SIMMONS: Partisanship will decide the presidential electionTuesday in a voting booth, probably located somewhere in Colorado or Ohio, the ballot will be cast that will decide the future of America.
By: Don Simmons , Guest columnist
Tuesday in a voting booth, probably located somewhere in Colorado or Ohio, the ballot will be cast that will decide the future of America.
The person marking that ballot will have been bombarded for months by newspaper ads, television commercials and mail pieces proclaiming absurd accusations about both the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates. Everything being said by both camps these days is a half-truth.
No one would be surprised by a television ad portraying a pajama clad Romney stealing food from a poor baby, or a grinning and nodding Obama, as part of his healthcare plan, pulling the beating heart out of some elderly person.
Politics has become the theatre of the partisan absurd, at least at the national level, and state politics around the country is not much better. Social media is the worst. Friends and family that we otherwise enjoy hearing from are posting photos and commentary that makes us cringe. Whoever is elected will not be the president of a political party or partisan group, but the president of a nation, at least one would hope that will be the case.
The move toward partisanship in American politics is nothing new, but it has been greatly accelerated by a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allows third party groups and individuals to advertise virtually unchecked. Political advertising is the only form that is not required to be grounded by some element of fact. As always, politicians have exempted themselves from rules everyone else has to follow, like telling the truth.
The Democratic and Republican presidential campaigns and their supporters are apparently betting that Americans, the very people who have spent themselves and their government into bankruptcy (yes, we are all to blame) will buy anything if you sell it hard enough.
They would be wrong.
The American electorate is not embracing the growing partisanship. We are rejecting it in increasing numbers. According to Gallup Polls since 2004 the number of Americans refusing to align themselves with either political party, by registering or identifying as an independent, has increased from 32 to 40 percent. Meanwhile, the number of voters who identify themselves as a Democrat or Republican has declined. Americans want solutions, not partisanship, but to-date the major political parties have not taken note.
Another interesting phenomenon has been the increased interest in third party candidates. In a poll earlier this fall, Gallup found that 40 percent of Democrats and 36 percent of Republicans believe the two major parties have done such a poor job that a major third party is now needed. This fact has caught the attention of lesser known third party leadership.
For example, Gary Johnson, former governor of New Mexico, is on the ballot and getting increased interest as a Libertarian presidential candidate. Many voters that I have spoken with have privately confessed to me their desire to vote for a third party candidate to send a message that they are unhappy with both Democrats and Republicans, noting that their vote won’t count anyway unless it is in one of the swing states.
In a place like South Dakota, which hasn’t cast electoral votes for a Democrat since 1964, voting third party is becoming a political statement for some. Other voters are just sick of the whole mess, and just plan to stay home for the election. Voter turnout, according to most estimates, will be the lowest this century.
The rumblings of a new emerging political reality is now very much being acknowledged by political strategists during these final days of the campaign.
National Democratic and Republican political operatives have privately confessed to me their hope that disaffected and disillusioned voters in either Ohio or Colorado will vote third party, or stay home, in numbers large enough to throw the election to their candidate. Republicans are hoping Colorado independents and Democrats, who would otherwise vote for Obama, out of frustration, will stay home or vote third party. Democrats are likewise hoping independents and Republicans in Ohio, for the same reason, will do the same.
Next Tuesday in a voting booth, somewhere in America, the ballot will be cast that will decide the future of our country. The person marking that ballot will be so disillusioned and disappointed by the politics of our two major political parties that they will not vote, or vote for a third party candidate for president.
He or she will reject both Obama and Romney, and more specifically the partisanship that has engulfed our nation over the past two decades.