Ed Moore: The presidential campaigns make me worry about America’s future

I often lament how little we learn from that which has come before in our political and governmental processes.

It seems like each decade we drop time off the front end of our experiences, as if there is only so much room in our memories for what we have experienced. What else could explain our repeated willingness to follow a new “Pied Piper” every four years, promising the world but offering few solutions.

We allow our frustrations to overcome our reasoning and many voters become drawn to the rhetoric of negativity. I cannot help but think of the “Wizard of Oz” and the vision Dorothy had of a better place than Kansas. We fall in love with a false promise, marketed to us as if we are planning a dream vacation rather than deciding who is going to lead the free world.

Eight years ago we heard about hope and change, then four years later we just had to give more time for change to occur. Now hope and change have morphed into visions of making America great again, absent any concrete blueprints for how to get it done.

In my head I hear Larry the Cable Guy hollering “Get er done!”, while I keep wondering just exactly what it is that needs “gettin’.”

The leading candidate on one side is filled with empty vision and false promise and, when pressed, seems to take every side of complex issues, sometimes even creating positions no one has espoused.

The leading candidate on the other side, although losing a string of primaries while somehow extending her lead in delegates, always seems to be looking back over her shoulder for something creeping up on her.

With that campaign, I keep thinking of Butch and Sundance riding as fast as they can while asking “Who are those guys?”. Will we ever see those guys engaged in pursuit of possible crimes or will they issue their findings only when it’s too late to change that party’s direction?

It seems as if every conversation I have trends toward two points.

One is dismay as to how we got to where we stand today. The second is questioning if there is any way out of this mess that we the voters created.

I gave a lecture to a student group recently and one gentleman posed this question, after a lengthy discussion about the lack of real policy discussions from all sides.

“Would it be OK if we just asked for a re-deal?”

Unfortunately in elections there is no reshuffling of the deck and we are forced to play with the hands that get dealt. In this election we even helped to pick the cards being dealt.

No one seems to be excited about the potential face-off this fall of two flawed candidates, each with near record negatives in all polls. Each is distrusted by many voters.

With almost one third of the electorate now registered as “no party’ or ‘independent,” the pathway to the Yellow Brick Road is not as clearly marked as it was in the movie.

We have had tough choices to make before. Think back to 1972 when George McGovern ran an energized campaign focused on ending a very unpopular war. He seized the nomination of his party but lost in record fashion.

Think back to Ronald Reagan challenging Gerald Ford in 1976, falling short and then running again in 1980 against an incumbent who chastised the American electorate as being in a period of ‘malaise.”

How inspiring that was! Then only four years later, Reagan appealed to our positive spirit and desire to be better as a people. He appealed to the better angels within us, something lacking in this 2016 election.

We look to leaders to lead, to inspire. Instead we get charlatans who truly are self-serving and view the world through very limited and cloudy lenses. They appeal to small groups that subscribe to the false promises of Oz. I want to scream, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” but our reality is the man behind the curtain.

We are better than all of this as a nation and we need to awaken, just like Dorothy. Today we stand at a crossroads that will determine who we are as a nation. Will we be beguiled by traveling road show medicine men? Will we be captured by the swirling maelstrom and dropped into a land of make believe? Or will we embrace the harsh reality that our society is complex and the problems facing government are vexing, requiring people of character, high moral values, and a deep understanding of building better pathways to success?

Who we select as our leaders requires us to be informed and educated on issues and to not fall prey to hyperbole and falsehoods.

When Reagan ran in 1984, he had a series of commercials that have become famous for how clearly they defined where we stood and what threatened our standing in the world. One had these words:

“It’s morning again in America, and under the leadership of President Reagan, our country is prouder and stronger and better. Why would we ever want to return to where we were less than four short years ago?”

I would ask now, is where we are now headed where we truly wish to be as a country? Do we seek the promise of the new day or will we stay stumbling in the darkness?


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

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