As the Republican National Convention kicks off this week, it is worthwhile considering the nuances and effectiveness — or lack thereof — of the last 16 years of American politics. 16 years ago, the Bush vs. Gore campaign was underway; millennials that are today playing Pokemon Go were then trading Pokemon cards and eager watching Ash and Pikachu on their adventure out of Pallet Town. In 2016, American politics is largely revered across the country and even around the world; if one were to ask why, a response from a so-called “patriotic” American would likely include the words “superpower,” “leader of the free world,” or maybe even “’merica.” Before buying into such peculiar and perhaps even thoughtless arguments, it is worth exploring the recent history of American government.
The presidential election of 2000 is the first election I can remember — at the time, I was nine years old. The night of the election, my mom and dad were out of the country visiting our soon-to-be home in Balikpapan, Indonesia. In the meantime, my grandmother came to babysit my older brother and me. November 7, 2000 — even though the three of us stayed up late to see who would be our new president, it ended up being “too close to call.” About a month later, it was finally determined that George W. Bush had won the election. Even at nine years old, I can remember the hysteria brought on about “popular vote” vs. “electoral vote.” While I don’t recall the word being used, I can imagine that people were suggesting that the system was “rigged.”
If we were to focus on the content of and issues addressed in every presidential campaign, on the other hand, we’d notice such striking similarities in word choice that it would make Melania Trump blush. The phrases “tax cuts for the wealthiest one percent” and “it’s time to get somebody in Washington who’s going to work with both Republicans and Democrats to get some positive things done” would fit perfectly in today’s election cycle. But guess what? The former quote came from Al Gore, and the latter came from George W. Bush, in a debate in October 2000. In this particular instance, class warfare and bipartisanship are two tactics being touted — these may sound familiar since they are employed during each presidential election.
Fast forward to 2004 — in a post-9/11 world, Americans looked beyond US borders with skeptical eyes. Planes overhead made some people fearful of attack. The Dixie Chicks had since been excommunicated from country music circles due to a public fight with Toby Keith regarding unquestioning support for the president. In the end, the fearless leader that brought us into Iraq under false pretenses — Bush Jr. — was re-elected.
2008. “Hope and change.” Is Obama a Muslim? Wasn’t he born in Kenya? Why doesn’t he put his hand on his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance? Then there’s Mr. Maverick, or John McCain. Among other things, he had an awkward exchange with Ellen DeGeneres regarding same sex marriage. He also had somewhat of a handicap — her name is Sarah Palin. Enough said. In the end, the “peace candidate” Barack Obama — who also promised to close Guantanamo Bay — won. In theory, America was tired of war.
2012. Three years prior, President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. Oddly enough, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had not ended. Additionally, more drone strikes were being used in the Middle East, sometimes killing “terrorists,” other times killing civilians — excuse me, collateral damage. More class warfare in this cycle, as “wealthy Americans” would again be “asked” to pay their “fair share.”
2016. The rise of Trump. We hear many of the same arguments that we have heard from Republicans going way back. The wall — which incidentally is also supported by Ted Cruz — is not a new proposal. Neither is the proposal to deport “illegal aliens,” as we like to call them. Locate a Trump supporter and ask what it is that he or she likes about the candidate; “he tells it like it is” or “he’s a businessman.” Neither phrase has a whole lot of meaning. What about the reason for electing Hillary Clinton? “She is presidential” or “she has good experience.” Compare either of these two yahoos to any of the candidates from the past, and you will see almost no distinction.
The problem with politics is that it is by nature a quest for power; more specifically, it is the desire to have power over others. Why do we put so much effort into getting “our guy” elected? How is it that there are so many people with strong opinions about the election, yet none of those people could tell you about either major party candidate’s tax plan?
It is exactly due to the ludicrous history of American politics, and the current “wacko bird” election, that I am led to believe that this political system will end. The 2016 election will be the next step on the path to the demise of mob rule, or as the media and political class calls it, “American democracy.” If we do in fact wake up and realize that better lives are achieved through entrepreneurship, creativity, and capital, and not through legalized plunder, top-down control, nor special favors from those in power, we are in for exciting times.
Also published on Medium.