My dreamer, Harriet, has been at it again.
She's been reading the news lately and talking to me about the dangers ahead for the US.
"What could possibly be dangerous in the next few months?" you ask.
IMHO, elections are about the most dangerous time for our nation. Why? Politics and the news polarize us. To sell more ads, news programs sensationalize party platforms and politician's talking points often become the narrative for either side. News outlets (and almost 100% of them do this, just look closely) create sordid headlines to grab our attention. And if we aren't careful and don't investigate on our own (or read the entire article / watch the whole segment), we can swallow that headline as the truth and miss the important content at the end.
Can you imagine this headline in your local newspaper or on a newscast?
"Local politician works collaboratively to solve homelessness."
Of course not! That headline doesn't grab attention (except maybe mine). Maybe it would appear deep in the local interest section or at the end of the newscast in the "feel good" segment. There's no conflict, and while most people may want to reduce homelessness, they won't read a long, technical article about it. Yet, that's the news we need.
If my dreamer Harriet was here, the acrimony of our political debate would shock her. I'm sure you've seen it all, like I have. Senate candidates shouting on stage at a televised debate. Politicians slinging mud at each other in the headlines, in TV ads, mailers, and spammed text messages. News shows parotting party platforms disguised as analysis. It's tempting to tune it all out and vote blindly or to ignore it and just not vote.
Either of those options leaves a foul taste in my mouth, as if we are abdicating our civic duty in favor of our own convenience.
How can we fulfill our civic duty? How do we discover the truth about candidates?
It takes diligent research, asking questions and looking at a politician's track record. Yet, in our busy lives, who has time to research twelve judicial candidates, three or four mayoral candidates, two dozen running for city council, AND senate, congressional and presidential candidates?
Yet, if we don't, we risk losing our democracy and the elections process to the extreme poles of our parties. Most Americans fall somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum, finding points of agreement in both parties. Yet, you'd never tell that from the political discourse in the media.
Can we dream with Harriet for a moment?
What if we thoughtfully considered another person's viewpoint, instead of running it through the lens of our favorite political party?
What if all negative ads stopped and instead candidates clearly articulated their plans for office in forums we all attended?
What if we, the people, held politicians to political campaign promises and demanded they work across political divides to find those middle-of-the-road solutions?
What if we all took our civic duty seriously and sought to understand candidates' positions and platforms instead of voting solely according to political party?
It would look more like our founders envisioned when they revolted from the British and started our republic.
Dare we approach elections in such a way as to keep our republic healthy?
That would take work and an open mind, neither of which seems pervasive in our current society.
So, yes, we are approaching a dangerous season. Election season. Get ready.