Despite the shortcomings, inequities and peculiarities of this campaign – and there were many – it was a blessing. It inspired America to think and talk about politics again, and brought many new and previously disenfranchised citizens into the political fold. It forced us as a nation to start talking about racism, sexism, and economic disparity, and it put our most pressing national concerns – the economy, education, the Iraq War, oil dependency, the environment, health care, and the Big Three entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid) – squarely on the table. Issues such as civil and human rights, Constitutional protections, poverty, drugs, crime, and immigration, among them, got little or no direct attention, but hey, the campaign was only two years long, they couldn’t cover everything. The simple facts of Obama, Clinton, and even Palin, as major candidates, made history; we’ve turned a page and that’s a good thing. And of course, this campaign was the first to reflect the full power of the Internet as a major new medium, one that promoted enormous civic involvement by individuals and permitted the dissemination of much more information than ever before.
That said, it behooves us to acknowledge and discuss now, before we get lost in the happy haze of a new beginning, the problems of the campaign. It was ridiculously, exhaustingly, unproductively too long, and outrageously too expensive. The debates, from the primaries to the final matches in October, were awful; they weren’t debates at all, they were bad press conferences. The campaign also brought into shocking relief just how much politics is a team sport in this country, and to what extent party loyalty impedes truly bipartisan, cooperative governance. It also highlighted the simplistic, narrow vision that many Americans have about their country and themselves; if we keep thinking we’re The Greatest Country in the World, how can we improve and grow?
Media coverage, particularly on TV and in tabloid newspapers, should be roundly chastised for continuing to shape American politics as a horse race, a popularity contest, an opportunity for scandal, and for relentlessly focusing on irrelevant minutia. By the end of this week, they’ll already be discussing, in earnest, the 2012 presidential election, which is a huge public disservice (and should be punishable by death…). Since we as a culture are increasingly driven by information technology, we as a people must start to demand grown-up, nuanced, significant media coverage of all news, especially politics.
And with Election Day now just hours away, it’s time for us to fully consider the value of eliminating the electoral college so that every vote really does count, instead of millions of votes being rendered almost irrelevant, depending on what state one lives and votes in. We also must address the chaotic condition of the voting process, from convoluted registration procedures to dysfunctional voting equipment; The Greatest Country in the World shouldn’t have such a difficult time casting and counting electoral votes.
It is my heartfelt wish that before the next presidential election we can address the many problems just cited. Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to true leadership and responsible, innovative and supportive public policy. We survived this campaign. We’ve earned it.