The latest scandal du jour is the revelation that Donald Trump, Jr., and others affiliated with our current president met with representatives of the Russian government in Trump Tower last year, when the president was just a candidate, in the hopes of getting information on Hillary Clinton that would tank her dreams of becoming president.
With Russia suspected of interfering with this last presidential election, the discovery that someone from the Trump camp held any kind of meeting was like dropping a stick of dynamite into an oil well. The question of whether Donald Trump the president has had any kind of relationship with Russian and its leader, Vladimir Putin, has been a hot potato kept in the air for more than a year. Cries of impeachment and treason are ringing through the sky.
I can understand why people are up in arms and focused on the Russia connection. American has had very little love for the Kremlin for decades. There were even a couple of movies warning of the dangers of exposing them to sunlight and feeding them after midnight.
Oh, wait. Those movies were about gremlins. Never mind.
What I’m trying to say is that while the Russian angle is a disconcerting point, it’s not the only message we should be taking away from this. Trump Jr.’s little pow wow with the Russians serves as an example of an epidemic that has infected our election system—mudslinging.
Trump Jr. didn’t agree to meet with Russian representatives to look at hiring Russians to urge voters to elect Trump Sr. He wasn’t looking at purchasing some massive mind-control device to steal the election. The reason for the meeting with the Russians, at least from Trump Jr.’s perspective, was to find out dirty secrets about Hillary Clinton.
That didn’t happen, as the Russian lawyer wanted to talk about adoption issues instead. Ergo, no fruit ripened from this act. However, the fact that the Trump camp was salivating over the potential for dirt serves as a powerful reminder that political candidates are no longer interested in getting into office on their own merits and would prefer to have more dirt on their opponents than the opponents have on them.
Can you remember the last time you elected a political candidate that you respected where you knew where he or she stood on issues? Do you know of any candidate who made it into public office who was able to do so without casting aspersions on his or her rivals?
Whenever an election is in full swing, you see very few commercials touting why a candidate should be elected, and instead, you’re deluged with commercials from candidates and special interest groups saying why another candidate is the devil incarnate. You can’t find a candidate who comes out of an election without looking like he or she just finished wrestling a pig at the county fair.
If you look at election participation, you’ll see that, with the exception of presidential races, the majority of voters tends to stay home on Election Day. In the 2016 presidential race, turnout was 54.7 percent, a 20-year low. For the 45.3 percent who opted not to participate, how many of them did so because the sky was a deep shade of brown that day? I have to admit I was tempted not to cast a ballot, and I’m an advocate for doing your duty and going out to vote.
If you take a look at the presidential turnout numbers, you’ll see we haven’t seen numbers in the 60s since the ’60s. At the turn of the 20th century, more than 70 percent of eligible voters turned out to elect a president. Why has our ability to give a damn about who is leading our country waned? Is it general laziness? Not really. Is it because all our candidates come across as evil, either by the claims made by opponents or the actions by the candidates themselves? Oh, yeah.
While I wouldn’t advocate for a ban on election mudslinging, as that would curtail freedom of speech, I think it would be interesting to conduct an experiment and see if we can have an election where we can vote for someone based on whether they can make the best promises on what they can do. If candidates can make promises that reflect my values and show qualifications that prove they can make good on those promises, they’ll have my vote.
Of course, fixing the candidates is only half the solution. The candidates wouldn’t be engaging in character assassination if the dyed-in-the-wool voters didn’t scoop it up with a spoon. Many folks in America just love drama and gossip and would rather revel in the news that Trump is denigrating to women and Hillary Clinton can’t handle her emails. There are some folks who get off on seeing people suffer.
There are other people who are just lazy. They don’t want to do research on candidates; they just want the Cliff Notes. They just believe any little thing that’s on the Internet because, after all, the World Wide Web doesn’t lie. They’d rather vote on their favorite American Idol (which is making a return, sadly) than find out who would best be able to move our society into a new level of peace and prosperity.
However, I think we’ve reached a tipping point. The media went into such a frenzy during the election season reporting every little thing Trump said or did that offended women, minorities, religious leaders and educated people, and the constant barrage of negativity has just ticked people off. The 2016 election will either serve to get more people involved in the political process and ensuring the best candidate that represents our values is elected, or it will cause more people to skip the polls in 2020. I really hope it’s not the latter.
As for Donald Trump Jr., he should take no pride in being the latest poster child for what’s wrong in our political system, but he should take solace that, based on what we’ve seen so far, he won’t be the poster child for long. Another scandal lies just around the corner.