Well hasn’t this election cycle been a sloppy bucket of fun.
Over the past few weeks when folks tell me the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump presidential election cycle is the worst ever, I point out the 1860 election. Abraham Lincoln won by defeating Northern Democrat Stephen A. Douglas, Southern Democrat John C. Breckinridge and John Bell representing the Constitutional Union Party.
Lincoln won with less than 40 percent of the vote. He moved into the White House by racking up a commanding lead in the electoral college. (For an excellent column on the electoral college read Rich Elfers’s Aug. 31 column on the website, www.courierherald.com/opinion/391923471.html.)
I read some newspapers from 1859-60 covering the election and various editors and letter writers voiced their opinions that America had never been forced to choose between such a pitiful collection of miscreants and malcontents with no moral core for the highest office in the land.
What year am I living in?
(Despite certain whispered allegations, I do not remember the 1860 election. At least not that I can recall.)
Now for the modern political world of twits and tawdry news-cycle upchucks.
Dorothy, I don’t even think we are in Oz anymore, and this sure isn’t Kansas.
I have been following presidential elections and covering local campaigns for longer than any current political leader has been in office (I think… at least that I can recall… if I’m wrong we will blame it on someone I will call Ray, but don’t tell him).
This one feels different.
I have been involved in some contentious campaigns complete with threats, late night phone calls and weirdness best kept inside my personal airspace.
I have not covered presidential elections like the daily reporters traveling with the candidates.
As a kid I watched and talked with my dad and mom about every election beginning with Adlai Stevenson and President Dwight Eisenhower’s run for a second term. I remember sitting in the car with my dad as we were driving back to our farm on a Saturday asking him why people called Stevenson an “egghead.”
There is always hostility in campaigns, despite the statements like “I’m going to keep it positive and I really do like puppies.” It is the nature of the game. I expect the hot plates to fire during campaigns. Candidates will get angry with each other and usually me sooner or later. It is the job and we all know it.
This time I sense something different. Maybe it has been too many elections, but puzzle pieces aren’t quite fitting.
I keep hearing Admiral Boom’s words from “Mary Poppins” as Bert directs us down to No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane.
Admiral Boom: “A word of advice, young man – storm signals are up at No. 17. Bit of heavy weather brewing there.”
Bit of heavy weather is the only words that fit for me.
In the years I have covered political and government stories, some very dyspeptic and dysfunctional, I have always fallen back on my comfortable statement.
The Constitution was written for the worst, to save us from the worst in ourselves. The document has done its job very well for more than 200 years. Many have tried to turn it into a religious tract, which it is not. Others have tried to bend it, break it or blot out offending section to fit their desires, rather than the needs of all. It withstood the storm and kept the country together.
When asked about assessing candidates and I can’t give a New England Patriots’ coach Bill Belichick answer to all questions, “going to Cleveland,” I fall back on the Constitution.
I know that will generate eye rolls, sighs and strangers pointing at me (when I didn’t do anything… really… not my fault… it is Ray’s fault, but don’t say anything).
So here is an easier way to assess your choice.
Does your candidate remember anything from kindergarten? How about, “eyes front, ears open.”
It is a place to start.
A bit of heavy weather may indeed be brewing on No. 17 Cherry Tree Lane.