The hotly contested presidential election is over and the Turkey is glad. The campaign lasted about two months too long for my taste. The rhetoric has thankfully ceased, and we won’t have to hear “I’m Joe Blow and I approved this message” again, perhaps for a couple of years. Now, we can go back to business as usual, absent this nasty campaign’s continual assault on our eyes and ears (and frequently, our noses). The wounds caused by the lengthy and vitriolic campaign will heal, because we’re a great country with great people who happen to disagree on issues—at some times, more dramatically than at others.
I don’t want to sound hypocritical here. I did, in fact, support the re-election of the President. If his campaign had failed, I would be pissing and moaning for at least a week or two. After that, I would grumble occasionally about policies I disagreed with. That’s about what I did through the Clinton years. As I said before the election, I got through the Carter presidency—arguably an economic and foreign policy disaster—without losing my mind completely, so I think I would have been able to live through a Kerry administration. After all, I live in what I feel to be the greatest country on the face of the Earth, one that has changed leaders 42 times in its 200+ year history. Every transfer of power has been peaceful and the nation has survived through the best and worst of times.
It strikes me that the mainstream media love to exacerbate divisions, clinging to every controversial issue ad nauseam. Now that the election is over, we face several days, if not weeks, of analysis of what went right, what went wrong, and who did what to whom. They will prolong this completed election as long as they can—it is big business for them. We should not succumb to their amplification of our differences. We are closer together than they would have it on a plethora of issues. We must elevate ourselves above their picayune pandering and pernicious punditry. (There—I got my alliteration in early!) The mainstream media would like nothing better than to promote more in-fighting among us good people. It sells newspapers and whichever erectile dysfunction drug the cable news channels happen to be peddling this week.
(The “election team” on PBS—Bill Moyers and company—even took this to the extent of saying that if the Republicans lost, there would be a coup d’etat! Oy!)
Historically, our rifts with respect to this election are not deep. Fresh in our minds, the current divisiveness is apparently dire; however, it pales in comparison to political wounds of other periods in the history of our great nation. The curative powers of elapsed time now obscure the reality that this country was on the brink of civil war in the late 1960s. What wounded us then was not only the Vietnam War itself, but also the manifestations of a dying society: a souring economy, major race riots (Watts, Detroit), assassinations (RFK, MLK), mass murders (Manson), underground anarchists (Abby Hoffman, Angela Davis), riots at political conventions (Chicago), mass-scale police corruption (New York) and, of course, bloody student revolts (Berkeley, Kent State). Every time I picked up a newspaper back then, it seemed that a new piece of shit had hit the fan. (On the plus side, we did have the Summer of Love!) Is it any wonder that we Baby Boomers, traumatized by that daily assault during our impressionable, formative years, are so screwed up and neurotic today? The division we have now is, in my mind, mild in comparison. Our society is not dying. The polarizing issues are not as grave. Many of them are fleeting and some are artificial, having been instigated and propagated by a whining, news hungry fourth estate or programmed by partisan political diatribe. We got through the Vietnam period–miraculously–and we’ll survive this period.
I do wish that our leaders would set aside their more trivial differences and act in a less partisan and political manner. Alas, partisanship is endemic to our two-party structure, in which the spoils system is the predominate motivator for politicians at the national level. We can only hope that while the victors are reaping the spoils, they think of us and our future from time to time, in turn acting for the greater good of our society. I think they will. We have major work to do and we’re a great country. And we’ll continue to agree to disagree on some issues.
The people have spoken, this time unimpeachably. Some call it a mandate. I’m asserting that no one—including the cherubic novelty known as Michael Moore—can say this time that we didn’t actually elect a president. In fact, in the largest voter turnout as a percentage of the electorate since 1968, a majority has spoken. The people of South Dakota spoke, too, rejecting an obstructionist minority leader. Those who call for Bush to move toward the center are missing the point, not to mention some of their marbles. The majority has given the president its stamp of approval and dumped one of his biggest roadblocks. Stay the course.
Now it is time to unite behind the government the people have elected and endorsed. As individuals, we should take a cue from the two men whom we supported in the election. Kerry was particularly impressive in proposing that both sides work together to help heal the wounds. Eschewing a lawyer driven outcome, perhaps over objections by the Teddy Kennedy wing of the party, his running mate, John Edwards, and major supporters such as George Soros, was classy. Kerry’s graciousness made me proud and empathetic of him as a person. Bush also spoke of earning the support of those who voted for his opponent, though I suspect that it will be difficult to cut through their bitterness, at least for a while. Constructive debate is good; lingering “sour grapes” accomplish nothing. Taking a cue from Bush and Kerry at the close of this hard fought campaign, it is time for us citizens to act like adults, bury the hatchet, and get on about the business of working together for that which we hold dear—the United States of America.