OPINION – It’s gone on forever, or so it seems.
And, finally, today voters will go to the polls and cast their ballots in the ugliest, most divisive presidential election in the nation’s history.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it will be game over tonight, or any time soon.
There is, of course, a likelihood that the results will be contested – remember Bush-Gore in 2000? In the event of a legal dispute, even the Supreme Court – now split at four against four in the liberal-conservative divide – might not be able to settle it, which is probably one very important reason why Republicans refused to yield to President Obama’s nomination of a SCOTUS justice.
No matter how it falls, the likelihood is that the wounds inflicted during this vicious campaign will go unhealed for a very long time.
We have seen one candidate stoop to the lowest form of playground bullying ever displayed by one seeking the nation’s highest office.
We have seen one candidate do little to inspire confidence by being mired in the muck of suspicion regarding political muscle and an email investigation that, in the end, turned out to be much ado about nothing.
But, most distressing is the fact that we have seen friends and families divide over this election; we have seen the system that sits at the heart of a nation’s core beliefs callously disregarded with delusional claims that the election is rigged; we have seen the dignity of a nation reduced to laughingstock status in a world still trying to figure out what is going on in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
If you have friends or acquaintances across the border in any direction, I am sure you, too, have been asked, “What in the world are you people thinking over there? This is the best you can do?” I know I have been asked that from every single one of my friends in Mexico, Canada and Europe who are scratching their heads, confused by this display of incivility. You see, the rest of the world wants us to do well because this 240-year old experiment in democracy puts a lot of chips on the world’s table.
And, trust me, there are a lot of chips on the table right now.
The candidates have gone all-in, now it’s up to the public to see who will win the pot.
Looking back on this dysfunctional marathon that has spanned 18 months, one word from the campaign seems to resonate as the best descriptor of what has taken place: deplorable.
It has been a deplorable race, exacerbated by the deplorable behavior of the candidates who, even when trying to find the high road have found themselves soiled in the gutter, and the even more deplorable behavior of the voting public, which is where my greatest concerns lie.
Will we, tomorrow morning, or whenever this thing is settled, be able to shake hands and go about the business of unifying a nation that is at its most divided point since the Civil War, pushed apart by candidates who employed scorched-earth policies?
In fact, will we make it through today without incidents of violence, bullying or interference at the polls?
I certainly hope so.
We’ve heard a lot from the religious pretenders along the greasy path to today’s election, from the sinners to those willing to unwisely cast the first stone as they shine brittle, false light on their contrived faith.
But I beg indulgence for the most relevant passage from the Bible regarding all of the tomorrows that will follow today’s election: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand,” Mark 3:25.
I’m not trying to tell you how or what to believe any more than I am trying to convince you who to vote for today, but I can offer a plea for the nation to come back to its senses once this thing is finally decided.
You may not like whoever walks away with the presidency, but that should not shake your respect for the office.
There have been occupants who have tarnished the honor of the Oval Office, to be sure.
But that should not diminish the respect we hold for the office itself and is why we should think long and hard before punching the button on our ballots today.
That respect should also act as a catalyst for the healing that is so necessary now.
That means being gracious winners, as well as good losers.
That means putting aside our partisanship and working with statesmanlike fervor for the betterment of the entire nation.
That means party leaders from both sides going back to square one, figuring out exactly what went wrong and fixing their parties so next time around they represent the core values of their members. If this means the rise of another party or two, so be it. In fact, it would probably be a good thing to have at least one more major party, especially if it can present a serious and knowledgeable candidate who knows what and where Aleppo is, is not posturing behind off-the-wall conspiracy theories or running simply because they are pals with Bill Kristol, John Kingston, Joel Searby and Rick Wilson.
That means making some serious changes in the way our government is run – from term limits to serious campaign reform.
That means Congress, whether weighted to the left or right, policing itself and cleansing itself from the stench of pond-scum lobbyists who have seized control of our government.
That means a little education for the voters, most of whom are in desperate need of a refresher course on exactly how our government works and reads books to learn about politics instead of parroting the propaganda of specious websites.
Look, the Democrats and Republicans have been feuding for years.
It’s what they do.
What has changed, however, is that there was a time when they could, and often would, put aside their posturing, roll up their sleeves and get to work with the nation’s interest, instead of their pocketbooks, at heart.
Election 2016 has been one hell of a fight.
It has splintered the electorate, threatened the system, made a mockery of all that the United States represents.
It’s time to put that aside and rebuild, to remember the essence of who we are, what we stand for, the common goals of humanity; to regain the respect and affection we once held for each other; to rebuild the nation.
I am reminded of a passage from a speech delivered by John F. Kennedy shortly before he was inaugurated in which he quoted the words of John Winthrop, a founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
“We must always consider, (Winthrop) said, “that we shall be as a city upon a hill — the eyes of all people are upon us,” Kennedy said. “Today the eyes of all people are truly upon us – and our governments, in every branch, at every level, national, state and local, must be as a city upon a hill – constructed and inhabited by men aware of their great trust and their great responsibilities. For we are setting out upon a voyage in 1961 no less hazardous than that undertaken by the Arbella in 1630. We are committing ourselves to tasks of statecraft no less awesome than that of governing the Massachusetts Bay Colony, beset as it was then by terror without and disorder within.
“History will not judge our endeavors – and a government cannot be selected – merely on the basis of color or creed or even party affiliation. Neither will competence and loyalty and stature, while essential to the utmost, suffice in times such as these. For of those to whom much is given, much is required.”
Much is required of us, now, to move forward in a spirit of unity, trust, and selfless duty to restore the honor of a nation sullied by the actions of a few who have nurtured the ugliest side of the American persona.
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.