It is the start of the presidential campaign. And it’s an open year! Bonus!
For lovers of politics, this should be a time of energy, study, and interest. Unfortunately, the presidential campaign no longer brings me the joy it once did. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m older and more cynical or because candidates and campaigns have become nastier over the years.
But here I am – with all of you – watching a crazy presidential primary season unfold. We’ve got 16 announced Republican candidates and 5 Democrats. The list includes a Bush, a Clinton, and a Trump. So we know it is going to be one heck of a ride.
And we find ourselves in the phase of the political cycle where none of the candidates are actually saying anything important. Most folks are just trying to increase their name recognition on the national scale. Everyone is trying like crazy to raise money. So. Much. Money.
Our poor reporter friends are stuck in this outrageous world too, covering these campaigns that are not yet about any issues. We get the Trump insult of the day, one Republican candidate applauding Trump, one Republican candidate disavowing him, the Clinton camp’s refusal (again) to talk to reporters and a discussion of the importance of selfies in the campaign.
It’s a great way to pick a president, right?
There is no greater sign of the dysfunction of our political campaign system and the media coverage of it than the phenomenon that is Donald Trump right now. God forbid this man should become our president. But, he has money (“I’m really rich,” he said in his announcement), and he is ever so willing to create a sound bite. That earns him a great deal of coverage, and he is definitely striking a chord. Don’t we all know someone on Facebook who agrees with Donald Trump?
For the record, I don’t think Trump is an idiot. I think he knows exactly what he is doing. He knows with 16 people in the Republican race for the nomination, his name recognition and his financial backing can push the Party. Heck, he might even be a kingmaker.
But Trump is appealing to the worst of us, when I still believe that politics should be about inspiring the best in us. He is playing on our fears and our prejudices, when we need to be thinking about actual policy. We should be looking to our leaders to unite us, rather than divide us. And lest you think this is just a crazy Trump tactic, it is very similar to the winning strategy that George W. Bush employed.
Yes, I want more from our leaders – even those who are just auditioning – and I don’t think I’m alone. I want them to talk to me about real things, and I want them to be honest. I am sick of being told what I want to hear, and I am sick of posturing.
Before you think I am completely cynical and should move to Canada (it’s too cold for me, anyway), I still believe that our campaign system will work. I still (mostly) believe in the voters. I believe that they are pretty good judges of character, and I believe that reporters are pretty good at smoking out a rat.
Will I still have this tiny bit of hope after this election season is over? You’ll have to check with me on November 9th.
Sara Lang has worked in North Carolina politics at the state, federal, and local levels for more than 15 years. A communications consultant, she lives in Cary with her husband, two young children, and a pampered dog.