The 2016 election cycle was like a personal tornado for me. It started out fast-paced and exciting. Everything was upside down. The Republican party had nearly twenty strong candidates that could have easily defeated Hillary Clinton, Hillary Clinton looked mortal against the onslaught of Bernie Sanders supporters, and Donald Trump possibly changed the political process forever before our eyes. Even the Libertarians seemed primed for a serious run at the White House. As a young person with a politics major, this was the epitome of excitement. This was what America was all about. This was what I hoped and planned to be involved in one day, hopefully to make a positive difference in our great country.
Then the storm broke. The tornado ended when Trump claimed victory over Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and everyone else. Clinton also claimed victory, even though it was basically hers all along. I looked around, and all that I saw left was chaos and destruction; a town leveled by two unstoppable forces of nature. At the moment of this article’s publication, the two major party candidates for president are the two most hated candidates of all time. No election has ever been more polarizing than the one taking place right now in 2016. Hate has become a successful political weapon for the first time in my limited life experience and it has broken my spirit.
The last article that I wrote for this sight designed to get my ideas out into the world was published in March and asked whether or not nice guys could win in politics any more. I begrudgingly admitted that they could not…at least in 2016. The main reason for this is because the political climate has been one of hate, anger, and frustration for years without any sign of change. But that is only a symptom of the problem instead of the entire diagnosis. America has seemingly forgotten that our country is not ruled by one individual in a White House with the assistance of nine people in black robes. There are 535 United States senators and representatives who actually make the laws in the United States, not to mention the countless numbers of elected state officials who handle the matters that hit closest to home for the average American.
Yet, these people are forgotten because they are not in the media’s spotlight. They are forgotten because the American people have more pressing matters of work, family, and entertainment to worry about than what faceless Representative will move to Washington and sell them out in the interest of the politician’s check book. Negativity and unaccountability have rendered the majority of our elected representatives invisible and unimportant. Many don’t even realize that the president doesn’t have the power to do whatever he wants. Trump cannot build a wall under the Constitution. He can only sign the Wall bill into the Wall law once the Congress has passed it. Meanwhile, the venom, hate, and general ignorance will grow until it can no longer be contained by those with reason and the country you and I love so much has been defeated by the passions of the majority.
This realization broke my spirit and I swore off politics until I could once again make sense of everything happening around me. I gave up hope until the town was rebuilt.
Then came the fireworks. This Fourth of July, mere hours before the rushed publication of this incarnation of my tumultuous emotions, I watched my local government provide the only real service to this town that they accomplish every year. I watched the fireworks display. This year was different from every other year. Instead of watching the ensemble with childish delight and awe, I saw it as the celebration of a flawed government that was purposefully pushing itself deeper into disarray. I did not believe that the town could return to what it had been before the twister ripped it apart.
My thirteen year old brother, who is currently in the middle of his own political awakening, decided that this was the moment to say something profound. He observed the beauty of the fireworks and expressed his appreciation for the borough putting together this celebration of freedom for its citizens every year. He still had faith in America because he did not see it as the mindless followers of Clinton and Trump arguing over talking points while their political messiahs dealt with one scandal after another. He saw America as I should have seen it, as we should all see it, as millions of people using their talents, freedoms, and opportunities coming together to make this country work as best we can. At that moment, with the world illuminated by the glare of a red rocket, I remembered how good America is and how good it can be. I started to care again.
The United States is more than just Trump or Clinton. It’s more than just SJW’s arguing with Conservatives on Twitter. It’s more than just whether or not Caitlyn Jenner is brave or condemning a fellow human being for using a word that was politically correct last week but is no longer so today. It’s more than wondering if you can trust the lady in the burkha standing on the other side of the street, the latino who moved in next door, or the man leaving the gun shop with a sparkling new AR-15 and hating them because you’ve been forced to be afraid that they can end your life as you know it and you are powerless to stop it. We need to be more than the United States of America. We need to be the United Citizens of America. I forgot that for some time because I was just so tired of the bickering between the candidates, the unaccountability of our media, and the impotence of our leaders.
I was distracted and devastated by the political tornado that descended upon my beloved country a year ago, along with nearly every other American with a loosely researched opinion and a bias towards either party’s platform. I lost myself in the storm and I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one. It’s not too late to rebuild our town. Hope is not lost. This November, we can rebuild our country so that it is stronger than ever through hard work, cooperation, and the realization that neither Clinton nor Trump can fix this thing on their own. It’s going to take us all.