and the next generation (or two) of our children, we simply have to get this right, and that’s right with a capital “R”. Personally, what I recognized when the economy collapsed in 2008 was that time is certainly not on America’s – our – side. We know what decades of spending what we did not have means, no matter what political “star” might argue to the contrary. That understanding, too, was given to us at the factory.
No one can predict what happens if we mess this up any further, but most of us know this isn’t just another presidential election.
Elliott StonecipherElliott Stonecipher’s reports, essays and commentaries are written strictly in the public interest. No compensation of any kind has been solicited or accepted for this work. This work is protected, and no other use of it is permitted without the written consent of Mr. Stonecipher.