Remember ninth grade civics class? Yes, that one, the one wherein you and your classmates explored the government, how bills are written in congress and eventually become law. You likely also discussed political parties and how people of significance were sponsored by the different parties and the ‘best man’ (literally, back then) won. Life seemed straightforward. Good people ran for office and good people won and the country proceeded forward, always with like-minded individuals pursuing the best government for us all. We were young and believed it all.
Now, think back. When was the last time you believe the *best* candidate won an election? Okay, forget that. When was the last time that you felt that at least *one* of the final two candidates for political office met your standards for integrity, experience, and intelligence? Gotcha!
Okay, I’m being too harsh. Or maybe not. Let’s look at this year’s presidential candidates. A large contingent of voters believes Donald Trump is unfit to be president, and another contingent believes Joe Biden is incompetent to be president. And they’re both right, at least in their hearts. Didn’t we face this dilemma four years ago, an election where there was this divisiveness and lack of choice? Yep, there was a large contingent of voters believing Hillary Clinton was incompetent to be president and another contingent believing Donald Trump was unfit to be president. And, there again, both contingents were right—but one of the two won. And this year it will happen again—one of the two undesirables will win. Here we have a country with a population of 330 million people—330 million—and our presidential candidates are reduced to a choice between two people, each felt to be either unfit or incompetent by half the voters. Don’t we deserve better?
By now, you may be in strong disagreement with me. And you’re right; the person you wanted to win was/is one of the final two candidates. Hillary Clinton had strong followers in 2016, no argument there. And both Trump and Biden each have their loyal believers this year. The problem I’ve been indirectly leading toward is that our country is becoming seriously divided; the finalists for election are not even remotely close on many topics considered serious to voters and we also question their integrity. We either despise candidates, or we favor them because their campaigns serve our preferences.
This is not a new phenomenon, as we have been living daily with the displeasure voiced by many voters about the 2016 election results. Further back, we experienced a similar divide in the 2012 election that pitted Barack Obama against Mitt Romney, where Obama won with 51% of the vote. In 2008, we saw Barack Obama upset John McCain with 53% of the vote (but he did carry 365 Electoral College votes). In 2004, George Bush squeaked by John Carry with 50.7% of the vote. An election to forget was the 2004 one that gave us George Bush with 47.9% of the popular vote and an Electoral College majority that many believe was only because the Florida vote count was suspended. This history, going back two decades, shows a country whose citizens continually grow further apart, with a near majority being displeased with the elected candidate.
For comparison, let’s view the 1972 election, where Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern, winning 60.7% of the popular vote and a whopping 520 Electoral College votes. Five hundred and twenty. Unheard of today, but the kind of election that we took for granted in that ninth grade civics class. So, it’s possible and proof that, at one time, our country was together or, at minimum, willing to work together.
Am I overly worried? Are there riots in streets? Are our police being attacked? Are supremacist groups growing? Are political candidates attacking the opposition personally, not just for differences in opinions?
The answer to all those is YES. We all should be concerned. I am. We can do better. We have much in common and are letting fringe elements influence us to their narrow views. There is a far left group that sees socialism as the answer to our needs, and there is a far right group that is religiously fundamental, leaning strongly to use more Bible teachings in the constitution. Neither serves us well. As a country, we will do best to avoid self-serving messages from the media and find our own beliefs on the way forward. We do this together or we self-destruct. Our country cannot continue with the divisive environment we have created.