Certainly, politics has never been a pretty business, but I doubt that I would get much argument in stating that this particular political season has been as nasty, vitriolic, and personal as any in recent memory—including not a few of those ads where the candidate’s visage appears to say that he or she “approved this message.”
Like a couple of bickering siblings, both sides protest either that they didn’t start it, or that it is the other side’s fault. Lowered to levels of political discourse that once would have gotten your mouth washed out with soap, the verbal free-for-all threatens to obfuscate not only the real issues in this election, but the truth itself. We’re all sick and tired of it—even when they’re dishing the dirt on the candidate we’re hoping is forced to slink off the public stage in disgrace come Tuesday.
Ultimately, of course, these strident pleas represent attempts not only to persuade, but to overcome the historic inertia of the American citizenry, particularly in one of these so-called “off-year” elections. Those of us who struggle to get workers to properly prepare for their own personal retirement security can surely appreciate the challenge, if not the consequences.
However ill we may be of the discourse, there is little argument that this election, more than most, will have a dramatic impact not only on the next two years, but on the 2008 presidential election campaign that is already underway. The political pundits have it all figured out, of course—but they’ve been wrong before. Political punditry spends a lot of time looking back over its shoulders at the past, but as any mutual fund investor knows (or should know), “past performance is no guarantee of future results.” Indeed, whether it is because, or in spite, of the current level of vitriol, the American public’s interest in expressing its opinion by actually taking the time to go to the polls – or in pursuing an absentee ballot—appears to be on the upswing. And, if the last several elections have taught us nothing else, we now know that votes—even a single vote—can matter.
The nation is not so cleanly demarcated into “blue” and “red” as pundits would have us believe, though we surely have our differences, IMHO. I suspect at most levels the voting public is not as polarized in their opinions as those running for political office seem to think. Frequently, that means that we must indeed opt for “the lesser of two evils,” but at least we have a choice—and unlike the brave Iraqis who walked to the polls last December to exercise a right to which they were long-deprived, we can do so without fear of assassination or retribution.
Here’s hoping that—whatever your position on the issues – you take the time to vote this election. It is not only a right, after all, it is also a privilege—and a responsibility.