So much dissatisfaction

2 Nov

The election is two days away, but for weeks — make that “months” — people have been saying they can’t wait until it’s over.

This is not what the founding fathers intended. Elections were to be a time of engagement and excitement as citizens exercised their right to choose their government.

How did we go wrong?

Part of the problem seems to be the sheer length of  the election cycle. People get tired of hearing about the same issues, ideas and candidates for months or even years. The average soul can’t focus that long — and doesn’t want to.

Another part of the problem is the pervasiveness of the media today. Everywhere you turn, you can read or watch or hear — or all three — the latest news, commercial or rumor — or all three — about the election and the candidates. It’s almost impossible to escape, and that relentlessness wears on people’s nerves.

And then there’s the general nastiness that goes on in campaigns at all levels but especially on the highest levels. Campaigns hire people simply to dig and dish dirt about their opponents. And if the campaigns themselves don’t do it, the parties will take care of it on their behalf. The citizenry feels dumped on and gets tired of miring in the muck.

Most importantly, perhaps, citizens begin to wonder if they can believe anybody. We begin to feel like a jury, hearing two totally conflicting stories, trying to figure out who is guilty or not guilty.

Even worse, the attitude easily carries over into a cynicism about government itself. “If we couldn’t trust this crowd during the campaign,” we ask, “why should we trust them now?” And so our irritation and dissatisfaction with government compounds.

Far wiser people than I have suggested solutions — most of which have been ignored. Perhaps, though, more sheer transparency at every step and on everyone’s behalf would help some.

It might help, too, if citizens could be taught to be skeptics, who question everything, rather than cynics, who believe they know the negative answers before they ask the questions.


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