THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS
Southerners love politics. We’re particularly vocal where local issues are concerned. The average Southerner is often more concerned about choosing the County Sherriff or a local member of the City Council than who’s going to be the next President. The State legislature makes decisions that have an immediate effect on our lives, so we follow their buffoonery pretty closely, but national politics—not so much. But in spite of our preoccupation with local issues, we’re cognizant of the bigger picture, and there are plenty of Southerners who are dug-in to the watch for who’ll take up residency in the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue the next time.
Every four years, we the people are given the privilege of looking into our national mirror to view an accurate image of ourselves. We call this event a presidential election, but in essence, it’s an accurate snapshot of our nation’s soul. This is a complicated course that stretches over many months, then culminates in one fifteen hour day.
The process starts at least a year and a half prior to that day, and in the beginning, every facet of our society is represented. Early on, there’ll be candidates espousing positions covering the entire spectrum of our national will, from the America Firsters on the far right, to the World Workers on the far left.
The eighteen month process has three major components: the politicians, the media and the voters, and each stake holder has a different agenda. The professional politicians are focused on getting elected, the voters want their views to be adopted as policy, and the media wants to grab a market share and sell advertising. There’s a basic disconnect between all three, and the result is what appears to be a free-for-all brawl.
The strange thing about this system is that like the bumble bee, it can fly when it shouldn’t. The politicians spend millions of dollars polling to find out what the voter’s want, and millions of dollars with the media telling those very voters that they support those wants. The media seeks sensational events of any sort—the more sordid the better—in order to attract the voters who are their audience. All the while, the voters’ watch this kabuki dance and wonder just who’s paying for it.
The make-up of the voter base evolves into a reflection of majority values. Franklin Roosevelt read the voters’ attitudes perfectly, and rode the country’s economic woes to his first two elections. He realized that the voter focus changed as the economy improved, so he switched to an anti-war policy, and finally after Pearl Harbor, he became a super hawk. His ability to read the voter gave him four terms.
More recent examples of this were Bill Clinton’s campaign based on “we need a new face,” to Barak Obama’s courting of the young and disenfranchised. Both Clinton and Obama saw what the voter wanted, and gave it to them. Next year’s election will be won or lost depending on who is able to judge the needs of the majority of the voters, and unfortunately, both of the major parties are going to run on platforms and demographics which have changed over the past four years.
The Republicans still think that the majority of Americans are fearful of the changes taking place in our society and want to return to an America that no longer exists. The Democrats are saddled with a front runner who has her hand firmly on the lever of party politics, and can bully her way to the nomination. Just as our military is accused of planning on how to win the last war, the politicians are trying to win the last election.
All of this confusion presents an opportunity for a new voice to come to the forefront to give the young and unafraid electorate a leader attuned to the 21st Century. At present, Donald Trump is tapping into the general discontent of the Republican faithful, and Hilary Clinton is drowning out any possible fresh Democratic candidate. Trump is 69 years old and Clinton is 67. If elected, both would serve into their 70s, and the median age of all Americans is 39. Somebody ain’t paying attention.
This piece originally appeared on Porchscene: Exploring Southern Culture, www.porchscene.com