2016 Election Will Test Voter Intelligence

Whither America? Whither the conscience and soul of America?

A campaign based on negativity leavened with bombastic claims without details of how we are going to fix our problems and how we would pay for any fix, yet all will be terrific, has all but officially captured the nomination of a once proud and revered Republican Party. Voters in GOP primaries and caucuses, including many independents and disaffected Democrats, have latched onto the proverbial "pig in a poke."

Most reality shows last about four months. The danger this election cycle is that Americans, so used to viewing The Bachelor/Bachelorette or The Amazing Race, might think they are watching a season of Survivor or The Biggest Loser while the true reality is that the United States would be the biggest loser if Donald Trump ascends to the presidency. The founding principles of the country might not survive his term of office.

To many, Trump is a candidate to be scorned and derided, to be ridiculed, but mostly, to be feared, not because he is so unqualified and peripatetic in his views and opinions, but rather because of what it says about the American public's willingness to support someone who appeals not to their hopes and aspirations but to their prejudices, anger and resentments.

Instead of a nation of laws and equal opportunity, we are descending into a nation that reviles any institution that differs with our individual views. The misogynists among us have been emboldened by Trump's attacks on women. Those opposed to marriage between the races have blasted Old Navy's use of a photo of an interracial family in an ad. Religious extremists of varied faiths decry the Supreme Court decision permitting same-sex marriage. They believe the Bible supersedes the Constitution. Unless you are descended from Native Americans, you are the progeny of immigrants. Yet Trump has stoked xenophobia. Respect for our military suffered a blow when Trump demeaned Sen. John McCain and other prisoners of war for being captured. Trump has questioned long-standing alliances such as NATO and raised doubts about the supremacy of civilian control over the military (according to The New York Times, he would empower "military leaders over foreign affairs specialists in national security debates".

It is indisputable we have bifurcated into a nation of haves and have nots. Equally true is that the population has segmented into groups with no memory or historical context for the evil demagogues, both foreign and domestic, can perpetuate and those who recall or remember the history of the not too distant past.

This campaign will test the intelligence of the electorate. It will pit against each other stark differences in tone and substance. Will the public vote to roll back decades of progress in equality and economic opportunity, environmental and product protection, American leadership in the world, or will we opt for barriers and repeal based on a demagogue's populist rantings?

Sadly, our nation has a history of turning its back on the future. Jim Crow laws followed emancipation. Isolationism and anti-Semitism stoked by the likes of Father Coughlin's radio broadcasts followed victory in World War I. McCarthyism followed our ascendancy as the premiere power in the world after the second world war.

The central question of the November election will be, which group of Americans will tip the balance--those who reject the last 80 years of American leadership, or those who continue to believe the United States can be an example for all nations?