You couldn’t make up a stranger tale if you tried: There are 14 Republican candidates running for the Party’s presidential nomination, and the front-runner is Donald Trump. He continues to make billboard-size headlines, most recently with his assertion that no Muslims should be allowed into the United States.
On the other hand, poor Jeb can’t seem to make a headline to save his life. Questions have been raised about Ben Carson’s resume, and apparently he believes the pyramids were built by Joseph to store grain. Carly Fiorina picked a fight with the View, and Rand Paul shushed a female reporter. Marco Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, can’t decide where he stands on immigration.
Not to be outdone, the Democrats have an outright Socialist running for their nomination. Hillary Clinton continues to be dogged by the email scandal, after conducting public business through a private computer server and failing to release the public records. Back in November, she even slipped up in a speech and said that with criminal justice reform, “former presidents won’t have to declare their criminal history at the very start of the hiring process.” And Martin O’Malley continues to stick around, even though he is polling in single digits and has almost no financial support.
The list of shocking quotes, troubling policy stances, and downright ridiculous behavior is too long to include here. We’ve watched with dropped jaws as debates have dissolved into inane banter, and reporters of all stripes have found themselves in the cross-hairs.
Now, there are even rumors of a brokered Republican convention.
Lucky for all of us here in North Carolina, our legislators moved our primary to March in order to fully participate in this craziness. Trump recently visited the state. Jeb Bush came here to raise money. Hillary and Bill have been crisscrossing North Carolina to raise funds. Bernie Sanders held a rally in Greensboro back in September. We are likely to see more candidate traffic – and money – as March approaches.
Yet this absurdity is taking place as very serious issues continue to confront our nation. The threat of terrorism is all too real once again, following the tragedy in Paris and the shooting in San Bernadino. ISIS, terrorism, and political instability in the Middle East are challenges the next president is sure to face.
The U.S. economy continues to grow, and the unemployment rate continues to drop. Yet still many Americans are struggling to find work or are unable to qualify for work at all. The middle class is shrinking, and the American Dream is out of reach for many.
So is this the strangest presidential primary season ever? Probably not; there’s been plenty written about primary candidates who have imploded. Nate Silver also wants us to remember that it is still way too early for most Americans to pay any attention to the presidential contest. And have we already forgotten the craziness that surrounded Bill Clinton’s 1992 primary campaign? (Think Gennifer Flowers, “I didn’t inhale” and draft dodging).
This might not be the craziest political season ever, but this primary is exposing serious flaws in our current political set up. The media’s limited resources and short attention span have shifted campaign news from policy to the most outrageous quote of the day. Social media and the 24-hour news cycle mean even the most innocent mistakes can go viral in a second.
Our culture’s obsession with fame has turned politicians into celebrities, instead of thoughtful problem solvers. The citizenry’s lack of knowledge about current events and inability to grasp history favor short-sighted policies and cute soundbites. We feel angry and frustrated, but we don’t know what to do.
It is a crazy time in American politics – and here in North Carolina. Help inject some sanity by reading about the issues and learning more about the candidates than what you see on social media. Get involved in campaigns and talk to your friends about politics.