A note about this particular post…I wrote this blog the week prior to this year’s election, but following the announcement of the results, I didn’t know how to bring it to a close. Now that I’ve time to reflect….
Written on October 29th
My freshman year at the University of Montana was an election year, and I remember spending a long yet invigorating evening on the phone with my dad talking about the monumental choices that lay before me. Sitting on the floor in the dorm hallway, dad carefully explained each proposition and what a yes or a no vote might mean. He talked about our two candidates and the values of their party; the promises each had made during their campaign. At the end of our conversation, he reminded me that he was only offering information, not advice, and that his knowledge had been shaped by the values and beliefs of the political party to which he and mom belonged. I remember him very clearly telling me, “Before you go to the polls on Tuesday, find a friend whose parents think differently from us, have the same conversation with them, do some of your own research, and decide for yourself.” These words of wisdom and openness from my dad have stayed with me all these years. I’ve passed them on, and I’ve gone back to them before each election season.
Those were the days before 24 hour news networks, before Fox News, before social media, and even before the internet was fully spawned. Today that choice is no longer simply informed by the local newspapers, a few televised debates and some meaningful conversations and debates with family and friends. Today that choice is mired in the deep, sticky muck of information mediated and cracked into shape by countless public and private news outlets claiming to be “Fair and Balanced” or “The Most Trusted Name” in reporting the facts.
Facts. Particularly with this election, “facts” are up for debate. It has become next to impossible to just get the facts as used to be the common assumption with the news. Nowadays, facts are checked (but ignored or casually brushed off as ridiculous or not as bad as “facts” about the opponent), I feel better informed – and frankly less stressed – watching late night entertainment shows like Seth Meyers, who satirize this process, but somehow help surface the facts that had been buried in all the rhetorical muck. I have been listening to a book about Jon Stewart’s work on The Daily Show, my first favorite political satire show. He wrote something really interesting that adds clarity to what has happened between the media and political figures. He wrote that they were comedians, working among professional reporters. And in the process of “performing” at political events, their satirical interventions turned out to be better informed and taken more seriously than the traditionally legitimate news media…WTF?
And then there are the great “Facts Dumps” that have been taking place. Wiki-leaks dumps facts. It’s true. But it has become a political tool for selective dumpage that distracts from other potentially damaging facts for the opponent candidate. Given what I know about each candidate, and given what new information continues to surface, dad’s words resonate quite differently for me in the face of the upcoming election, because my desired choice -well, for a little while anyway – was “None of The Above.”
According to an LA Times Op-Ed written by Frank Luntz on June 1, 2016, the 2016 Presidential Election will be determined by “None of the Above” voters. Luntz, an analyst and contributor to both Fox News and CBS News argues that these NOTA voters are not focused on the policy issues promoted by each candidate, but rather they are basing their choices on the character of the candidates. He concludes that these voters are pessimistic and contrarian about any and all political items brought to the discussion table, and as a result, they will likely not make a choice for President when they head to the polls next Tuesday (Can it finally already be “next Tuesday”?).
Well, he’s wrong about me, and I think he’s really short-sited to argue that character is not or should not factor in to our choice. This is sadly the first Presidential election that leaves me without a happy choice. However, given what is at stake, it is the first Presidential election that leaves me with an inspired choice.
And then this happened, and I’ve been hearing and thinking about it every day since…
We are only 12 days into the new presidency, and frankly I am exhausted. To quote the great Jon Stewart, “The presidency is supposed to wear out the president. Not the public.”