Friday, October 26, 2012

Vote! We need to get this over with!

This election concerns some very important issues, and the differences between the candidates are, at times, stark. With the polls showing that the outcome is just too close to call, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that passions are running high. But this election has brought out the worst in us, rather than calling us to be our best.

Can't we please try to remember that every one of us hopes for a better future? Each of us believes in America and our potential to do good in the world. While some vote for self-interest, many do not. Many are concerned with the greater good, both domestic and foreign. And while we might differ on which candidate can best lead us in the next four years, we're all trying to do our best.

Candidates, who pour forth millions of words (along with a billion dollars on this year's presidential campaigns), are bound to state things awkwardly now and then. Their faces will take on an unfortunate expression from time to time. They will have supporters make an a** of themselves and the candidates they support. But does this election have to be about who said the stupidest thing in an off-the-cuff moment?  Or whose surrogate used the most unfortunate turn of phrase? Or which campaign has the most Super PACs funding the most negative ads? Or about the most outrageous misstatement of the other person's position that the campaign wizards can construe?

Can't we at least maintain a veneer of respect--for self and others?

Instead of respect, I find that the longer the campaign season goes, the less civil we become. States try to limit the franchise believing, perhaps correctly, that having fewer voters gives their party an edge. We're no longer "for" our candidate; we're against the other one--with a disgust that includes everyone who thinks the other guy is worth voting for. Reputations are scorched, and our society is coarsened. Friendships are broken over it (and Facebook is nearly unbearable).

It wasn't always this bad. Perhaps the fact that the midterm elections seem to be the starting gate for the next presidential campaign is one reason things have gone to such an extreme. With two full campaign years to fill, talking about issues loses its punch. But Congress has no impetus to limit campaigns, and the Supreme Court wouldn't uphold it if it did (as it proved in the Citizen's United v. Federal Election Commission case that struck down limits on campaign contributions by corporations and unions, calling it speech protected by the First Amendment).

America has held an exalted place in the world in the last century. We have been seen as a "light on a hill," offering a land of opportunity--an equality-seeking, peace-loving haven for downtrodden. But with the rhetoric of this election we have proven ourselves to be far less than our ideals.

We're America. Can't we do better?