The Insanity Season

When there’s a blizzard blowing it’s time to stay inside.

When Election Day is Tuesday it’s time to start tuning out the political white noise.

I’m not talking about sticking your head in the sand.  I follow the issues I care about closely, and I’m sure you do to.  I build my opinions after listening to and reading the work of journalists and analysts from a variety of sources, some considered left-leaning, some right-leaning, and some straight down the middle.  I’m sure you do the same thing.

But if campaign seasons in general are referred to as the silly season, the two weeks leading up to the first Tuesday in November in an even numbered year is the insanity season.

You know what I’m talking about.  It happens in the weeks leading up to every national election, when we’re loudly warned that the fanatic’s fingers have suddenly uncovered the button to blow up the nation’s foundations.  It’s the season when we’re assured that—surprise!—our friends and neighbors are on the verge of destroying the country we love and only your vote can stop them.

So goes the hyped hysteria.

Why on earth is this bi-annual blizzard of overwrought political blather necessary?  The analysts on both sides correctly agree—it’s all about “firing up the base.”

One wonders why the base needs firing up.  It seems to me that both sides already have sufficient reasons to vote—the main one being that we are Americans, and that in America voting is kind of a thing.

But the facts (remember them?) tell a different story.  In Idaho, not only do less people register to vote in mid-term election years, but the ones who are registered to vote do it in lower numbers.  In 2014, there were 1.2 million Idahoans old enough to vote.  Thirty-eight percent voted.

Sort of like when the PowerBall payout is only $50 million.  Ho-hum.

For all the flag-waving we do here in the Gem State a 38% mid-term turnout is a pretty pathetic number, although in 2014 it was a whopping 1% higher than the national average.

So what’s a political party to do in the face of the nation’s mid-term collective yawn?  Do you need to ask?

They scare you, that’s what.  Both sides play the game with enthusiasm.  The Republicans darkly dog whistle about the tsunami-like approach of non-Scandinavian-looking hoards, and attach grainy black and white pictures of the party’s favorite radical liberals (Nancy Pelosi and Bernie Sanders) to nearly every ad.  Meanwhile the Democrats insist that the President and Mitch McConnell are on the verge of swapping a three-branch government for a totalitarian strongman running roughshod on American rights, while simultaneously turning women into a subservient underclass.

Just reading the preceding paragraph makes your blood boil a bit, doesn’t it?  On this month’s smorgasbord of anger-inducing issues there’s something to convince everyone that hell’s handbasket is America’s ultimate destination.   Unless, of course, you vote.

Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this kind of bi-annual political blowtorching is neither party’s fault.   Is it manipulative?  Sure.  Cynical?  Absolutely.  Harmful to the reasoned political discourse we say we want but do nothing to support?  Yes, in buckets.

But who cares?  Campaign managers don’t.  If we demonstrate—and we have—that the only thing that will get most of us out to vote is this over-the-top hysteria, then over-the-top hysteria is what we’ll get.

And boy, are we getting it.  On TV, on radio, in print, on social media platforms, in our mailboxes, and increasingly on Twitter.   Possibly even in church—though I hope not.  I’m pretty sure Jesus doesn’t vote a straight ticket for either party.

At least now we’re in the home stretch.  For good or bad, Wednesday morning the volume knob will be lowered for about six months until the next presidential election cycle begins.

Because these days parties win and lose not on issues, but on blizzards of anger.   And just like winter in Idaho, the next storm will blow in to town before we know it.

Media salespeople love this stuff, by the way.  Really.  It pays the bills.


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