In my view, elections tell us a lot --- about ourselves and each other.
These days we constantly hear that the 2012 elections will be the most important in our lifetime. That may or may not be true, although I doubt it, but there is one thing that I do know.
Our U.S. political system is dysfunctional, if not broken, and candidates aren't discussing the real issues facing America candidly and openly. Instead they talk about whether the rich or the bankers are to blame for all our ills, or whether ObamaCare or the failed stimulus program are at the core of all our problems.
They're intentionally staying away from talking about the tough stuff, and that's a shame. My straightforward view is that we have finally reached the point where all the issues that We the People have created for ourselves over the past several decades must soon be addressed and resolved.
While at the time decades of debt-fueled spending may have felt to many like hard-earned success, at least for a while, that fictional feel good party has ended, the hangover has begun, and now choices will have to be made about how we're going to live our lives going forward. Whither American Exceptionalism and individual freedom and self reliance, in other words.
Personally, I'm for limited government, self reliance, living within our means, and helping out those who need help. I'm also for equal opportunity for all and providing a hand-up as opposed to a hand-out. I'm for good schools, accessible health care, adequate retirement care, competition, free trade and lots of other good things as well. My guess is that you are, too.
So the question arises as to how we choose to go about achieving these aspirational goals in light of the fact that we have only limited resources to work with, both as individuals and as a broader society.
And making those choices requires candid discussions, making trade-offs and agreeing upon compromises. Unfortunately, that's not the kind of politics we have. Instead we have name calling and pitting one American against a fellow American. And we have no serious discussion at all about how we're going to pay for what we agree to do or the evils of excessive debt burdens. That's exactly how we got into this mess.
So when the election results are counted in November, somebody will be declared the winner, and the sun will come up the next morning and life will go on pretty much as it was before that "life changing election" day. We'll wake up with all the exact same problems that we have today and the same dysfunctional political system as well.
But then maybe we'll finally realize that We the People must take charge and that these enormous problems which have grown for decades must be directly addressed and solved. And that we can't continue to borrow and spend money we don't have and that we can't rely on others, especially politicians, to do our thinking for us.
Interestingly, polls today suggest that perhaps lots of American are feeling the same way I am about all this stuff. As Pogo said, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
Political Perceptions: Most Important Race Ever, or Not suggests we've seen this political movie before:
"Presidential candidates love to warn of turmoil if they don’t win in
Gerald Ford saw his race against Jimmy
Carter as “one of the most vital” in the country’s history. That was 36
Richard Gephardt saw “challenges as great and engaging as
any in our history” as he sought the Democratic presidential nomination in
Sen. John Kerry was equally emphatic, telling voters that
his 2004 battle against President George W. Bush was the most
important of our time. Supporters Barbra Streisand and
Bruce Springsteen loudly agreed.
Never one to be outdone, Newt Gingrich said over and over
during the Republican primaries this year that the 2012 election was the most
important since at least 1860.
And yet voters are a bit more blasé. At the moment, evidence is scant that
Americans see the 2012 election as the most consequential of their lifetime.
Last month, 63% of voters told the Pew
Research Center that “it really matters who wins” in November—a level dead
even with 2008 and lower than 2004. Among independents, the number falls to 57%.
But that, too, was basically the same as in 2008 and less than in 2004.
But aren’t voters much more interested in this election than previous ones?
Not really. Fewer than half of voters say they are more interested in this
campaign than the one four years ago, Pew found. Overall, interest in this
election is on par with 2004 but lower than both 2008 and 1992, according to
The Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll unearthed a similar
tepidness among the public when it comes to the November vote. Asked in June if
they were more or less enthusiastic about this election than previous ones, just
47% said they were more pumped up, while 36% said they were less so.
The enthusiasm edge tilts slightly to presumptive Republican nominee
Mitt Romney, with 55% of his supporters expressing more
enthusiasm about this election, compared to 45% of President Barack
Obama’s supporters. But of the independents who might determine the
election, 52% said they were less enthusiastic about this election compared to
There are good reasons to extol the unusual importance of what happens in
November. The contrasts between the two candidates could hardly be sharper. And
the country looks to be at a tipping point, both in its political identity and
in the direction of its economy.
But so far voters don’t appear convinced of the same starkness the candidates
Remember Pogo's advice and don't leave your common sense at home.
During the campaign, don't believe most of what you hear, and instead rely on your own judgment and not that of those running for elected office, whoever they may be. They're seeking work.
You see, it's their job but it's our country.
And remember that if you like the election results, there will be another person who won't.
And if you don't like the results, you'll have another shot at change in two or four years.
That's the great thing about self governance. We're in charge.
Now we need to act that way. We really do.