By Joe Rector

By the time this piece appears in the paper, the national election will begin in less than a day. Plenty of people are saying, “Thank God!” Others, like me, who are political junkies, will pace all day long and fret until the final vote counting is finished. In the end, a new president will be elected, and a void will exist where, for the last two years, campaigns, ads, debates, and bad news have flowed. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the entire country could take a two-week vacation to recover?

One of the first things we’ll all want to do is take a long, hot shower. Over my adult life, I’ve seen some dirty campaigns. Candidates typically throw jabs at each other, but this cycle has seen both sides fling mud and other nasty substances on the walls and hope that they stick. What I wonder is whether we voters will use common sense and the intrinsic knowledge of right and wrong in making our choices. Name-calling has done little to help us know what the truth about each candidate is.

I don’t recall an election when both candidates were so disliked. One has no experience in government; he defames minorities, berates immigrants, and disrespects women. He has questionable business ties to governments that don’t espouse democratic values. The other candidate is barely keeping her head above the flood of emails. She’s battling investigations and accusations of improprieties with the foundation she and her family have been involved.

The electorate is divided, even polarized, more than at any other time I can recall. Sure, being for one candidate is fine, but folks have gone beyond that. Rallies are rife with fights and hecklers, and those in attendance chant slogans that reflect more emotional bias than intellectual discernment. An underlying anger bubbles just below the surface, and it has little to do with the issues. It comes more from fear mongering. The idea seems to be to whip up those fears so that people no longer can use common sense to make decisions. Votes are cast not for an individual but against those things and groups that are claimed to be taking away freedom and security, even if such thinking is irrational.

My concern is where our country is headed after the elections. So many people are deeply entrenched in their beliefs, and I don’t see how in the world they will accept results that don’t fall in their favor. Some have been told that the process is rigged, even though only a few examples out of billions of votes have been recorded. Anything other than victory will occur because the election was stolen. The other side warns that the opponent is not fit to be the leader of our country. They swear that we will “go to hell in a handbasket” if he is elected. Forget the fact that he must have the support of both sides in the government; his own party has thumbed its nose at him and refuses to stand up for him.

What might well be the probable end to this election is that our government remains gridlocked. The good of the country will take a backseat to partisan politics, demagoguery, and hypocritical principles. Many of us who have been around a while view this election as a defining one. The choices that we make might well spell the end of our democracy as we know it. The two-party system is so broken and dysfunctional that new models might be created, ones that none of us want.

Yes, the election will be over soon. Its results won’t make everyone happy. However, for the sake of our country, citizens, and children, let us hope that our so-called leaders will decide the era of partisan politics is over and that they will replace it with a new commitment to working for the good of our country and a better life for all citizens.

One last thing I will add. Voting is a privilege and a duty for each citizen in the U.S. You are defending this country when you cast a ballot. However, anyone who chooses not to vote HAS NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN ABOUT OUTCOMES OR POLICIES. Make your voice be heard tomorrow. VOTE!