I’ve tried very hard to steer away from politics in this column. I’ve pleaded with my social media friends to stop blasting me with their opinions. I’ve based that on what I thought was a solid premise: that most of us are intelligent enough to make up our own minds, and that their political opinions are unnecessary. I’m still sure of the second part of that sentence and not at all certain of the first part any longer.
So if you’ll bear with me, I hope you’ll come to see that this is a message for all my friends and readers, regardless of their political leanings. If, at the end, you find me to be a bit conservative, well, that’s all right. We can still talk and make common progress toward the things we do agree upon.
I have a much-loved cousin in New Hampshire who will serve very well here as my point-counterpoint partner. She is a wonderful person who has spent her life in politics and some form of public service when and where she is able. She is family. She believes my political leanings to be delusional, and I can’t be angry about it, since she’s misguided. That was humor on my part. Sometimes it’s hard to spot.
I believe there are two culprits in politics these days, and they aren’t candidates or parties. We don’t talk about either of them enough. We have an extremely irresponsible news media, and I include broadcast and print journalists in their many varieties. I am sad to say that I believe far too many voters get their information only from television broadcasts—if they read anything, it’s probably only headlines. Far too many of them can’t even tell me where they learned something, or why they think it’s important. And let’s realize what journalism, broadcast or otherwise, really is. It is material placed in a television broadcast or newspaper because someone has paid to advertise. If they didn’t have advertising dollars, believe me, you wouldn’t be hearing or reading them. They are a business and their first obligation is to their own bottom line.
I am not saying that voters aren’t smart enough to vote. I am saying that far too many of them have not listened critically to the candidates and their party platforms. Of all the things I’ve taught my children, I am proudest that they have learned to listen critically. That requires nothing more than feeling free to question. If one hears a candidate make a statement that doesn’t seem right, then for heaven’s sake, check it out. Ask around. This is 2016. There’s an Internet out there with all kinds of information, some of it reliable, some of it not. There are opinions of people we know and trust. There is a diverse range of reportage and opinion. One may not find a definitive answer, but he will certainly find out what a lot of people think. Finding information isn’t the problem; finding people willing to look for it is a different matter.
There are too many people who don’t care what Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton said yesterday. They’re too busy playing Pokémon Go. We are raising generations of narcissistic young people who are either completely disconnected with governance of their own lives, or who believe politics to be some form of entertainment. There are far too many people who believe that if Sarah Silverman or Katie Perry appeared at a convention in support of a particular candidate, this must somehow lend massive weight to the debate. It does not. It lends one person’s opinion, and it weighs about as much as yours or mine.
My dear cousin says of Trump that we need to “vote to ensure that this arrogant madman doesn’t become President.” She speaks of his “travesty” and says she is reminded of the Army-McCarthy hearings and quotes attorney Joseph Welch saying “Have you no sense of decency, sir?” She says “Donald Trump has to be brought down.” She says “This is “not our parents’…party.” All well and good, I suppose. But if she and I each made a laundry list, good and bad, of the two major candidates, and I reprinted them here, would you check us out? Would you investigate on your own to see which, or either of us is correct? My real fear is that many of you would not.
With love to my progressive cousin, who is an admirable person, I say the two most disagreeable things about politics are the media—and the voters.
We have found the enemy and he is us.