By the end of the day — hopefully — this madness known as the 2016 election season will be over and done (unless Donald Trump decides he doesn’t like the results and either asks his supporters to rise up in armed insurrection or decides to file suit in the court system).
This has been perhaps the most disappointing and disillusioning presidential election of my lifetime, with neither candidate possessing any true, redeemable qualities that would make him or her a viable, effective president.
That we would get to a point where we has two such awful candidates is no real surprise — for nearly 30 years voters in both major parties have abandoned the idea of choosing as their candidate the one who would do the best job, instead opting for the one that is supposedly “most electable,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.
That sort of thinking leads us to choosing the lesser of two evils, rather than seriously supporting a good, solid candidate. In 2016 we may have finally reached the point where there is no lesser of two evils, they’re both so bad.
And I’ll tell you, I’ve lost respect for many folks I know by their support of either one of these candidates. I can accept someone supporting either Trump or Hillary Clinton with the caveat “well, neither is really a good choice, but my candidate isn’t as bad because …”
What I cannot accept is folks actively, proudly supporting either one of these candidates, as if either will be good for America, as if either has anything constructive to add as a leader. Folks doing this have, at least in my mind, lost all moral and intellectual standing and are clearly playing nothing more than mindless party politics.
Though I find myself disheartened over the 2016 election, and the fact that one of these two individuals will be named president of the United States, I’m still optimistic about the electorate, and the country in the long term.
I’ll tell you why.
We’ve received several calls this year of people older than 100 years of age, excitedly going to the polls to cast their ballots, wanting to know if we were interested in doing a story or taking a photograph.
Think of that. A centenarian has lived through two World Wars and countless other armed conflicts involving U.S. troops; they’ve seen the country move from mostly horse-and-buggy travel to our modern world of cars and airplanes; they’ve seen men land on the moon; they’ve watched the invention of and widespread use of the internet; and the list could go on all day.
Yet, one of the things that excites these folks is the simple act of going to a polling station and pulling a lever.
And we have so many local young people in the schools taking part in mock elections. These folks are excited to learn about the candidates, the issues, and the importance of elections in our nation. Some can hardly wait for the chance to take part in elections for real.
Today we’re going to elect a bad president, there’s simply no way around that. But my optimism stems from the fact that we’ll almost certainly replace that president in four years. And every four years after that, just as we’ve done for more than two centuries, we’ll go back to the polls to determine who will serve in that office, and so many other elected positions.
The folks doing that choosing will be more and more centenarians, who draw from a century’s worth of accumulated wisdom in making their choices; and those young people in our schools now, excited to put on a mock election, who will be aging into the voting population, bringing their enthusiasm and insights to the process.
Today may be a bitter pill to swallow, but once we’re past these next four years, I still believe there’s reason for hope.
John Peters is editor of The Mount Airy News. He can be reached at [email protected]