Politics as Usual?

Will Rogers famously said, “I’m not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat.” The sense that Republicans are “lock-step” in pursuit of their objectives, while Democrats are no better organized than a herd of cats, has been around since the days of Senator Joseph McCarthy and the frantic search for Communists thought to have infiltrated the US government. Republicans learned how to stick together during the “Cold War,” and it was not long until they had developed what came to be known as the Southern Strategy, which was essentially race-based politics, designed to take advantage of White fear of increasing political power in the hands of Blacks.

A long time ago, when I was still an undergraduate student at the University of Illinois, I had a friend who owned a service station. One day when I was at his station to have my car worked on, he made a racist comment. I said that I didn’t feel that way. His reply was that I needed to consider where I spent most of my time, which was at the University. His point was that the Black people I knew were different from those who lived in the area of his station. That was probably true. The Blacks I knew were doubtless better educated and in better shape financially. Education and economic security make a difference in human behavior. They aren’t, of course, the only influences. Some of our culture’s biggest and best-known crooks (Bernie Madoff comes to mind) have been wealthy and well-educated.

Things have, of course, changed a lot over time. In earlier days, most people didn’t have access to much in the way of information. Newspapers did what they could to write about candidates for political office. Before and during WWII, radio did what it could to provide news coverage. You may not remember FDR’s Fireside Chats, but you’ve doubtless read about them. To the best of my knowledge, that was the first time a US President deliberately used mass media to connect directly with the US public. Eisenhower continued the concept of “Fireside Chats” on television, which, at the time of his presidency, was an increasingly popular medium.

I was 13 years old before my family had a television. Before that, it was radio only, not only for music, but also for drama. My son has never known anything other than color TV. That’s a major change in one generation. My dad grew up getting his news from newspapers (often with both morning and evening editions). For most of my adult life, I got my news from evening TV newscasts and newsweeklies (primarily Time and Newsweek). Now, I still watch evening TV news, but my primary source for news is the Internet. The Internet grew magically and mushroom-like.” About 20 years ago, my father came to visit me in Kalamazoo (my mother had died a few years before), and during one of the TV shows we watched, an advertiser said that viewers could obtain more information at such-and-such a site, “dot com.” With his most-annoyed voice, my father said, “I don’t know what ‘dot com’ means.” I told him that it was a “web address,” and his look suggested that I had just made things worse.

Times—and technology—have changed. Whatever else has happened with technology, the Presidential Election of 2016 may go down in history as the election that forever changes the way those of us in the US view political parties and politics. The debates were, of course, televised. Then the video was made available online, as were extensive summaries and pundit commentary. We know more about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton than has ever been known about candidates in the past. Current technology is very good about providing information, both accurate and outright lies. One of the things that seems new to me is the “fear factor,” which, at least in my opinion, is a lot scarier than the the TV show by that name. When Eisenhower and Stevenson were the candidates, most people thought we’d be basically OK with either as President. That sense of security diminished over time, primarily because of the increasing amount of information available. In 1964 we elected Lyndon Johnson because we thought that Goldwater was prepared to use nuclear weapons against China. We voted for Johnson hoping to avoid war, and then he increased our military presence in Southeast Asia.

Although we are still concerned about North Korea, Southeast Asia is no longer a major problem. That doesn’t mean we can relax, however. Our involvement in the Middle East has a long history, and we are perhaps at a critical point in our relationship with that part of the world. We are also at a critical juncture with beliefs about global climate change. That issue brings up the conflict between science and faith. Politicians align with one side or another, depending on their vested interests. Those from areas being negatively influenced by climate change typically (but not always) align with science, while those from areas aligned with the fossil fuel industry oppose efforts to regulate that industry. The combination of the various vested interests and the changes in communication technologies has greatly influenced the political process.

If you are among those who have been thinking that this is the worst election ever, you have a lot of company. Whether you are a progressive, a liberal Democrat, a middle-of-the-roader, a conservative, or an ultra conservative, this election provides you with something to be upset about. We can, of course, take comfort in the old saying, “This too shall pass.”

The saying is often attributed to the Bible, but its origin is actually Persian. Our current political situation shall pass, and what happens next is in our hands. A long time ago when businesses were offering employees classes in “time management,” those teaching the classes often began their training by asking a participant to come forward. The instructor would say, “The next 5 minutes are yours to manage. Manage them well.” Most participants had no idea what to do. The learning point was that time could not be managed without an objective. You had to know the goal before you could manage the time required to achieve it. We have a similar situation with the upcoming election. The news coverage focuses on the desires of those with vested interests that will do everything they can to get you to support the outcomes they desire. Whether you agree or disagree with what a particular candidate has said or done, look past the particulars and consider the “big picture.”

So … what are you hoping for after the election dust settles? Focus on that and vote for the candidates you believe will help turn that vision of the future into reality. As for me, I’m hoping for more peace, love, and brotherhood.

(Thanks to AlanAvon2011 and YouTube)

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