By Graham Glover –
I recently mailed in my absentee ballot for this year’s elections. Included on my ballot was the most depressing vote I have ever made.
Some of you know that my home state of Florida is having its gubernatorial election this year. The candidates are the current governor, Rick Scott-R and his predecessor, Charlie Crist-D. I can’t think of two men who I would less like to see as governor of Florida. A con-artist who avoided prosecution or a man who stands for nothing but himself. The ridiculousness of this election was on full display during last week’s debate that was postponed for almost 15 minutes over the inclusion of a fan. Yes, a fan. I simply cannot imagine how the choices for the highest office in the state could be any worse. As Adam Smith of the Tampa Bay Times noted after last night’s final debate: “Is this really the best that Florida can do?”
Florida has become popular for election ridicule since the 2000 presidential election. I’m still not exactly sure what a hanging-chad is, but I do know that Florida remains the focal point of political satire among pundits all over the nation.
I wonder though, are elections in Florida really any different than the rest of our republic? I think not.
As I survey the political landscape of our great nation I am increasingly left utterly unsatisfied with the candidates our parties nominate. On both sides of the aisle we are given candidates that represent the most extreme views of their parties. Pragmatic moderation seems to be anathema by Republicans and Democrats alike. If you are not a radical conservative or liberal, you need to apply. This means only the fringe elements of the parties are considered, most of whom do not represent the majority of the electorate. This rabid partisanship also means very little gets accomplished in Congress or our State Legislatures, especially if different parties control different branches. Being “right” is infinitely more important than governing.
I also see very little by way of good debate in our elections. This is due in part to the fringe candidates being nominated, but also to a lack of intellectual aptitude among the radicals of both parties.
Debates consist of sound bites and catch phrases, and nothing else (unless it’s a debate over the inclusion of a fan). Big ideas are seldom, if ever debated. Any voter that has a semblance of a political heartbeat can predict exactly how the candidates will answer questions on the campaign trail and how they will vote once in office. Compromise is a four-letter word. Intellectual curiosity does not exist. Elections seem more like a beauty pageants than a place for citizens and candidates to flush out ideas and explore innovative ways of governing.
Money also has a lot to do with the demise of elections. I am not criticizing those who have been fortunate enough to make a lot of money in the private sector and then decide to run for public office. But how often do lower or middle class individuals get an honest chance to hold office? Beyond the local level, our candidates and our elected officials more often than not represent the top tier of the income brackets. How very unrepresentative…Then there is the amount of money candidates and political parties pour into elections. The 2016 presidential election will cost over several billion dollars (that’s billions…plural). The thought of that amount of money being required to win the presidency is sad, pathetic, and an indictment on our entire political system.
Back to Florida. I could have voted to reelect Rick Scott. I mean, he is a self-made millionaire (don’t worry if he should be in jail for how he made his money) and just wrote a check to his campaign for $20 million (how very noble of him). Or I could have voted to elect (again) Charlie Crist. Four years ago Crist was a Republican (who adored Reagan), then became an Independent when he lost his US Senate primary to the up and coming Marco Rubio. He’s now a Democrat who says he has finally found his political home (although he always campaigned as a conservative that blasted liberals). Can’t you just sense the authenticity? Honestly, is this all my home state has to offer? Is this all America has to offer? Unless you can show me someone or some party that offers something more, I’m afraid this is what has become of our elections. And that is beyond depressing.