So many people are bloviating about politics these days on cable television, the radio and on the internet that Americans tend to pay attention only to viewpoints they agree with or they tune out completely. To make things even worse, the American higher-education system is turning out political dunces who don’t know what every eight-grader in public school knew 50 years ago. But now, however, our presidential candidates all agree things are really bad. That must mean they really are.
To attract attention, professional and amateur political commentators increasingly have resorted to extreme language. The left has accused the right of sins the Nazis and the fascists became famous for. The right has accused the left of totalitarian tendencies communists are known for. So when either side makes an extreme accusation, even when they’re true, they often get lost in the background noise.
The ongoing presidential campaigns, however, appear to be rising above the clammer of the crowed. Republicans and Democrats are telling us that the fate of the nation rests on the outcome of the November election. Little is new in this except for the fact that it appears truer now than any time since the Civil War. Although Democrats have been running the Federal government for the past seven plus years, they want us to believe that every ill that’s befallen the country is the fault of Republicans. Republicans tell us that President Obama set out to transform America, he’s almost done it, all we need is another Democrat in the White House to complete what he began. America will be done for. Don’t get me started on climate change.
Listening to the respective presidential debates this year should be eye opening. Bernie Sanders and Hillary outdid Republicans at Thursday evenings debate, portraying the United States in the direst terms. Sanders says, “Almost everyone is getting poorer.” “Ordinary Americans are worried to death about the future of their kids.” “There is massive despair all over this country.” “Seniors are cutting their pills in half…don’t have decent nutrition…can’t heat their homes in the wintertime.” “A rigged economic system and a corrupt political system have created a moment of serious crises.”
Clinton repeatedly agreed with Sanders that too many Americans are getting left behind. “‘Yes, the economy is rigged in favor of those at the top.” Her main critique of the Sanders critique was that it lacked identity-politics specificity, that it didn’t recognize the unique challenges of “really systemic racism” against blacks, of “hardworking immigrant families living in fear,” of women’s rights that are “under tremendous attack,” of “discrimination against the LGBT community,” even of the struggles in coal country and other downtrodden white communities “where we are seeing an increase in alcoholism, addiction, earlier deaths.’”
So how bad is it, really? Like everything else in life, that much depends on your perspective. Not everyone in America is suffering; and Americans have faced extreme adversity in the past (The Civil War, WWII, The Great Depression) and rebounded. What’s so bad this time is that the America most of us knew and loved growing up already has disappeared and likely is unrecoverable. Demographic diversity, pervasive technological change, political correctness and a culture of victimization have overtaken traditional American values and replaced them with values we do not yet fully understand.
Certainly, change frequently is a good thing. America was better after the Civil war when slavery was abolished. It’s taking 150 years and more to adapt to that change, but still we’re better off. The world is better off since World War II, and the US economy blossomed tremendously after the Great Depression. These changes have led us to believe that no matter what befalls America we will always bounce back better and stronger. What scares us now is that it looks more and more as if this time we won’t.
This election is a seminal one. There is a huge difference between Republicans and Democrats. Your country and your life will change for better or worse. It’s time to get out your bullshit detector and vote. Remember, we get the government we deserve.