Last week, 1,400 Iowa caucus voters chose Former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton over Vermont's Liberal Senator Bernie as their nominee for president by a hotly contested margin of 4 votes. Although Canadian-born Ted Cruz handily won the Republican nomination, Constitutional scholars say he's not eligible to be president.
Constitutional scholars aside, polls now suggest Sanders and Donald Trump are set to win the New Hampshire primary. The fact that New Hampshire families are set to choose two radically different candidates at extreme opposite ends of the political spectrum is not a new dilemma. The detached and often volatile means by which candidates now wage their campaigns warrants reflection.
If you don't think so, I urge you to read some of the recent Twitter chatter from the campaign trail.
These comments are disturbing to me because before this, I would have thought that only a sociopath would unapologetically state, point blank, on national television, that they want to normalize the violent torture of detained, incapacitated crime suspects.
Dangerous sociopaths need to be cast from society, not lead it. Yet ironically, the candidate whose family's regime actually did normalize torture of came out of the discussion sounding like the voice of reason.
Society's acceptance of these radical views suggest that the campaign trail has become a pulpit from which Conservatives share some of the most terrifying sound bites humanity has to offer.
While playing to the worst of humanity may make good television, the president is supposed to be a leader, not a serial killer or an entertainer. America needs a leader who values love and connection to fellow human beings. Congress needs to get back to the business of working for the people. We need leaders who listen and offer a respectful workplace environment which will foster agreements that efficiently pass through our polarized Congress.
Our election system is supposed to help America's majority select a leader, but has it ever worked?
When I was a kid growing up in Concord, the New Hampshire primaries were a magical time when obscure communities had unfettered access to presidential candidates. On New Year's Eve, candidates marched in the First Night parade down Main Street. It didn't matter how cold out it was or whether there was snow, after the parade, the candidates would stop in front of the statehouse and talk with voters over coffee and hot chocolate. There were no velvet ropes and you didn't have to RSVP for a $10,000 mug. It was just come as you are, shake hands with all the candidates, share your ideas. The candidates also shook hands with each each other.
This was an era where presidential the candidates needed exceptional interpersonal skills to connect with voters and before campaigns became multi-billion dollar sagas spanning several years. It was before the internet and cell phones interrupted every conversation, before the heightened security hastened by 9/11 made every voter into a potential crime suspect. The media circus was not nearly as intense or choreographed.
From New Years Eve until primary day, our leaders and media outlets cared about what our largely working-class families thought of them. My mom is a teacher who used to own a popular toy store on Main Street in Concord, and I used to spend my afternoons there, after school, babysitting my siblings or helping out around the store. January was busy because of the after Christmas sale season, and candidates would stop in to browse and talk to parents. This was normal to us.
In 1988, a local mom asked me to babysit for her daughter at a fundraiser for then presidential candidate Bob Dole at a friend's home. The guest speaker was Elizabeth Dole. There were perhaps 15 women packed into the living room, all dressed up as if we were going to church. When Mrs. Dole explained the many reasons why her family loves her husband, and why she believed he should be our next president, politics suddenly become tangible to me in a way that was personal.
That year, Vice President George HW Bush ran television ads that accused Dole of being a "tax raiser." Dole waited until after he lost the New Hampshire primary to responded on live television by telling Bush to "stop lying about my record."
It was scandalous, and yet in 2016, Dole endorsed Jeb Bush's campaign.
In 1992, Bill Clinton was an unknown governor from Arkansas who was frequently seen awkwardly standing in slush at intersections, holding a sing and waving to cars. He spoke at to a packed out auditorium at my high school, explaining to kids how important New Hampshire families were to the election process. Although Clinton lost the New Hampshire primary, his strong second place finish was an upset that helped him win the nomination and the general election.
The romantic backwoods charm of the NH primary can make you feel as if you have traveled back 20 years to an era where things were much simpler. It is easy to forget that at times, this system has produced victories for dangerous zealots.
Buchanan's win makes it all that less surprising that a bigot like Trump could also take NH.
Trump's platform is based exclusively on promoting his own ability to steam roll, avenge, and deprive the vulnerable. Trump bails himself out with money from Saudi Arabia's royalty, then promises to round up Muslims and other immigrants like cattle and deport them.
Trump's views are the worst humanity has to offer, but he's not alone.
When GOP leaders tell us that they are "sick of political correctness," they honestly telling us who they don't think should have a seat at the table. You'd be wise to believe GOP candidates when they tell you that they plan to regulate women's bodies and defund their healthcare, deny healthcare to Michigan residents poisoned by Flint's drinking water, and curb civil rights for minorities dying at the hands of police brutality and incarcerated at alarming rates.
This is not how any of my Conservative friends see themselves. At least I hope it's not.
Part of the problem is that by denying citizens in all states the right to simultaneously vote, we deprive them of an equal say in who will represent them. Voters in border states like California and New Mexico will be limited to whomever is still in the race after every other state except DC has voted in June. This system defies the core democratic principles of equality and freedom upon which our elections should be based.
America's election system should hold sacred the values espoused by our diverse nation by attributing equal weight to each ballot cast in the primaries. If our country is going to usher in a new era of integrity and productivity in Congress, then we must reform our election system so that the process also brings out the best qualities in our candidates.