“What has been will be again…there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1: 9 NIV
Another round of the Democratic Party candidate debates is over. And what have we learned?
We’ve learned that this year’s made for TV debates are just as ridiculous as the Republican candidate debates back in 2016.
At least this time we didn’t have any comments about the size of the candidates’, um, hands.
Nevertheless, when there are ten people on stage, what chance is there for meaningful conversation about anything?
The questioners don’t help matters by reducing the extraordinarily complex issues of our time to “okay, show of hands, how many of you favor broccoli over chocolate cake?”
All of the candidates have websites with varying degrees of depth that lay out their plans and perspectives, but have you looked at any of them? (True disclosure: I haven’t either.)
Instead, we get modern television debates and their weird mix of sports and show biz. Candidates are handicapped like horses before the event, then are judged like beauty pageant contestants afterwards on their sincerity, poise, passion, or how fast they recover from verbal stumbles.
What any of this has to do with electing a president of the United States is beyond me.
Actually, that last sentence wasn’t true. I understand exactly what all this has to do with electing a president.
It’s about money, and the gathering of it. And it’s about data, and the harvesting of it.
To modern campaign managers you and I are simply digital impulses, capable of manipulation. If managers play their cards right, your desire for a safe, strong and compassionate country can be turned into a reliable cash stream. Help your candidate stay on top despite the cheating cheaters trying to take him down! Help your underdog knock off the leader, who only got there by being a cheating cheater himself!
Perhaps you’ve been called by a pollster who wants your opinion on a political race. I have. I was actually asked once, “which presidential candidate would you most like to have a beer with?” I explained that I don’t drink, but that didn’t deter the on-point questioner. “Well, if you did drink, which candidate would you most like to have a beer with?”
This happens because presidential campaigns must leave no stone unturned in their quest for power.
Hillary Clinton was never able to get over the perception that she was “cold.” Her personality didn’t bother me, but it’s true that I wouldn’t have wanted to have a beer with her, even if I did drink.
What I actually do want—if any pollster cares—is to be able to go to sleep at night knowing the man or woman in the White House is a whole lot smarter than I am. I don’t care whether they like broccoli, or bacon burgers. I don’t care what they do to relax, as long as it’s legal, and doesn’t involve cheating on a spouse.
I want a president who is capable of listening to all sides of difficult issues with an open mind, and then articulate a vision that makes me believe the boss is able to adjust to the world, and not demand that the world adjust to him.
The problem is that after living through presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2, Obama and Trump, it’s starting to dawn on me that nothing much really changes from election cycle to election cycle.
Each election is the most important election ever. Each president promises changes, most of which never occur. Government stalemates abound. So does corruption. So does finger-pointing. The airways remain filled with false claims of success, and false denials of failure.
Well, here we go again, and this election is clearly the most important in a generation. Just like the last one was. And just like the next one will be.
When we’re young, we’re going to change the world. In our middle years, our optimism lingers but is tempered with reality. When we’re older, our sixty-plus years teach us that only technology changes.
Ecclesiastes was right. People, for both better and worse, don’t change much at all.