Monday, November 05, 2012

Not a Noble Election


In 1860 perhaps the most important election in the history of the United States took place.  It was between Abraham Lincoln ,Stephen Douglas, John Bell, and John Breckenridge.  Lincoln and Douglas were the two major party nominees and their debates were legendary.  Douglas, however, only won one state and while Lincoln swept the north, Bell and Breckenridge swept through the south.

There was one very large looming issue.  Did human beings have the right to own other human beings?    One can argue that the Southern way of life was at stake and the Southern economy was at stake, and Southern liberty was at stake until we turn purple.  It was all based on the right of some human beings owning other human beings.    Lincoln won and we know the results of the issues that were at hand.

The election if 1860 was easily the most important election in the history of the United States.  We would not be the nation we are today had it not been for that election.  That election changed the future and culture of our nation.  It was, in many ways, a time when a noble idea went forward.  Many of called it the most important and, in many ways, the most noble of all American Presidential elections.

The year 2012 will not be a year of nobility.

An obscene amount of money was spent on this election.

People, corporations, and special interest groups flooded us with paid advertisements to elect the candidate of their choice.  In a time of economic difficulty that is graver than any time apart from the Great Depression, billions of dollars were spent on an election.  In a time when people needed jobs, money that could pay salaries was poured into television advertisement.  In a time when we have record numbers of people homeless, jobless, and hungry, billions of dollars was spent on paid advertisements.  This year’s election was so incredibly obscene in terms of money spent. 

Ironically, this election was, in so many ways, a reflection of The Seinfeld Show.  It was, amazingly, an election about not very much....

There are a lot of significant issues that were not addressed:

We sent into two separate wars and cut taxes.  As a result with the cost of the wars (on VISA), and all the government programs, we are awash in debt.  The discussions on taxation and benefits was heated, but no one ever discussed the debt accrued by two unfunded wars.

Hurricane Sandy exposed a couple of things not discussed.  The storm patterns were unprecedented.   These storms have historically gone up the east coast and drifted east.  This storm made a dramatic turn west.  This was abnormal-----but we need to get used to it.  Scientists have told us that climate change has melted large sections of the polar ice cap north of Greenland and changed the jet stream and currents.  The path of this storm was the direct result of the change in climate.  It also exposed the fact that the infrastructure of the United States, especially in older regions like the Northeast, are very, very inadequate.

Climate change is a reality that we should not be ignoring any longer.  Huge economic opportunities are present for people moving us into a new age, and yet, this was not an issue, and never mentioned.  Infrastructure?  Again, not an issue in this election.

Healthcare?  A lot of verbiage on the Affordable Health Care Act, Obamacare, and whether it’s good or not.  No discussion that the world’s richest nation ranks #37 on the World Health Organization's ranking of the world's health systems.  We are just below Costa Rica and just above Slovenia.  France and Italy not only have some of the world’s finest food, but they rank #1 and #2 in world health systems.  There was no discussion of France and Italy’s healthcare systems and why they work so well.

In many ways, this election was made very clear in a couple of instances.

Martha Raddatz asked Joe Biden and Paul Ryan about their Roman Catholic faith and how it impacted their views on abortion.  She took a very, very broad question about the faith and turned it into one issue.  Instead of asking them how their Roman Catholic faith impacted their world views and their role in the government, she made it a single topic question.  Both men gave very articulate answers I might add, but she had such a magnificent opportunity to ask a very good question, and didn’t.

In the Presidential debates, President Obama, very much a product of mainline Protestantism, and Governor Romney, very much a product of Mormonism, were never asked how their faith impacted their world views and their role in government.  It was a great question, never asked.

But perhaps above all, a young man asked a question about graduating from college and looking for a job.  Both President Obama and Governor Romney gave very patronizing answers.  They both helped to paint the lad as a victim of the times, the other party, etc. 

What neither man did was tell the young man the truth.  The way people come out of college and get jobs is they work very hard at it.  No one is going to drop a job on your lap; you have to apply, have a good resume, and excellent grades, and interview well.  There is a lot of hard work in getting a job out of college.  Smart parents tell their children that and good leaders tell citizens that.  In that moment, both men failed miserably in leadership.

I have no idea what the election of 1860 cost, but it wasn’t close to what this one will cost.  It was, however, the most important, and in many ways, most noble of American elections.  The election of 2012, no matter who wins, was not a battle of high ideals and noble causes, it was a battle of money and a dodging of the big issues of our day.

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