“What a long, strange trip it’s been.”
The catchy refrain from Grateful Dead’s 1970 hit “Truckin’” echoes in my head tonight as I think about what our nation has been through over the past eighteen-odd months (this is, of course, assuming that the reader lives in the United States). While I’ve never been one to follow politics too closely, each election cycle seems to draw me in, albeit only insofar as they stand to be remembered in history. And in recent years, there have been some pretty historical elections. In 2008, we saw John McCain square off against Barack Obama in an election that gave America its first black president. Again, in 2012, the people decreed that Obama would retain his title as commander-in-chief and take rank with the two-term presidents of yesteryear.
I’m not here to discuss my feelings about the results of those elections. Whatever good or bad has come of them is now simply reality, and lauding the merits or lamenting the faults of the soon-to-be erstwhile administration seems to me like a fruitless endeavor. It happened—past tense. Now we must decide how it will influence the future.
As a fickle political adherent, I’m not the most qualified person to give a comprehensive criticism of a particular policy, candidate, or ideology. But I do pay attention, and after many months of tiredly scrolling through Facebook and Twitter, continuously assaulted by Hillary this and Trump that, I’m ready to give my proverbial two cents.
I’ll start off by saying that I generally don’t believe that one side has the right of anything, with regard to almost everything. So often, the truth is found in the middle, and the political arena is no different to me. This election cycle has reinforced that belief in my mind perhaps more convincingly than any article or op-ed ever could. Both major political factions have fronted candidates that are despised even by members of their own party, and with just over a week left until Election Day, it’s not uncommon to find people who will be holding their nose and pulling the lever for one candidate or the other on November 8th. Again, I’m no expert, but I don’t think this is the kind of outcome that many Americans would have wanted for 2016.
Despite the seemingly hopeless situation we find ourselves in, I do believe that this election has shaken things up enough to show us a thing or two about where this country is headed. Whether or not it gets there is another matter entirely—but the undercurrent of the 2016 Election is decidedly one of dissatisfaction with the establishment, and a strong desire for an outsider to overturn that which we have come to accept as inevitable. It’s just unfortunate that the “outsider” candidate in this election is one as boorish and offensive as Donald Trump. I’m sorry if you like Trump—I harbor no ill will towards you, because I realize that there are many reasons why one would support him—but I simply can’t stand the man. He does not embody any desirable character traits that this nation needs to emulate.
With that said, I have to also voice my equal (and perhaps even greater) disdain for Hillary Clinton. I have no idea how someone embroiled in so much scandal, with so many unrepentant contradictions of ideology on her record could ever have made it this far. To many, she is simply “better than Trump”, which to them makes her good enough for the oval office. Instead of two qualified candidates who exemplify a leader that we can admire and support proudly, we have a brawler and a schemer. They’d be more believable as characters on Sons of Anarchy or House of Cards than as presidential candidates.
Still, even as four years with one of them looms on the horizon, we are at an interesting crossroads. What 2020 will look like is anyone’s guess, but my guess is that it’ll involve a continued outsider mentality that we saw from candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. With both of the aforementioned able to galvanize a large grassroots following—especially among my generation, in the case of the latter—it’s not inconceivable to imagine an election even more progressive than this one has been… but hopefully by then, we’ll have better candidates to choose from.
At the end of the day, I would encourage you, the reader, to step back and look at the bigger picture before you lament the outcome of Election Day. I have many friends and family who identify as strong conservatives, and still others who are avowed liberals. As someone who more and more finds himself unable to plant one foot firmly on either side of the fence, I feel the need to maintain neutrality in the face of the overwhelming amount of hate that I see from both ends of the spectrum. In this case, that means admitting that both candidates, and the parties that they represent, are fundamentally flawed. Neither will deliver on (most of) their promises, and I don’t believe that either will usher in the apocalypse that their opponents believe them capable of.
For what it’s worth, I feel that it’s apropos to state here that the only candidate in this race I had a decent amount of respect for was Bernie Sanders. I know that may draw the ire of my conservative friends, but I respected his passion despite disagreeing with his proposed policies. He fought hard for a vision that I believe he believed in, and even in the face of scandal and corruption amidst the DNC, he encouraged his disillusioned followers to accept Clinton as the Democratic nominee, a graceful ceding of victory that stood in stark contrast to Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump at the RNC, despite an earlier promise to do so. I see a lot of honor and character in that. It’s a shame that neither nominee seems to mirror those qualities.
You may excoriate me if you wish, but with an election as unconventional as this one has been, I felt a desire to share my thoughts, and decided it’d be best to do it in one fell swoop, rather than with a prolonged stream of social media rants.
And in the words of Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”