An Election Observation (2008)

I have been interested in presidential elections since 1976. It was a little odd, but yes, I basically watched every minute of both conventions that summer. Ford and Carter. Over the years my interest has ebbed and flowed but I always try to keep an eye on things. The first election I voted in was 1980 having just recently attained voting age and I proudly cast my vote for John Anderson. I guess I was a contrarian even back then.

For me this year’s election, for obvious reasons, is more interesting than the past several. Over my 20 year or so career I’ve learned a lot about marketing, positioning, messaging and spin. I know about talking points, media training the importance of a memorable quote. And this year we have a bounty of back and forth.

But over the past week or so I’ve started to grow uncomfortable with the spectacle of the sport. Crowds yell, hoop, holler, laugh and happily applaud razor sharp barbs tossed at opponents. It seems the more personal, the better these days. For some reason it’s what we want to hear – a quick punch right in the kisser.

More alarming are the conversations I’m having with friends about the election. I’m curious to hear what people think, why they do, and what they make of each party’s ticket. Even in crowds I would not expect it, resentment and divisions in our country are alive and well. And it’s not that we only disagree with one another it seems we find another’s view inconceivable. I actually think there are people out there who really do hate this candidate or another. It feels personal and it saddens me. We also know the media is no better and often they love to fuel the passions.

After reading just about everything I could get my hands on these past two weeks of conventions and all the points and counter-points made by the candidates, parties pundits and reporters I am disappointed no one has made a rather simple observation: no matter who wins, no matter who, a historical barrier will be broken. In January we will either be inaugurating a person of African decent to the presidency or a woman to the vice presidency. Gender and race will be a big step.

When I think about the election in this way I don’t think any of us can loose since no matter what happens we all win.