Americans go to the polls today to choose a president. I don’t have a vote, which is just as well since I’m not impressed with the choices. Are you?
Four years ago, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton, I posted this plea on election day. I was going to write something new today, nothing has changed in four years – which makes this sadly appropriate. I’ve made a couple of comments in italics, but otherwise this is what you read on November 8, 2016.
I’m not sure what to say today.
I had thought maybe an open letter to the American people, urging them to choose wisely as they cast their ballot. But the time for wise choice was in the primaries, now the nation is going to be stuck with a substandard president. And I make that statement regardless of who wins. I think that is still true in 2020. Joe Biden’s biggest plus in the minds of most of those who will vote for him is that he is not Donald Trump.
It’s enough to make people stay away from the polls, but there are other contests being held today beside the presidential one. Voting remains important, even when the choices are less than ideal.
So what would I say to the American people today? In one sentence: “please don’t do this again.”
I’m not saying that there should be no more elections. But I am saying that your nation needs to take a long hard look at how you elect a president. How is the system working for you? Do you think some changes need to be made? Some standards introduced?
How would a viable third party change things? Yes, that would cause Electoral College problems, but is that a bad thing? It seems to me that you have worked yourself into a rut. And a rut, as I heard in a sermon many years ago, is only a grave with both ends knocked out.
Your two-party system has created extreme polarization, and that has led many people to demonize those on the other side of the political spectrum. Maybe it is time for a party rooted in common sense rather than blind ideology. Maybe it is time for the existing parties to look at what they supposedly believe and ask “why?” Maybe there are some pro-life Democrats or Republicans who think a national health care system would be good for the country. How about some dialogue instead of polarization? Find some common ground. From my perspective in Europe, the United States seemed to be more polarized in this campaign than it was four years ago. And I can hear in my mind each party blaming the other one for that. It is a shared responsibility.
The world is watching, not just today but every day. For better or for worse, America is the standard by which other countries measure themselves. The world looks up to you, has for the past 70 years or so. It’s an honour and a big responsibility, one that I know you as a nation have accepted in the past with dignity.
There hasn’t been much dignity in this Presidential election. I guess everyone is entitled to the occasional off year. This though seems like an off decade – and the world can’t afford that any more than America can.
But please, can you promise us we will all feel a lot better about the choices in November 2020? It would make the results of this vote a lot easier to accept. Now we can only hope for better choices in 2024.