Dragging on for an excruciating eternity, this election season has demeaned democracy, elevated mediocrity and insulted and embarrassed us all on just about every level imaginable: Intellectually, with regard to the lack of focus on policy and substance; ethically, with a complete disregard for integrity and character; and morally, driven by a disgraceful descent into racist and xenophobic vitriol.
Given that our country has consistently climbed down the educational attainment ladder, and that inane and banal reality TV shows draw more eyeballs than books and opera
, it should not surprise us that a growing swath of the electorate is more enthused by a coarse, bullying celebrity than by an awkward policy wonk.
But what's doubly disappointing -- as we head into the crucial presidential debates -- is that this lack of intellectual depth is enabled not only by the candidates, but also by the topics they gravitate to, which the media frenzy then exacerbates.
These are topics that don't matter when it comes to making a difference in the future of our country: the size of a candidate's hands (and therefore other body parts), the now-moot birther issue, the Monica Lewinsky and Marla Maples scandals, the name-calling and finger pointing about who is more racist than whom, who is healthier than whom.
What happened to serious problem-solving? What happened to working toward a better world? To the extent that the candidates have voiced views on relevant policy matters such as child care
and college costs
, they've been drowned out by spectacle and triviality.
Speaking of a better world, what about ethics? Have we ever witnessed a more compromised pair of candidates?
How could such a great country not produce better options? These are two candidates whose spectacular failures and stark shortcomings are only overshadowed by the fact they have consistently evaded
significant personal consequences while growing ever richer through calculated connections and deft manipulation of legal, political and financial systems.
Hillary is hobbled by her evasions and lack of transparency
, deleted emails
and haunting doubts about her decision-making and role in complex fiascos
such as Benghazi and Whitewater. The Donald, never to be outdone, is burdened by bankruptcies
, over-the-top flip-flopping
, womanizing and allegations of misogyny
. All told, they present an ethical embarrassment of global proportions.
And morally, what a shame. I mean, there have been moments over the years that make you wonder how politicians can still proclaim we are the greatest nation on Earth without blinking or flinching. Abu Ghraib comes to mind. Tuskegee Experiment. Operation Wetback. Japanese American internment. Jim Crow. Slavery. Native American genocide. And the list goes on and on.
But debasing the debate about race into senseless finger-pointing and disingenuous pandering further humiliates minority communities without offering concrete solutions to the complicated challenges we face.
Trump has chosen to portray undocumented Latino immigrants as rapists and murderers
rather than as vital contributors to our economy and refugees from failing nations. He taunts African- Americans to support him, with offensive exhortations
like: "What do you have to lose?" He stokes white supremacism and xenophobia, wailing for walls and racial profiling as policy solutions to address immigration and terrorism.
Yet his surrogates -- including a handful of inexplicable African-Americans, Latinos and Muslim Americans -- cover up his callousness by dismissing criticism as mere political correctness
, ignoring the corrosive effect of his vitriol on race relations and civil discourse on this important subject. On the other hand, it is far too easy for Clinton to assume she will carry the minority vote despite her party's failure to deliver tangible results on critical issues
such as immigration and judicial reform.
During these troubling times; we can find no solace in having elected an African-American president only to see our country rapidly regress into a state of arrested social development and heightened racial tension. And that's not even delving into the Black Lives Matter/police racism conundrum that the candidates have also fumbled about in their typically polarizing ways
, without offering any real and holistic solutions
Indeed, this election has been ugly. It has consistently raised more questions than answers, provoked more problems than solutions. So much so it makes you wonder if the whole system isn't falling apart. I used to think Congress and Washington were broken, but this electoral season reveals broader and deeper dysfunctions: the intractability of the two-party system, the dubious role of the media, and the polarized, crass, uncivil, uneducated, sensationalist, shallow and self-absorbed national culture.
If I could vote for anything this season, it would be a do-over:
A shorter campaign season. Higher standards for media coverage. Stricter campaign finance rules that keep big money out of politics and level the playing field for a wider range of candidates offering diverse and innovative ideas as well loyalty to the best interests of the entire nation. And a revamping of the system so that more political parties can provide better options while shattering the paradigm of bipartisan gridlock that paralyzes our nation's progress.
Unfortunately, those concepts are not on any ballot. Instead of refreshing visions for a future geared to the needs and aspirations of a young millennium, we are mired in a nightmarish late 80s/early 90s déjà vu. Choosing between Clinton and Trump makes for the worst election ever. The only thing that promises to be ghastlier is the outcome.