HONOLULU, August 27, 2016 – Is it necessary to defend the honor of your favorite presidential candidate against every evil attack? Whether it’s Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Election 2016 has American voters more opinionated and angrier than they’ve ever been in recent memory.
Last week, Politico reported that online clashes over the Democratic and Republican nominees have wrecked Facebook friendships and even drove disagreeing family members to “de-friend” each other.
Could the outcome of the November election really be this important? In a word, no. Here’s why.
- Candidates and elections have a short shelf-life, but you’re still stuck with the rest of yours.
One of the biggest problems America faces these days is the fact that in spite of advances in communications connectivity, people now find themselves more alone and isolated than ever before. Social networking sites, iPhones, and Galaxy tablets may have made it easier and more rapid to talk with people, but they have not improved the quality of our relationships and bonds with one another.
Election cycles last a very short time. In spite of all the babies they kiss or the disconsolate disaster refugees they embrace on national television, candidates are really focused on only one thing alone – winning their election. Win or lose, when the election is over, politicians don’t think about the groups they’ve offended, the individual relationships they’ve shattered, the careers they’ve ended, and they certainly don’t think about you.
The most successful candidates are often the ones who are able to effectively compartmentalize and segregate their public actions and ideology from their actual private life. Candidates have to view others – sometimes, even their closest advisors and allies – as expendable in order to maintain forward momentum in their career and to win as many votes as possible.
By contrast, your relationships with family, friends, and associates directly affect your quality of life. While it may feel temporarily exciting to play the role of ideological crusader, you still have to work, live, and play with the people in your sphere of influence. After an election is over, harsh words, rude behavior, and aggressive attitudes leave stains on other people’s lives that are not quickly removed.
- Being too “political” can affect your employment.
Sadly, in today’s limited job market, employers are especially selective, if not outright picky, about who they hire. Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook are among the first places many employers look to find out more information about prospective applicants, and finding results that reflect a high level of discourtesy, a predisposition towards argument, or beliefs that – while they may seem normal to you – are potentially offensive to others, can negatively impact your career success, even years after an election is over.
- No one really cares … and that includes political parties and their candidates.
It goes without saying that most Americans are so apathetic about politics and the “important” issues of the day. But what about politicians? Surely they must care about your opinions! (But they don’t.) In spite of what you see on television, hear on the radio, or read in print, the major parties and their candidates don’t actually care about the issues or you.
As a former legislative staffer, I can tell you that behind the scenes, the discussions elected officials and candidates have sound nothing like Fox News or MSNBC. If the major parties actually cared what individual people thought, the structure of our American political system would be more like the hotel industry where service, satisfaction, and customer loyalty are cherished, rather than a glorified version of public high school where you’re given limited choices and told to like them.
The worst thing that an ordinary person could possibly do is to invest themselves into political candidates and parties, not realizing that the public persona and outward fronts they project have little, if any basis in truth. I have seen far too many good people volunteer long hours for campaigns, donate thousands of dollars to candidates they were absolutely persuaded were “The One” to save the world, and pour all of their hopes, only to be let down when a party changes its positions or a candidate doesn’t honor their promises.
As the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein once said, “Politics is when you say you are going to do one thing while intending to do another, then you do neither what you said, nor what you intended.”
Anyone who places their faith in politics must be prepared to be disappointed again and again and again.
- Sorry, but the President of the United States doesn’t actually run the country.
While there is no doubt that Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump would have immense power at their fingertips if elected, the reality is that neither of them will actually have the opportunity to “run” the country the way they propose to do so.
For starters, the first thing that anyone who ever gets elected to office discovers is that they can’t actually handle the responsibilities of the job without relying excessively on their staff. Very few elected officials and candidates actually put in “hard work” when it comes to policymaking and pubic administration. Even if they wanted to, the other commitments of being in office make spending time doing analytical, managerial, or even creative work nearly impossible.
This means that for all their talk of “showing leadership” for America, your next p resident will “take charge” by telling other people to take charge and come up with a plan they can review and approve. That isn’t leadership, that’s enthusiastic delegation.
The majority of decisions that actually affect Americans are made by millions of never-elected political appointees, civil service employees, and contractors staffing offices most people have never even heard of. While elected officials do set the overarching policies, the reality is that the bureaucracy decides how and when to implement them.
This is the reason why there is significant policy overlap between Democratic and Republican administrations, because even when the person at the top is different, the people filling the rest of the government are largely the same. If that seems frustrating, it should be.
- You’re more important than all the parties, candidates, and political supporters put together.
At the end of the day, social contract societies like the United States were founded on the premise that government exists for the people. No one should ever worship a candidate or love a political party so much that they would be willing to tear apart the fabric of their lives just to see them elected.
America is greater than the celebrities we exalt and the news we follow. Our country began with individuals, families, and neighborhoods. The measure of your worth and the worth of those around you is far more than just political preferences at the ballot box.
I say this: If you know who you’re voting for, good for you! Make your vote, and encourage others to do the same. If we win, we win. If we lose, we lose. Don’t go on a crusade for people and parties that would never crusade for you. In 2016, the only thing that matters is you and your family. In the final analysis, there are no alt-rights, social justice warriors, conservatives, liberals, blacks, or whites – only people who have to live and grow old one day.
At some point we have to say enough is enough. One can only listen to so many speeches. One can only watch so many interviews. One can only argue for so long before the realization comes that nothing is changing and the proportion of winners and losers stays the same every single time.
I don’t know about my readers, but I for one am tired of attending rallies, tired of flying to conferences, tired of reading political e-mails, tired of making donations, tired of advising candidates, and tired of the moral and intellectual hypocrisy that American politics has become.
I’d rather hug my loved ones, be the best person I can be to everyone I meet, and show real leadership by helping my community without the permission of elected Democrats and Republicans.
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