Ed Moore: Spectator or participant – Campaigns define us as a people

If someone could catch the New Hampshire voter enthusiasm, bottle it and release it in the rest of our states, we might be able to solve the voter apathy and negativity that have seemingly handed us one of the most squirrely primary campaigns in my memory.

I first became aware of presidential races back in 1964. I do not recall much about the primaries that year, but in my grade I was asked to debate the part of Barry Goldwater with another guy taking on the role of LBJ. My memory eases the pain of the colossal loss by Goldwater in the real election by letting me always think I dominated that debate, even as the school election also reflected the national results.

Watching the debate from New Hampshire, I could not help but think back over the 12 elections between that first exposure and this one, asking myself if I have ever seen anything as convoluted as this one? There were some odd ones during that span: Kennedy challenging Carter, Reagan challenging the field and then defeating both Carter and Mondale easily. Those races made me feel like trying to turn away from a bad wreck, but being unable to look away.

Even the Democrat primary in 72, with too many to fit on the stage yielding the most uncommon of candidates, George McGovern, who went on to lose in record fashion to Richard Nixon. Nixon should give Ted Cruz, this year’s Most Likely to Not be Liked by Anyone award winner, some hope for a possible victory. See, you can win even while alienating those you work with and those who know you best. Nixon did it…twice.

However this year there is more than one candidate in contention for Least Liked, yet somehow liked by at least a segment of the spectators. Donald Trump wins first place for Most Obnoxious and Caustic, hands down, yet he is loved by somewhere between 25 and 30 percent of the Republican voters.

Cruz takes second up to this point in the Most Un-liked category on the R stage. The Democrats have two candidates, and both have “yuge” negatives.

One wants to take your money to give to someone else. He wants to give it to someone you don’t know but is apparently needier than you are — someone who maybe self-destructed at an early age, didn’t finish school, got into drugs, had children without the ability to pay for them, but is nonetheless worthy of your money.

The other also wants your money, if you are successful, but not as much as the most avariciously anxious to tear down success one, yet she has a “yuge” honesty and integrity problem with the FBI breathing down her neck.

So the top two from each party are people you wouldn’t want as neighbors. You wouldn’t want them to watch your dog, God forbid your kids, and you surely don’t want the D half watching the national spending.

The R half busies themselves with “telling it like it is” or “doing 100 percent what they say they are going to do,” never mind the other branches of government and the 50 states, the Constitution and the Tenth Amendment.

We have gotten ourselves into another fine mess. Somehow we have always been able to regain both stability and sensibility, often using the checks and balances of our system to protect us. Yet, this time I am more fearful than ever, as it seems too many Americans do not understand checks and balances, nor do they understand how the co-equal branches of government should function.

It isn’t “if I say it I will do it” and it isn’t “I will do the most fabulous things, so tremendous you won’t believe it.” It isn’t creating class envy, success envy, or pitting each group against the others in a war of attrition, while demeaning success and ambition. To the contrary, we have, as a nation, become great over time exactly because we imbued the virtues of success while maintaining a degree of societal compassion but not forced government intervention into every aspect of our lives.

Personal responsibility has always been a cornerstone of our success. We have risen time and again, whether from when we were born as a nation or emerging from a devastating war among our own brothers and sisters; or from a Depression so deep it seemed we would never emerge, or a World conflict so vast that liberty was threatened.

We arose and became greater. Yet today I worry about a pervasive cynicism that is showing in our primaries. We need to turn to proven leaders who know how to inspire, to appeal to our aspirations. We should reject those who appeal to our darker selves and gather around those who shine a bright light on what can be an amazing future.

We must demand better from those who would lead. We must reject those who appeal to our darker selves.

***

Ed H. Moore resides in Tallahassee, Florida, where he is perpetually awaiting a rebirth of wonder. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

Last updated on June 11, 2016

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