The political parties have concluded their respective four-day infomercials and the fall presidential race is on. Two New Yorkers earned their party nominations after brutally long and tough primary races and contentious, divided conventions, many of the opposing factions still stewing with hurt feelings over their final defeats.
And while the right coalesces behind Donald Trump and the left gathers behind Hillary Clinton, a large number of Americans somewhere in the middle — those who see the world as more complex than the simple black-and-white answers offered in Cleveland and Philadelphia — fret over their choices.
While the candidates themselves are clearly flawed in any number of ways, they merely reflect the directions the parties are headed. Their platforms and positions have become so extreme they have left common sense waiting on the docks as they sail off toward opposite horizons and their respective fantasylands. And neither side in this continental divide seems willing to acknowledge the other half of a country that sees the world in starkly different images.
This was clear in so many ways in two conventions that were poles apart in how they described America’s present and future. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between, but well beyond the limited reach and narrow myopia of those who reside in the world of political vote-grubbing. Both parties are in total denial on a number of issues, while those who live in the real world wonder why they can’t see the gorillas in the room.
Many Democrats seem to naively deny the threat of extremism from the Islamic State and other jihadist groups who continue to lash out in random attacks around the world, fueled by an ideology of hatred against the West that can’t be negotiated into peace. Failing to define who they are or treating them like random bands of street thugs isn’t a serious policy to stamp out terrorism; it’s whistling in the graveyard. It’s past time to get serious and engage in an ambitious policy to silence them.
Many Republicans deny the reality of a nation that no longer fits the lily white, Christian tableau of a nuclear family living behind a picket fence in Anytown, USA. Some refuse to accept that not everyone lives, loves or worships in the same manner as a majority that won’t be a majority forever. These days, most Americans outside of the GOP, and many inside it, don’t give two shiny dimes over who their neighbors marry or pray to, or which bathroom they visit.
Democrats still deny the true nature of a free market economy in which government can’t select winners and losers with impunity or help workers by hurting those who pay their salaries. While doubling the minimum wage may sound fine for San Francisco or Walmart, it would devastate small businesses here in Georgia and other areas of Flyover Land where the cost of living is lower. Apparently the swarm of Manhattanites running for president this year believe everyone pays $10 for a cup of coffee, as they do. That’s why letting states and cities set their own wage rates based on their local economies makes more sense.
Republicans deny science. No one has all the answers on climate change, some of which might occur naturally, but it is likely linked in some degree to human behavior. Yet instead of approaching it in a reasonable manner that addresses environmental concerns without killing jobs, their platform simply ignores it.
Democrats apparently think money pours out of a hole in the ground. The promises of “free” college tuition or “free” health insurance are like candy — sweet but not healthy. Someone has to pay for everything; doctors and professors don’t work cheaply. Plans to soak the rich could lead to those costs trickling down into higher prices on goods and services for everyone. Again, you can’t help working folks by beating up their bosses. Higher taxes and a higher cost of living would replicate the European nanny states many on the far left yearn for but wiser souls want no part of.
Republicans can’t accept the fact that abortions are legal, and have been for decades, and are really only the concern of those who are part of the conception or medical team.
Democrats can’t accept the fact that guns are legal, and have been for centuries, and passing laws to limit them won’t do much to stop madmen from shooting people with them.
And on it goes. In a nutshell, Republicans see boogeymen around every corner, while Democrats refuse to see many boogeymen who are right in front of them.
Yet in both conventions, neither party was willing to speak to, or gaze beyond, their arenas full of wide-eyed, zealous supporters. They offered simple answers, no nuance, just standard talking points boiled down into hard platforms their candidates accept as gospel.
Republicans swayed to patriotic tunes, envisioning an America out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Democrats held hands and crooned “Love Is All You Need,” as if in a Pepsi commercial. Yet neither John Wayne nostalgia nor Kumbaya love-ins are realistic approaches to growing the nation’s middle class or taming a dangerous world.
The nation needs more than love, more than anger; it needs common sense and reason. Running a government involves more than the pleasant poetry and party lines of those who live in cartoon world.
Now the lead characters in those cartoons are riding astride donkey and elephant seeking your vote before Nov. 8. If you haven’t already made up your mind which fortune cookie describes your future, look hard past the slogans and try to find something real you can buy into.
If not — well, don’t give up. Just keep shopping.
Share your thoughts on this or any other topic in a a letter to the editor; you can use this form or email to email@example.com. The Times editorial board includes General Manager Norman Baggs, Editor Keith Albertson and Managing Editor Shannon Casas.