By Randy Cunningham
Let me be blunt. I hate presidential election years. To me they are about as enjoyable as a root canal without anesthesia while simultaneously being given a spinal tap.
The race is seldom inspiring. The inspiring moments that you do find cannot be enjoyed because you know what is coming. The Big Disappointment. The realization that no matter what the result of the contest, you will still end up in a place not of your choosing or liking. It is as if the whole alleged perennial exercise in democracy is designed to disappoint you, to make you passive and cause you to curse the darkness from a seat of cynicism. This is why one of the best descriptions of presidential campaigns is Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail 1972 by Hunter S. Thompson. Fear and loathing just about says it all.
Some election years break the mold and are inspiring – or may I say that they can start out that way. I always swear that I am going to spend the next presidential election year in an isolated shepherd’s hut in Patagonia. This year I am glad I didn’t because I was able to participate in the Bernie Sanders campaign. A campaign that was not dominated by fear and loathing – but was hopeful and inspiring. This was a campaign and candidate you would have walked on your knees over a field of rocks and broken glass for. It was a bridge too far. And where we are now is a campaign for the barely acceptable in order to avoid the truly horrific. As I hump the hood peddling a candidate who can repel enthusiasm like a wax job can repel rain, I dream of Bernie.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, as the old line from Western movies went, all other considerations and issues are buried under the rubble of campaign realpolitik. Presidential election years suck the oxygen out of the room for any other issue or consideration other than the presidential election.
The conquest of Aleppo in Syria is an orgy of officially organized mass murder that rivals Hiroshima and Dresden in World War II, but the victims are Arabs so who cares and it is not nearly as important as the latest polls out of Florida. On the Great Plains the greatest show of unity ever seen among Native Americans is fighting an approaching pipeline in the face of the mobilized might of the state government, militarized police and the deep pockets of the oil industry – but have you heard the latest about Donald’s gropings?
There are benefits. You may have to try real hard to see it at times, but elections do have consequences. And if nothing else they are an opportunity to have a small say in shaping the terrain upon which you will have to work over the next four or more years. It does determine whether you will be patronized or stepped on by the winners and believe me, a pat on the head is much better than a foot upside your butt. And among the benefits are the stories you get out of any campaign you wage – electoral or non-electoral, and the relationships and friendships you form in the heat of struggle.
But I have now lodged my complaint and discontent with our horribly flawed and dysfunctional democracy which is the only one we have got until we construct something better. I have turfs to walk, and a hood to hump, so we’ll see where we are after November 8th. And I still have the phone number for that hut in Patagonia!