By Charles Collier, The Denmark News
This election season has been, as the ubiquitous media coverage has told us, historical. Never before, so they say, has there been such dynamism in a presidential race and that now, of all times, is the most important for the American peoples’ rationale to be voiced in the ballot box. Despite the implication being that previous elections were comparably unimportant, the claim smacks of impracticality.
Considering the broadness associated with the American presidency, it seems infeasible to expect any mortal, moral, honest person to be capable of effectiveness in every area. Even a D- minus grade should be applaudable considering managing a global defense system, playing a strong supporting economic role, providing job opportunities to your own citizens while increasing relations through international job growth, organizing global unity through diplomacy while maintaining fearful thoughts of dissent, monitoring both foreign and domestic terrorism, handling legislative challenges which can sometimes be comically annoying in their futility, etc., etc. should be treated as a feat of humanity.
Civilization’s history is embarrassingly brutal for those who pride themselves on human achievement through technology. Modern technology has almost exclusively been used to either accomplish weaponry goals and/or expedite consumer convenience. After the military discovered the use of radio waves for battlefield communication, commercial radio stations began taking hold. Religious and royal propaganda paved the way for individualistic writings. As we sit on the quickly receding edge of artificial intelligence, special attention should be paid to this trend.
Undeniably, digital technology has overtaken large parts of day-to- day life, in some cases replacing interpersonal friendship completely. In today’s world, people can make a living broadcasting their thoughts needing neither a college degree nor affiliation with a broadcasting network. Information is free in an unprecedented way, which may go to explain the observable absence of verifiable, legitimate debate throughout this election cycle.
This example alone shows the American political system’s distorted reflection of the innovation which is truly needed to solve a steeply growing list of problems facing citizens of a country they’ve been told leads the world. Finding themselves behind the 8-ball as the Euro begins to disintegrate, as Russia begins strengthening itself simultaneously with Iran and China, the United States desperately needs a once-in- a-lifetime leader to solve the problems and answer the world’s questions.
What a mighty request. Does such a person exist? Is it possible for any person to fill the shoes mentioned above? Imagine yourself in the shoes of a president, shouldering every one of the office’s responsibilities while maintaining family relationships and a favorable press image. How many budget arguments, national security briefings, photo opportunity events, pardoned turkeys, pardoned Turks, political battles and every sleepless night associated with the job might one truly estimate they would handle before madness ensued?
In this light, it seems that perhaps constantly running into a “lesser of two evils” scenario is a form of political masochism; that if one’s preferred choice loses at the ballot box it only provides extra fuel for a more intense resurgence the following cycle. Constitutionalists may aptly point out that this is what the American system was designed to do; respond to public opinion through the short-terms of the House while filtering it through the longer terms of the Senate, all processed by a middle-termed President who reflects a national mood rather than a local one. The system was designed to move slowly in order to allow all considerations to be made before enacting laws or amending the Constitution.
I am a big fan of the Revolutionary War and the history that surrounds it. Brave, wise men were able to band a nation of immigrants and loyalists together to form their own nation, restoring and emboldening legitimacy to the town councils and courts which England had overrun. But to pretend as though those men were perfect visionaries or that their specific ideas translate in any way to the modern age is a fool’s errand. To pretend as though the only change required is a revocation of previous changes advances no clear political goal and harms a wide swath of people with its inaction.
No one person, establishment-approved or otherwise, will be able to positively change the lives of everyone in the country. By nature of the job, this is an impossible task. Even during the second presidency, John Adams was forced by public opinion to ban pro-French propaganda and outward sentiments on American streets in efforts to avoid a war. Jefferson saw this as a breach of liberty and feared the return of a tyrant in America’s infancy. No such tyrant arose from Adams’ precedent, but war was averted.
The Founders placed great trust in the office of the Presidency in dire efforts to avoid inherited hegemony and inevitable monarchy. Comparably, the responsibilities of General Washington in 1789 were similar to those of Theodore Roosevelt 112 years later. A majority of the country shared fierce nationalism, willingly spreading themselves across the continent. Though Roosevelt’s application of the military in Cuba began arguments about isolationism and interventionism, the only existential threats facing both Presidents were land attacks by foreign governments and economic stability.
The two world wars, and the United States’ advantageous late entry to both, brought skyrocketing tasks to the presidential docket. Rather than a force of defense and expansion, the United States military assumed the role of global enforcer. Instead of fearing only for domestic economic growth, the world become far more united in its financial affairs and again placed America at the center. A hotbed for innovation, the digital revolution started in America as well; some even credit the Internet’s invention to the military’s research and development department.
Now a president is faced with a 24/7 news cycle, unprecedented public access to formerly classified material, constant threats of hacking, and the reality of nuclear war. If one thinks a newly elected leader walks in on day-one with complete control of the cockpit, they are not thinking clearly.
If we must relegate our lives to the influence of one president, it makes sense to hope that person is able to listen to recommendations from an intelligence community which has experienced ups-and- downs throughout multiple administrations. This is especially important to military operations, as missions already in play will be inherited by our new commander-in- chief.
More important still is remaining mindful of the iron-clad attributes clearly necessary to run this country. If this government is of the people, by the people, for the people then perhaps we should grade our presidents based on how well we ourselves would perform the job.
Remember after casting your vote, that we are all equal under the law. We’re all in the same boat together and, though we may disagree with the direction the captain is charting on a map which would be illegible to most of us. More pressing, we’re all in the same boat because we get to be. Our laws, ideologically if not literally in their enforcement, strive to find the most common ground for government to stand on. Are these laws and this system exploited? Absolutely! That reality should serve not for angry protests and calls for another Revolution, but for constructive learning of the laws, their histories, and how they could be realistically altered to better fit today’s world.
One of my favorite podcasters, Dan Carlin, on his current events show Common Sense iterated this idea of America’s political fractiousness, “When ladies meet in a book club, they’ve all read the same book. Any conversation about the characters and the story are understood within that context and larger ideas can be talked about. In American politics, none of us seem to have read the same book, so any conversation about ideas is beside the point.”
Let us take advantage of the two years until mid-term elections to educate ourselves not in politically slanted interpretations of how we wish the world to be, but instead in arguments based in reality. Without this dedication to better personal understanding and empathy for those whose ideas with which we are unfamiliar, the impossible task of the presidency will be far more stressful on all of us.
Regardless of the general election’s result, let us be the shining light on the hill not for the rest of the world, but for the future of our collective well-being.