I know the easy thing is to blame the candidates and campaigns for the silly and disappointing turns during election season. I do it myself and am as frustrated as anyone. It angers me to see small issues (many a decade old) made into defining moments and a few out-of-context words treated as a window into someone's soul. I hate the ridiculous ads that stretch the truth to a laughable degree and yet are framed as if the very survival of our nation and planet is at stake. I fight to tune out the campaign spinsters parroting the company line ad nauseum, casting every act by the opposition as a craven, dishonest, predictable, desperate and possibly illegal maneuver.
There's not much we can do about the candidates, but we can change how we talk and write about politics. The first step is to change how we consume political news. Find sources that are somewhat neutral or seek out quality commentary from the other side. If your sources are nothing other than Daily Kos and The Huffington Post or Fox News and Rush Limbaugh, your views will be as limited as the very people you dislike so much.
At some point, though, we have to take responsibility for the tone of politics. Even though our discourse is largely a reflection of what we hear from the parties and the media, why should we descend to that level? Why can't we do better? If you are fed up with how politics is practiced, let's start changing how we practice politics.
The candidate you support is motivated by political calculation and a desire to win just like his opponent. He has compromised when he shouldn't have, ducked when he should have stood up, and made many mistakes (and will continue to do so). Like all national politicians, he is a flawed man surrounded by flawed advisors. The nation's problems will not be solved by his election, but he can and hopefully will makes things better, improve the political process, and appeal to our better natures.
The candidate you oppose is not stupid, senile, dangerous, different, or corrupt. He loves this country and has served it most of his life. He will defend our nation with honor and always do what he thinks is in the best interest of America. He does not deserve to be mocked, belittled, or hated. The snide and snarky only serve to make intelligent debate between reasonable people impossible, while escalating the smack talk arms race.
There are endless arguments to be made for and against each of these candidates on the issues, but why do we have to demonize and deify them in the process?
One of my favorite West Wing moments is when Ainsley, Hayes, a Republican lawyer, is offered a job in the Democratic White House. Her first reaction is no, but she changes her mind at the last minute. Here's what happens when she meets her Republican friends at a bar, who believe she has turned down the offer. The parties are irrelevant, but the point is anything but:
Friend: Tell me about the look on [Chief of Staff] McGarry's face. I wanted you to say it to his face...I wanted to see...
Other Friend: I hate these people
Friend: Did you meet anyone there who isn't worthless?
Ainsley Hayes: Don't say that.
Friend: Did you meet anyone there who has...
Ainsley Hayes: I said, don't say that.
Say they're smug and superior. Say their approach to public policy makes you wanna tear your hair out. Say they like high taxes and spending your money. Say they want to take your guns and open your borders. But don't call them worthless.
At least don't do it in front of me.
The people that I have met have been extraordinarily qualified. Their intent is good. Their commitment is true. They are righteous. And they are patriots.
And I'm their lawyer.