Musings of a Voter

After far too long a campaign, here we are just one week away from Election Day. I would make a lousy politician, but I have always, always, always been a political animal. I am pretty sure most of my feelings about political policy stem from a very strong sense of justice, ingrained from my formative years as the middle child among five. I learned early that life is unfair, but that doesn’t mean it has to be unjust. We should always strive for justice.

I learned to debate at the family dinner table, where my views of the world often conflicted with my father’s views of the world. Dad was a Republican. Actually, Dad was an Eisenhower Republican, and later a Rockefeller Republican. His views on fiscal issues always leaned a bit to the right, but his views on social issues leaned slightly more to the center, and then more to the left as he mellowed with age. I have always been a little more to the left than Dad was, or maybe more than a little. When I registered to vote at the age of eighteen, Dad was shocked that I registered as a Democrat. I said, “You know I feel more aligned with the Democratic platform.” His reply was, “You can vote for whoever you want, but you should always register as a Republican.” Over the years I have voted for both Democrats and Republicans for a variety of offices.

My Dad would not even recognize his Republican Party today. In fact, even back in the early 1990’s as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was drafting his “Contract with America,” Dad had the foresight to predict that his Republican party was being “hijacked” (his word, not mine) by the growing Conservative movement. He was concerned then that more moderate Republicans like him would be shuffled aside for the growing influence of the religious right and the ultra-Conservatives. You were right, Dad.

So as a life-long Democrat, I am asking today for the Republican Party to put up or shut up. The GOP had eight years of a Democratic administration to get its act together for this year’s election. Instead of unifying and putting forth an incredibly strong candidate with the traditional Republican values of fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and free enterprise, the Republican party candidate is nothing more than a demagogue, spouting whatever notions happen to fall into his head and out of his mouth at the same time. American politics is at its best when the competition is real and rational and focused on the crucial issues facing our country, so GOP, please either get your act together or bow out graciously and recognize that you have become irrelevant in this new realm of populism versus progressivism.

As voters, most of us look at both policy and personality in selecting a candidate. This election provides a very clear choice. Those who claim the two are equally flawed are simply not paying attention. One is qualified to the point of being able to walk into the Oval Office and begin the job immediately, while the other doesn’t have the attention span to even learn what the driving issues are, let alone focus on how to tackle them.

Full disclosure: I have long been a believer in Hillary Clinton. Many of you would disagree with me vehemently about her role in politics and even in the Democratic Party, but I can tell you that I have met the woman, shook her hand, and conversed with her. She does not have horns or cloven hooves. She is a strong woman with passionate beliefs about how to help people in our country. While many see a brazen career politician, I see a public servant who has put her country first for decades. She has faced harsh criticism and did not shrink from it; in fact it has made her even stronger. Spare me the standard “Benghazi” and “Email” stories. Benghazi was tragic, but she was Secretary of State, not a military operative, and she was not in charge of sending troops to Libya – a move, by the way, that was hampered by funding cuts from Congressional Republicans. She did err in using a private email server. Never-the-less, she has withstood more grilling than almost anyone else in the history of our government and she has come through it with not only a willingness to continue her effort to serve, but an eagerness to try to make a difference.

Her opponent prides himself on not being a public servant. That is painfully obvious. Only in recent months has he been under the same type of scrutiny that she has faced for thirty years, and he can’t take it. He is all ego and bluster packaged in an immature bully. In addition, and this gets around to my initial point: he is NOT a Republican. So if you believe you are voting for the Republican candidate by choosing Trump, you are not. He is not even a Conservative. He is, in fact, a fascist who would just as soon rule with an iron fist because that suits his narcissistic, vengeance-driven personality. If you take a moment to get beyond the rhetoric and actually listen to his words, you will hear what this election is really all about for him. His platform is not about creating jobs or even building a wall. It’s about him and about how he feels and about how the crowds make him feel like a rock star. It is not about helping our divided country. In fact, he is working every day to divide it further and inciting violence along the way.

I also need to say a few words about “truth.” We have become a very lazy nation. We have decided that it’s easy to read nothing more than our Facebook and Twitter feeds and we no longer need actual news outlets. The problem with that, and I speak here as a former journalist, is that we never get around to critical thinking. I challenge everyone to read actual newspapers and listen to and watch actual news reports from outlets that you may think are outside your realm. It is possible, and I know this because I do it. I want to know how others are feeling and thinking, because in doing so I will be better informed to make my own decision. We are hit now with so much click-bait “news” and so many far-right and far-left websites that call themselves “news” and it’s very easy to surround ourselves with our own cocoon of ignorance. Break out of that cocoon and become your own butterfly. It’s liberating to read and learn and grow in your understanding of the world. I believe strongly that competition makes us better, so I sincerely urge all serious journalistic outlets to find ways to improve in the wake of this election. To really report the news, you must set aside your personal biases, ask probing questions, and courageously tell your audience/reader/listener the facts, whether they want to hear them or not.

So here we are with just one week left to go and I am so incredibly sad for our country. We have become a nation so bitterly divided that it’s hard to even recognize us as the UNITED States of America. The hateful rhetoric surrounding this election has dealt a devastating blow to our country, which has already been rocked by some of the worst racial division we have encountered in 50 years.

Even when the election is over it won’t be over. We will feel the aftershocks from this earthquake for a very long time. It’s going to take some incredible construction skills to rebuild. Fortunately, we have a solid foundation remaining: The Constitution of the United States of America. One of the greatest documents ever written, it was a magnificent starting point 200 years ago and is still the blueprint for good government. When we pledge allegiance to our flag we note that our Republic stands “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Let’s make sure we stay indivisible, guided by those principles.

If you live in a state where early voting is allowed and have already voted, thank you. If you have not already voted, I would encourage you to do so, and to strongly consider the crucial issue of healing our country as you go to your polling place. For me, my sacred vote is always based on the principle of “justice for all,” which has been a driving force behind all of my beliefs for a lifetime. And I can tell you for sure, based on decades of arguments that turned into discussions, even my Dad would agree with me now.

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