The U.S. election is next Tuesday. I can hardly wait for Wednesday, when the damn thing will be over. At last.
Of course, it’ll only be a short time — maybe a year — before the next round of campaigning starts in earnest, but I’m looking forward to a vacation from political campaigns, no matter how brief. I’ve been leaping up to turn off the radio every time there’s another election report and deleting political emails unread, even though most of the ones I get are for people or issues I support.
It’s not that I don’t care who wins. I do care, passionately. I know what the issues are and I know which candidates will come the closest to doing the things I think should be done.
What I can’t stand is the way we talk about those things.
This came home to me the other morning when I was chatting to some friends before Qigong practice. One of them mentioned that he was opposed to the proposition on our local ballot that would raise our county property taxes to pay for a new medical school and hospital here in Austin. Another person agreed with him.
Now I support the medical school, so I mentioned that the tax increase was just 5 cents per $100 in property value. And I also said I supported it because I wanted a public hospital here. My friends said that much tax increase was too much for them and that there were better ways of paying for it. It was a civilized conversation in which reasonable people disagreed and had logical arguments for their positions.
We then started practice and didn’t discuss it further, but it made me think. It seems to me we rarely have civilized, reasonable discussions on policy matters during elections in our country. Instead we play “gotcha” and talk about strategy, while the candidates run around trying to keep their supporters in the fold without offending anyone who might decide to vote for them.
Most political news coverage sounds like the sports report. Critiques of a candidate’s debate performance sound like analysis of whether a manager should have pulled his pitcher sooner or pinch hit for a slumping batter. We end up talking about whether someone won or lost the debate or whether the polls show their strategy is working. And, just as we’ve always winked at pitchers who threw spitters (so long as they didn’t get caught), we don’t seem to care if a candidate lies so long as it furthers the campaign strategy.
I don’t think there’s anything new about this; it’s just that I’m less tolerant of it than I used to be. There are some serious issues before us and we’re not having serious discussions about them as a nation. Instead we’re talking about gaffes and bad calls and zingers. Frankly, it’s driving me nuts. No wonder so many people hate politics.
Unfortunately, I don’t see any immediate solutions. Too many people are invested in the system we have now to change it easily. But maybe my friends and I can have a thorough discussion about the hospital and medical school issue. I still think we need the facilities and that the tax increase isn’t too much, but they could be right about the need to find another way to pay for it besides local property taxes. Worth thinking about.
Which is what we ought to all be doing: Discussing the pros and cons of things we need as a society and how to best get them.
Maybe we can do that after the election is over.