Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must undergo the fatigue of supporting it.
— Thomas Paine
It seems the one thing that everyone can agree on in this election cycle is that no matter which side of the political spectrum one is on, nothing like it has ever been seen in recent memory — and in my case, ancient memory.
Several words come to mind that characterize the 2016 election season: polarizing, confounding, unorthodox — even surreal.
In just over three weeks, millions of the American electorate will cast their ballots behind closed curtains. Assuming the Russians don’t get in the way of a clean result via state-sponsored hacking (unlikely given the de-centralization of our voting system), we will have the name of our next president by the evening of Nov. 8 on election day (or possibly by the following morning).
Depending on their political leanings, partisans and pundits alike have described this election as a choice between The Red Queen and The Mad Hatter.
Many have lamented that the Democratic and Republican campaigns have departed from reasonable dialogue altogether, and as we get closer to the final stretch — now arriving into madness.
One or another voting blocks have been held up as crucial constituencies ultimately determining the outcome of the election.
African-American and women make up a large part of the electorate. As do Hispanic and Latino voters.
Women are more likely to vote than men, The Washington Post reported. The Post also pointed out that the rich vote in higher percentages than the poor.
Although exact statistics stated in this commentary vary by source, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, African-Americans headed to the polls in the 2012 presidential election at a rate of 66.2 percent, higher than the percentage of non-Hispanic whites, with just 64.1 percent showing up to vote.
This was the first time, based on the Census Bureau’s report that a higher percentage of African-Americans than whites voted in a presidential election.
Democrats have long enjoyed a sizable edge among women voters nationwide, based on data collected in recent elections.
According to exit polls, 53 percent of voters in the 2012 elections were women; more than one out of every two voters across the country was a woman, according to the Center for American Progress.
In addition, 48 percent of eligible Hispanics voted in 2012, down from 49.9 percent in 2008, as reported by the Census Bureau.
Another major group is the non-voter, whose apathy is a big part of why our politic is ailing, but who remain in steadfast denial of their complicity.
Another way to break down groups of voters is in the so-called millennial demographic, defined as those ages 18-34, and who are still relatively new to politics, and are understandably concerned — some might say disenchanted — with the whole process.
According to population estimates released by the Census Bureau, the millennial generation has surpassed baby boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, estimated at around 75.4 million, surpassing the 74.9 million baby boomers (ages 51-69) that not too long ago reigned supreme at the voting booth.
More millennials voted than did elder citizens during the 2012 election, with a whopping 48 percent of millennials identifying as independents, based on Pew Research polling data.
In all, an estimated 57.5 to 61.8 percent of eligible voters (depending on the source) turned out to vote in 2012, or a total of 130.3 million voters (222 million Americans were eligible to vote), according to the Census Bureau count.
And yet, despite demographics, two out of three people distrust both candidates, and feel frustrated and more than a little angry with the contestant’s continuous — and sometimes bizarre —skirmishes to enter the Oval Office.
Many balanced-minded individuals are troubled that merely bashing Republicans or Democrats, as opposed to actually considering in detail the policies that will govern our nation for years to come, will result in a distorted view of our republic both at home and abroad.
The rank and file as well demean one another while blaming the opposing side for society’s ills and wide divisions.
I’m certain I’m not alone in placing greater importance to the long-term vision of our nation — rather than getting caught up in side issues from the candidates, while looking to the experts to provide reasoned analysis free of partisanship.
And yet commentators focus more on talking heads showcasing their preferences with sound bites and out-of-context word snippets, while often steering clear of the issues altogether.
What a shame that so much of the debate consists of opposing campaigns throwing garbage at one another and arguing whose smells the worst.
What does it say about the process that we require an army of fact-checkers to gauge the veracity of politicians and their surrogates?
While the public chokes on the smoke of each nominee’s fiery rhetoric, the moral high ground slips into the muddy waters of attack and counterattack, punch and counterpunch.
As one television pundit remarked: “It’s a war to settle the score.”
Surely as a nation we can do better to advance viable candidates to the highest office of the land, and not be bound to heated partisan showdowns that skate the issues.
Will there ever come a time when we see more statesmen and scientists running the country, and fewer politicians and lawyers? The chance for such a paradigm shift seems remote.
But alas, we can dream.