Politics and Paranoia

Politics and Paranoia

Anyone who has been paying even the slightest attention to presidential politics this year is aware that we as a nation are faced with choosing between two very flawed candidates. The strongest and most persuasive argument either one has, boils down to this: Vote for me, because the alternative is much worse.

Political pundits of all persuasions have elevated this argument almost to an art form. Or, more accurately, they have lowered this argument to a level beyond mere name-calling and well into paranoia. If the other candidate wins, the argument is heard, the United States as we know it will cease to exist. The other political party, which has done so much to harm people like you and me (they say), will finally have that ultimate power to complete the destruction of the Constitution and our way of life, which has been their secret goal all along. My response: that is not only untrue and irresponsible, it is paranoid.

Even a landslide vote at the presidential level has one candidate winning 50-something percent of the vote and the other 40-something percent. It is impossible to believe in the virtues of democracy and free elections on the one hand, and on the other hand to believe that roughly half of our nation’s voters support a candidate who is openly working to ruin our country. Republican paranoia manifests itself in statements that talk of politicians having “witnessed first-hand treason” that presumably underlies the Democratic Party. It is manifested in those who see the less than two percent of Americans who are Muslims as posing a threat because they are somehow the vanguard of a “13 century struggle that Islam has had with Western Civilization.” Democratic Party Paranoia manifests itself as well. It manifests itself in claims that a Trump victory would be like Germany’s electing Hitler in the 1930’s and would be followed by a dictatorship based on hatred of everybody who isn’t a member of our majority race, culture or religion. The America we all love may not be perfect, but it is not depression-era Germany.

Two flawed candidates nevertheless pose a choice most of us will and should make, come November. Each has defenders who say with conviction that their candidate is misunderstood and has a different private persona. There is the public, abrasive character that is prone to mistruths and doubling down on them (which both candidates certainly have done), and there is the private, caring and polite character whom we should all pretend is the “real” candidate.

Let’s try to get through the rest of this political year without calling up fearful and bizarre fantasies about treason, or threats to Western Civilization, or even to the Constitution and to the nation itself. Be an informed voter, not a frightened, irrational one. Base your vote on your candidate’s platform and record and values, flawed as they may be. Don’t be fooled into believing the other candidate is the devil incarnate, nor that your candidate has all the answers or has the only answers that could possibly work. Think, then vote. It’s hard, but we can do it.

Robert Scott