No, The 2020 Election Doesn’t Have an Ideal Candidate Either
A few days ago, I saw an odd political sign in my neighbor’s yard. It was so strange, I pulled out my phone, and took a photo.
The homeowner walked outside and caught me in the act. Embarrassed, I waved and gave him an awkward smile. Maybe he would explain the sign. Instead, he just looked at me and shrugged.
When your ideal presidential candidate for 2020 is “any dog,” I guess no comment is needed.
It’s tempting to believe politics has never been this bad. That isn’t true. Not so long ago, people were beating each other over the head with sticks in the Senate Chamber. Politics is an ugly business by nature. It can’t possibly be a surprise to watch a debate in which the only thing you learn is that both candidates have no respect for the other.
But 200 years ago, you might have read about bad behavior in the weekly newspaper. Now, you see it on your phone, in real time, every single day. Sins of each candidate are constantly dragged forward. It’s like the world’s most depressing parade.
Biden is accused of sexual assault. Trump is inspiring violent extremists. And if you’re thinking of voting for Kanye West because he isn’t one of those corrupt politicians, you’ll be sad to learn he’s been accused of tricking people into signing petitions that get him on the ballot.
If the mere facts weren’t enough, our ill feelings are further inflamed by “news” fed to us by algorithms. Lines of code determine what election content you see. Companies who wrote the code want you to stay on their site. They won’t give you anything you disagree with. That sounds bad in theory, right? In reality, it is even worse.
An independent-voting relative of mine has seen a lot of Biden bloopers. These videos circulate constantly thanks to Trump’s marketing plan. He regularly sees Joe stumbling in interviews or losing track of what he is saying.
My relative started to wonder if Biden is mentally broken. That belief sprouted when one of my relative’s closest friends — who has similar interests, and who has therefore been shown the same videos by the algorithms — dropped a comment about Biden’s confusion over lunch one day. In an instant, both men confirmed their beliefs.
Fueled by the support from the other, both announced proudly that Biden has “lost his marbles.” It only takes two people to make an echo chamber.
This type of interaction happens on both sides, endlessly. It is one reason cancel culture has exploded in popularity. It’s also a reason that politicians seem so bull-headed and uncompromising on public platforms. Refusing to acknowledge you could ever be wrong is now the status quo.
“I find it probable that I may have committed many errors,” said George Washington in his farewell address to America. Can you imagine if Twitter had been around? RIP to his mentions.
It isn’t mentioned in the musical, but Alexander Hamilton helped create one of the more important structures of government: the president’s cabinet.
The cabinet was supposed to keep the president in check. There should be enough people around him to, say, keep the president from cutting off heads at random. That would be too king-like.
America’s forefathers were woefully ignorant on many issues. Who counts as “a person” is one glaring example. But they were crystal clear on one idea. No single person could ever be worthy of governing an entire nation. We’ve forgotten that in recent years.
Blame it on Hollywood. Blame it on the “personal brand.” Blame it on our reduced faith in organized religions. Something warped us into a culture that expects our leaders to be gods. They aren’t. People who market debates play into this. They make the event feel like a primetime fight. So of course, it was.
The consequences of this misconception are much more dangerous than putting some incompetent candidate in office. A toxic culture can emerge.
Limits of Growth, a landmark book about climate control, worried that the culture around our leaders might be directly to blame for our failure to act on any needed climate improvements.
“Somehow a political system has evolved in which the voters expect the leaders to have all the answers… this perverse system undermines both the leadership capacity of the people and the learning capacity of its leader.”
Results of this “perverse system” include:
- deep political division
- consistent lies from leadership
- a complete inability to acknowledge mistakes.
Does any of that sound familiar?
The deeper we get into this culture, the worse the candidates appear. That’s why it’s been so difficult for you to get behind any candidate these last several elections. It’s also why slogans such as “Settle for Biden” emerge.
So what’s the cure? Be more lenient on our leaders? That doesn’t seem right. Ultimately, these people make policies that determine the course of humanity. They should be held to the highest standard. And I, for one, could stand to see a president who doesn’t rage quit news conferences.
In addition to voting (please do that), the second step to improving our nation’s culture is to get involved in making the country a better place. Actively try to solve the issues you expect your leaders to fix. Run for office. Volunteer. Sit in a city council meeting. Start with your own home. How can it better reflect the values you hold so dear?
You are underqualified for this. We all are. Nobody can possibly understand, much less face, the challenges facing our planet in the next few years. Don’t let that stop you from trying.
“You don’t have to have a college degree to serve,” said Martin Luther King. “You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You only need a heart full of grace.”
Regardless of what happens in November, it’s important to remember America was designed to be one nation, not one President.