“The greatest good we can do our country is to heal its party divisions and make them one people.” — Thomas Jefferson
Political cynics have embraced the phrase, “We get what we deserve,” to describe American politics today. The outlook picked up steam in 2016 when, as these folks assert, the two major candidates for president were both too flawed to vote for — or, at the very least, vote for without grimacing. Since then, in the microwave-style news cycle that has resulted, where the press doles out scandal after scandal like the Grinch when he hijacks the Whoville Post Office, it’s become a rather hip way to think. And it’s circled back around again for this election.
I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to these political hipster thoughts at one point or another over the past few years. It’s just too easy to become jaded these days amid the cacophony of excrement, to fall into the dark depths of political apathy. But this style of thinking can also envelop one in the twisted web of logical fallacies; deflecting the blame of “your side” by creating a false equivalence to the misdeeds of “them.” Not to mention, it’s just damn depressing to lose all hope in, as our forefathers coined, the “American experiment.”
I’d argue we have an obligation to uphold our country’s ideals, not give up on them.
But what do we deserve? I think I’ll agree that our actions have consequences and thus, perhaps we do “get what we deserve.” What we warrant is subjective, but what we are capable of, I think, is rather factual.
“There [are] as many atoms in a single molecule of your DNA as there are stars in the typical galaxy. We are, each of us, a little universe.”
— Neil deGrasse Tyson
In addition to that mind-melting factoid, here’s another: There are more atoms in one of your eyes than stars in the known universe. For a frame of reference, it is estimated that there are around 1 billion trillion stars in the observable universe (that’s seven commas worth of zeros following the 1). We are, to our knowledge, the most complex beings that have ever lived over the estimated 13.8 billion-year history of this universe. And yet, we behave politically as if we are as primitive as the Neanderthals that came before us — or the amoebas, for that matter. For our children, this is the only America that they know, the version of our country that is imprinting on them and shaping their beliefs. Right now, we are letting them down.
“There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.” — John Adams
Last year, after listening to the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speak at the former Verizon Arena, I wrote that the evening was proof political intellectualism was not dead. There were plenty of Democrats in the audience, but also many Republicans (including U.S. Rep. French Hill). Neither Ginsburg nor the moderator ever spoke ill about the low-hanging fruit called Donald Trump; instead, Ginsburg spoke at length about her deep friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, someone she could not have disagreed with more on constitutional interpretation but with whom she was still incredibly close.
So close, that she recalled their families spent nearly every New Year’s Eve together. I still agree with my year-younger self for having written this disquisition. Political intellectualism is not dead, but it is severely wounded. This November is a test that will likely conclude whether those wounds are fatal or capable of being healed.
I won’t tell you how to vote — nor should you, me. But respect yourself enough to give it more thought than simply (R) or (D). Like you and me, politicians and ballot issues are complex creatures — there are grifters and derelicts just as well as those who are genuine and decent. (One hopes.) Just because you disagree with someone on the other side of the aisle does not make them one of the former, nor is someone immune from being a shyster simply because you agree with their health care platform or the judges they might nominate.
The world is too interesting to be muddled by binary behavior, too colorful to waste all of our ink on one hue. Engage all of those atoms that make up your mind this year. Vote with consideration and prudence; you’re well equipped to do so.
“The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
— George Washington
Dustin Jayroe is editor of AY About You magazine and a contributing editor to Arkansas Money & Politics. In his spare time, he chases rainbows and unicorns.