Today, it ends.
Today, the 2016 political season, which began shortly after Barack Obama was sworn in for his second presidential term, ends.
Today, we elect a new president, who will take office on Jan. 20, 2017.
Today, we also begin to assess the tangled, messy, nasty, deplorable and ugly presidential campaign season.
Part of the blame belongs to the candidates. Spare me the false equivalencies argument, and accept that the public believed that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were bad choices. How many times did you hear in 2016 “I wish there was someone better out there”? If there was someone better, he or she either opted not to run, or he or she lost at some point in the primary season.
Part of the blame must be placed at the feet of Donald Trump, who never grasped the intricacies of a political campaign and who used inflammatory rhetoric against multiple groups. If his ugly words are rewarded today with an election victory, then America is in a sad place.
Part of the blame belongs with Reince Priebus, the chair of the Republican National Committee, who either couldn’t or didn’t want to rein in Trump. We won’t know for a few years how disastrous Priebus’ weakness was for the party. And that’s true no matter what the voters decide today.
Part of the blame belongs to Hillary Clinton (as I suggested above, spare me the false equivalencies argument). I accept the impressive political resume. I accept the years of fighting for women and children. I accept the important symbolism of being the first female candidate of one of America’s major political parties. But I also acknowledge the ethical lapses, the reality that she — as would any other person in her position — avoided jail because of her influence, and the money that seems to be everywhere and nowhere. She likely will be the next president of the United States, and I admit I voted for her. I did so because I want her to win, and not because I see her as the lesser of two evils. But I did support her all the while wishing that her political record was not as squishy.
Part of the blame belongs to Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the now former chair of the Democratic National Committee, who did not lead her party as she should have. Playing favorites before a candidate is chosen is unethical, and that’s cutting her significant slack. Her political career is permanently damaged, and she has no one to blame but herself.
Part of the blame belongs to social media users who regularly allowed emotion to dictate what they wrote, re-tweeted, posted or otherwise endorsed. Partisan rhetoric was white hot seemingly every single day over the past 11 months (if not more), and the ridiculous ideas, memes and other garbage that spread through social media channels demonstrated a hostile side of too many Americans. If Americans truly believe some of the hate that was spewed in social media, and elsewhere, then our nation is not the shining city on the hill that Ronald Reagan suggested we were more than 30 years ago. And if Americans truly support the idiotic ideas that they liked, shared or otherwise supported, then they must reassess what their values are.
Part of the blame belongs to those media outlets that couldn’t resist the big headlines, the big names, the (non-)scandalous stories, the lust for poll data, the video that screamed “wow” but often lacked any substance, the use of pandering instead of analysis, and the acceptance of non-ethical practices. It’s a shame that the FCC has been neutered so badly that it cannot hold these networks accountable for too often failing the public.
If I never see on television Donna Brazile or Corey Lewandowski in the role of political analyst, I will be a happy man. Goodbye, goodnight and go away.
If I never see on television a demagogue as the presidential candidate of one of America’s major parties, I will be a happy man.
If I never see on television people espousing racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism or other disgusting ideologies, I will be a happy man. Crawl back into whatever cave you call home, and stay there.
Barring a surprise, in a few hours the nation will select a woman to lead the country. I want her to succeed, not because I voted for her, not because she is a woman and not because of the party she represents. Rather, I want her to succeed because the best way to forget about this hate-filled presidential season is to have a president deliver a string of successes that advances this wonderful — yet fragile — experiment called democracy.