By Joe Rector

I’m a political junky.  Nothing is more interesting to me than the games and antics that come out during a presidential election year. I’ve been around long enough to watch some dramatic and sleazy political contests, but this cycle’s antics are the worst I can remember. What I can’t understand is how we Americans are allowing such a mess.

The Republicans began the primary war with seventeen, count them, seventeen candidates. The entire GOP doesn’t have that many qualified individuals to run. The best are most likely the folks who declined to enter the race. The early “debates” weren’t helpful to voters because so many candidates on stage meant too little time to answer questions. Instead, GOP candidates turned on each other and devoured the weakest of the bunch.

Little by little, the field was narrowed until two and a half candidates remained. The half is Kasich because he has no mathematical chance of becoming the GOP standard bearer. Donald Trump knocked off opponents one at a time, and he finally got rid of Marco Rubio, who doggedly hung on without a snowball’s chance of winning. Trump managed to trash anyone who posed the smallest of threats to his candidacy. Now, he’s the leader of the race and has amassed more delegates and millions of more votes than his remaining competition.

Ted Cruz had a different path to survival. He kept a rather low profile and let Trump to do the dirty work. Oh, don’t think for a minute that he hasn’t engaged in some low acts. His email that Ben Carson was dropping out in Iowa and recruiting his voters was, at the least, unethical. He attacked Rubio when the two were close in the running. Yes, he’s survived and even succeeded…in some places.

Cruz appeals to voters with vows to carpet bomb Syria and to get rid of the illegal immigrants who supposedly have invaded America. His end game is to cast anyone who opposes him as a dirty liberal or a pawn of the liberal press. The man tries to separate himself from the “Washington establishment,” something of which he is a member. However, even his own fellow Republicans don’t much care for him.

The Democrats aren’t much better. Their leader is Hillary Clinton. Perhaps no other person has been so investigated and vilified. She’s been at the center of too many firestorms, among them Benghazi, Syria, and Iran. Throw in a dose of email investigations, and many people don’t hear a thing she says. Maybe she’s guilty as sin; perhaps she’s as innocent as a lamb. The fact that the Clintons have been in politics for so many years leads to voter fatigue.

Bernie Sanders is another kind of politician. An Independent, he’s donned the cloak of the Democratic party in his attempt to run for the highest office in the land. Yes, Bernie has sparked a revolution. He’s raised the hackles of the working class and the young. He’s brought out folks who might otherwise have skipped yet another chance to have a say in who leads this country.

The problem with Sanders is he promotes socialism. That will not fly in this country. He declares that college tuitions will disappear. He is determined to break up the big banks. He wants to end Obamacare and replace it with another program. His proposals are long on promises and short of details. Sanders’ stock answer is that the rich will pay for it all. Not even the top 1% have that much money.

So, we voters stare into the race with a choice. We can side with the candidates who vow to run out all the folks who don’t belong here and who will bomb our enemies into extinction. On the other hand, we can vote for the folks who would re-create the USA and turn it into a socialist state where all wealth is pooled and redistributed and taxing everyone else with escalating rates at the same time. Those are depressing choices that don’t promise much of a bright future for our country or our children.

The only realistic answer in this election is to seek moderation. That means no side gets all it wants. Instead, our next leader must be someone who isn’t right or left-wing. He or she will be someone who has the best interest of the country in mind and who is willing and able to work with both Republicans and Democrats in order to make things happen.

Moderation is NOT a bad word. It’s something that has been preached by philosophers and prophets for years. Our guiding principle for going about the country’s business should be “whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.” Let’s forget about party lines and extreme views and get on with the work for the good of the United States.