At long last, it’s finally coming to an end. Today is the final day we’ll have to put up with all those vile, obnoxious, mudslinging TV ads; all the mendacious junk mail assaulting our mailboxes every day advocating for every candidate from state assemblyman to president; and all the equally vile and obnoxious attack phone calls invading the privacy of our homes. The phone calls got so bad that I have had to unplug the phone in our bedroom when we turned in for the night. I was getting calls before 5 A.M or after 11 at night; probably from East Coast campaign workers oblivious to the 3- hour difference between Eastern and Pacific Coast times. But, as I’ve said, what started well over a year ago, finally comes to it’s conclusion tonight.
I do have to admit that I sort of miss the-carnival-is-coming-to-town atmosphere of the Republican debates that began in 2011. There, up-on-stage were the carnival actors or clowns if you prefer. There was the dingbat element represented by Michele Bachman and wacky Ricky Santorum, the old crank that was Ron Paul, rotund Newt the Lovable, the bible thumper Rick Perry, and, of course, His Mittness, who by appearing to act with some clarity and sanity out-lasted all of them and secured the Republican nomination, and is now on the very edge of becoming our next president. There was also one other candidate, Jon Huntsman, former governor of Utah. But his problem was that he spoke with such common sense and rationality, that Republican primary voters just couldn’t handle someone that didn’t feed into their world of delusion. Therefore Huntsman wasn’t able to gain any traction, and finally had to drop out of the race. Those were the fun days of the 2012 election, but now it has become a colossal and nauseating drag.
If nothing else, however, this election has richly displayed both the coarsening and polarization of modern-day America. The mean-spirited venom that has spewed forth from from each candidate and their surrogates, from president, to congressional, and to state and local races speaks to both social conditions. First, there is the mind-boggling $3 billion that will have been spent on all these candidates when it finally ends tomorrow. How many hungry people in the world could that $3 billion have fed; how much infrastructure, water or sewer pipes, electrical grids, roads and bridges, etc. could that money have built or repaired. When you think of all the good that money could have been used for versus the garbage ads some of you may be removing from your mailboxes even as I type this, you can only conclude-what a waste. About $2 billion of that amount will have gone into the presidential race where both men are now so hopelessly compromised and beholden to their fat-cat donors, that it’s hard to see how anything meaningful can be accomplished for the rest of the country.
The polarization of America can be seen in the fact that a day before the election, all polls show the race to be a 50-50 toss-up. About half the electorate believes the answer to our huge problems is to severely slash Government spending (except for military spending), and cut tax rates that will primarily benefit the rich, while the other half believes that Government is needed to help the poor, the sick, the unemployed and the elderly. Half believes that we should edge toward a Christian theocracy by banning abortion and gay rights and gay marriage, while the other half maintains that we should hold onto a secular society. There appears to be no meeting of the minds or a desire for compromise on either side. So even if Romney wins tomorrow (as I suspect he will) it will be a divided nation with a divided Government. The Democrats will have at least as many Senators as needed to mount a successful filibuster, which could throw a monkey wrench into a President Romney’s agenda. If Obama should manage to squeak out a victory the same would hold true for the Republicans ability to filibuster in the Senate. In the the end we are likely to have a Government that barely muddles through the process of governing and achieves nothing meaningful.
A good example of the coarsening of America could be seen after the 2008 elections. After it was clear that Obama was the victor, there was a huge run on gun stores to purchase as many guns and as much ammo as people could stuff into their trucks. Now buying a gun is not like buying a loaf of bread. A gun goes for around $500 a pop and can increase in cost into the thousands. Yet millions of people, most of them of modest means, were buying firearms as if they were loaves of bread. In their minds, with the Democrats in power, tanks would soon be rolling down their streets, with armed military going door-to-door, and taking away everyone’s firearms. These people would be defenseless, and then soon shipped off to concentration camps if they opposed the administration. Of course, the gun mentality is just one example of the coarsening of our society. Everything from the degradation of our pop culture to the lack of civility in our everyday dealings with one another, to the lack of compassion in the way we treat the less fortunate among us, to the growing superficiality and shallowness among the populace, bespeaks to the constant dumbing down and coarsening of American society. And now with society so highly polarized, that trend seems to be going in a steady stream downhill.
One last thing. The worst possible outcome in tomorrow’s election would be if the voting was so evenly divided, especially in the swing states, that no winner could be readily ascertained. Counts and recounts could drag on for days or even weeks, with both sides fighting vociferously to get their guy declared the winner. The election results could even wind up for the courts to decide, the way the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, granted George Bush the winner over Al Gore in the 2000 election. If something like that were to happen, imagine the bitterness and hostility that would emanate from the losing side. It would result in polarization on steroids.