I know I’m not the only one who is appalled by the presidential election. The candidates from both major parties are terrible. The candidates from third parties are equally terrible. If we, the United States, had any sense at all, we’d ask Barack Obama to stay on for another year, and stage a do-over. This time it would be publicly funded. We could cut some money out of the Pentagon budget to use to fund the whole thing. It would take six months. No conventions, no hoopla – no dark money, no corporate cash, no Super PACs. Three months in would be a national primary — on the same day for every state. At the end of six months would be the general election. But, as this election proves, we do not possess any sense.
Like many of you, I watched part of the presidential debate on Monday night. I can usually find some cynical mirth in these sorts of proceedings, but not this time. This time I just felt sick and ashamed. Ashamed of this debacle and ashamed of all of us. We built this. It took us decades, but we built this big honking mess we find ourselves in.
It started in 1987 with the elimination of the Fairness Doctrine. For those who don’t remember, the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters to devote some air time to discussing matters of public interest. They were required to air opposing views. This was in news segments, public affairs shows, or editorials. Viewers were exposed to a variety of viewpoints.
Then along came President Bill Clinton who gave us the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a bill that the corporate media lobbies were desperate for. At the time, it was touted as a way of encouraging competition and consumer savings. Congressman John Dingell thanked God for this bill that would make this country “the best served, the best educated and the most successful country ... in all areas of communications.” Instead, it paved the way for huge media monopolies.
In 1983, Ben Bagdikian published the book, “The Media Monopoly.” He reported that at the time, 50 corporations owned the media. Thanks to Clinton, that number now stands at six. Before the Telecommunications Act, companies were not allowed to own more than 40 radio stations. Clear Channel owns more than 1,200. The name change from Clear Channel to iHeartMedia doesn’t make that any more palatable.
Print media suffered, too. Gannett owns over 1,000 newspapers and 600 print periodicals. I could go on endlessly — but we’re seeing what happens when there is a dearth of independent media. We get an angry, incoherent man with a ridiculous hairstyle on the verge of becoming president.
During the same basic time period, we went from a nation that had some concern for the common good, to a nation that worships at the altar of the Church of the Free Market. Greed went from being a sin to a virtue. The Reaganites celebrated selfishness. In just a few decades we went from the GI Bill to you’re on your own, Jack. When money becomes the same as speech, the people without money are not heard. Free speech has become very, very expensive. We stopped valuing education, unless it was business school. Our founders all spoke several languages, yet we’ve hunkered down into “English only” as if it were some kind of a virtue to be less educated than the men we claim to venerate.
The worship of profit uber alles and selfishness combined with a failed Fourth Estate has brought us to this point. The rabid ideology of the far right has our government at a standstill. We no longer produce statesmen who want to serve their country. We have far lesser men (and women) whose sole concern is party loyalty and obstructionism. The bulk of our national treasure is invested in defense, and because the Pentagon refuses to be audited, we have no accounting of where those trillions go. Our national infrastructure is crumbling, and our government refuses to do anything about it. Our telecomm infrastructure is a disaster compared to other developed countries, but it’s controlled by monopolies that have no reason to improve it. Their bottom line is what matters.
We are served a steady diet of celebrity gossip, sports worship and stories intended to create outrage. Take a look at the WMUR website sometime. There are stories posted every day of things that happen in other states, asking for comment. They’re intended to generate outrage and pit people against one another. Drunk people doing irresponsible things, stories of bad parenting — whatever. They are stories that are none of our business. The comment sections are filled with angry, petty judges, ready to pass sentence without full knowledge of the facts. It’s a safe bet that these same petty judges couldn’t tell you what the N.H. Executive Council is. This is what currently passes for “news.
As a nation, we have become stupid, angry, violent and greedy — and this is playing out for us in our current election cycle. A wealthy huckster and reality TV star somehow became the nominee of the Republican Party. The man has no idea what he’s talking about most of the time, and his views change from moment to moment. Trump has absolutely no impulse control, and as we saw in the debate, he is absolutely unfit to lead our country. The guy bankrupted casinos — which is virtually impossible to do — but people want to put him in charge of the United States?
Clinton comes to us with decades of baggage. Her supporters complain that decades of right-wing propaganda have turned people against her. Yet knowing that, the Democrats made the choice to foist a deeply flawed candidate upon us, and did whatever it took to anoint her. Now they’re mad at people who find the flaws problematic. Gary Johnson is a Koch-funded right-winger who likes to smoke pot. Jill Stein is just not leadership material.
There are no better angels here. The evils are equally distributed. The consequences of this election are going to be ugly, and the long-term repercussions will be devastating to the republic.
I vote for a do-over.
Susan Bruce is a writer and talk radio personality on “The Attitude with Arnie Arnesen” on WNHN-FM. She lives in Concord. Visit her blog at susanthebruce.blogspot.com or find the broadcast at www.wnhnfm.org.
- Category: Columns