As we struggle with the issue of which one of a pair of most distrusted presidential candidates in American history will be elected in a few months, it is interesting that so few have raised another question: why did we end up like this?
Here are a few matters to consider:
Election by personality rather than by party: While it’s always been a mixture, this election has been stunning in the way that major issues defining the huge differences between the Republican and Democratic parties have been ignored in a favor of a maniacal emphasis on the character, mental state and other personality aspects of the two leading candidates. This has been happening for a long time – started by television which dramatically altered the nature of politics – but we have not seen anything as extreme as this. Even Jack Kennedy and Ronald Reagan had issues that were considered worth debating.
Turning politicians into just another advertised product –even absent the sort of cautions we get on pharmaceutical commercials – eliminates the need for facts, sound arguments, actual history, and so forth. The candidates become just another two dimensional fantasy to purchase.
In the process, an element formerly of vast importance in political choices – the actual role of candidates in their community, district or state becomes ignored.
Education’s race to the bottom: The increasing view of education as a form of basic training for corporate employment has decimated the attention schools used to give to matters such as history, civics, community values and ethical matters. Voters are not only ignorant as a result, but they give far less importance to such considerations.
The false model of the corporation – Politics, like the rest of our society, has become seconded as just another tool of corporate America, which has convinced us that its culture is ideal for all of us. This one of the things that lets Trump get away with what he does. In fact, running the government like a corporation would be (or is) disastrous since it destroys such values as cooperation, empathy, the responsibility of leaders to citizens, and an goal far beyond high profits for a few.
There is more to be sure, but – aided by a media that doesn’t even bother to cover such things – these changes are hardly seen.
The First American Republic probably died in the 1980s and we have been living with its remains and replacements ever since, absent recognition of what’s happened.
Trump and Clinton should thus come as no surprise and until we understand what’s has really happened and do something about it, it’s just going to get worse.
Which is why the Sanders movement is perhaps the most hopeful thing to have happened to America in the past three decades and why it should not stop regardless of what happens in November. There is no doubt that a Clinton presidency would be the best battlefield to conduct our reconstruction but it also true that the battle needs to begin again the day after the election.