We sympathize with those voters who feel locked out of a political system that seems closed-off, self interested and remote. We hear every week from readers who feel Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is their best chance to demolish a crony system that isn’t even interested in their concerns, much less committed to addressing them.
These are two, distinct issues to consider, even though in the heat of the moment they might seem of a piece.
First, yes: Many of us are so removed from the workings of the federal government that we don’t even know where to begin to make our voices heard.
Second, no: Electing Trump will not fix the problem.
The success of Trump’s campaign has not been because of his plans, policies, preparations or qualifications for office. It has been because he tapped into the fears and concerns that many of us have lived with for some time now, even if we couldn’t really put them into words.
Words come easy for Trump, and that has convinced a lot of Iowans that he stands for them, that he believes in them.
That’s a mirage.
There are many fair criticisms to be made of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Revelations from Clinton’s State Department and leaked email exchanges laid bare manipulative strategizing that many find rightly distasteful or morally objectionable. Given nearly any other conceivable Republican opponent in this election, our decision would have been made much more difficult.
As it stands, the only responsible endorsement to make is for Clinton.
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Hillary Clinton is arguably the most broadly prepared candidate for presidency in the history of the office. Her long history of public service has included serving as first lady in Arkansas and in Washington, D.C. In both positions, she strove to be an active force in driving public policies to better the lives of American families, women and children.
She continued that work as a U.S. senator from New York, where she fought for important improvements in pediatric drug safety and equal pay for equal work. As U.S. secretary of state, she traveled the globe representing the U.S. and spreading the message of democracy.
Has she solved every problem? Of course not. But she has tirelessly, consistently, done the work. As even her opponent has acknowledged, she never gives up. That, along the way Clinton also has learned to excel at political gamesmanship speaks as much to our current system as it speaks to her character.
This election has been a wake-up call for voters, many of whom find themselves wondering what to believe. Trump’s apocalyptic visions of the present and future of this country are wrong. We are living in difficult times, but face no challenges that we can’t meet. This is not the end of American ideals and American promise.
But it is a reckoning.
We voters have become complicit in a system that treats politics like a football game or a war to be won at any cost. Politics should be about examination of important public issues, about respectful deliberation, discussion and compromise. Only voters can change that.
The first step is to resist Trump’s selfish attempts to stir up our disillusionment and dissatisfaction into a rage that threatens to have long-term consequences for our country, our communities and our common vision for the future.
The next step it to stay engaged and demand more substantive reforms.
Our current political crisis has been a long time in the making. Resolving it will require electing officials at all levels who wholeheartedly commit to transparency, responsiveness and accountability, and then holding them to those commitments over the long term.
Too many of us think only of about our rights as U.S. citizens. Those rights come with responsibilities. This presidential contest is exactly what it looks like when we neglect to stay informed and allow our democracy to languish. But the answer is not to give in to anger or despair.
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Do not throw up your hands and say the game is rigged. Do not put your faith in a candidate who has proved in business and his personal life that he does not have a long-term strategy; that he cannot hold his temper; that he has utter disregard for the common good; that he lacks the basic understanding of governance, public service or what many of us would consider common decency.
It may be tempting to cast a vote simply to punish a political class that in many ways has failed us, but cooler heads must prevail.
The system may be broken, but our democratic republic is worth saving. We know how to do it. We are, in fact, stronger together.
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