From the moment I turned 18, anytime someone somewhere has put anything on a ballot, I've gone to the polls and voted. It's one of the true freedoms Americans have left, albeit a powerful one because we still get a say in who leads us.
I'm thinking of sitting this one out. Get back to me when you put up real candidates who will offer real leadership for our country.
Anyone who knows me well knows I'm addicted to politics. I can't stay away from reading about it. I can't stay away from discussing it (much to the chagrin of my beautiful bride, who is probably happy presidential elections happen only once every four years). I love analyzing what candidates say, what they don't say, and how what they say and don't say affects the people who are listening. Heck, being close to politics is one of the reasons why I got in the news business.
This year is different. It's because we're not being asked to choose someone who will be a real leader for America. We're not choosing someone with an articulated plan for our future, both at home and abroad. We don't have anyone in this race who inspires us to be better, not only as a nation but as individuals.
Instead, we've got two clowns running around tying balloon animals to wow the kiddies and squirting seltzer into each other's faces. One is more interested in being a rock star than being president; while his opponent's strongest argument is that he should be president because he's not the other guy.
Political campaigns are always full of cheap shots and trumped up issues designed to distract voters from the real issues, so the tactics employed by both sides are nothing new (remember the swift boats and Willie Horton?). The problem is it seems to be worse this time around, and given the economic and international issues facing the U.S. at the moment, what we really need is an honest discussion of the issues and a well-articulated plan from both candidates detailing how to ease our nation's difficulties.
Instead we get blistered with Mitt Romney's tax returns and his Mormon underwear. We get hammered with accusations of Barack Obama's sympathies toward Muslim extremists and his alleged plan to turn the United States of America into the United Socialist States of America (Newsflash: every time someone drives on a road, calls the cops, or sends their kids to school they are already participating in socialism, so shut up about it already). We're inundated with statements about how Mitt Romney hates poor people and thinks half of Americans are losers (that's not what he said, people), or how every single one of Barack Obama's plans and ideas is meant to destroy America because he hates this country.
Y'all have to pardon me while I throw up. Three hundred million people in this country, from all walks of life, and these two are the best we can come up with?
Although a lot of the furor over the candidates' statements and deeds is usually rooted in some sort of fact, it gets way overblown because it's always easier try and make people hate the other guy instead of getting them behind your ideas and platforms. Of course, it would help if either the president or his opponent actually had a campaign grounded in something other than a divided country.
Can we get a do-over? Please?
Let's set aside the fact that I happen to be the editor of the local bird cage liner, and therefore part of the "media," and explore the realities of my everyday life.
Our combined yearly household income is less than $80,000. My wife and I work long hours and work hard to put food on the table. We have daily struggles with paying bills, getting the kids to and from whatever activity they're in, and hoping we have enough time and money to enjoy some of the various fun things life has to offer. You know, just like almost everyone else.
I couldn't care less about Mitt Romney's underwear or Barack Obama's so-called "secret" past. I don't care if Mitt Romney has $200 million or $2, nor am I interested in Barack Obama's "hope" and "change" or whatever other empty platitude he comes up with this week. I don't care what poll is saying what about what voters want because the pollsters don't know or even care about what I want.
I want to know if I'll be able to make next month's mortgage payment. I want to know if my wife and I will still even have jobs two, three, four years down the road. I want to know that if one of my kids gets hurt, that they'll have access to the best medical care available, and if I can afford to get it for them, without having to shell out more cash to pay for everyone else's health care. I want to know if I can afford to send my son to college when he graduates from high school less than three years from now. I want to be able to sleep at night knowing that our country is safe from those who want to kill us; knowing that we'll stand up to those who hate us.
I want to know if I can continue to have the best life possible, through my own blood, sweat and tears. I want my children to have opportunities to establish an even better life for themselves when they grow up.
I'm not hearing any of that from Barack Obama or Mitt Romney. All we hear about is how the president wants to keep punishing people who have more stuff than the other guy, or about how Mitt Romney isn't like a regular American and can't connect with the Average Joe. We don't have clearly defined plans or ideas.
Well, dammit, I don't want a leader who's just like me. I want him (or her) to be better than me. I want a leader with the strength of character to take charge and lead this country into better times. I don't want someone who will walk beside me. I want someone to be up front, who inspires Americans to get behind him (or her) and follow.
I don't care if that person is a Democrat or Republican. I don't care if that person is black or white. I don't care if that person is conservative, liberal or moderate. I don't care if that person is atheist, Catholic, Hindu, Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, Protestant or Sikh. I want someone in charge. I'm thirsting for it.
My guess is there are a lot of you out there who are feeling a little parched as well.
Instead, we have two empty suits delivering empty words to a nation more concerned about Snooki's baby and the iPhone 5 than they are about the unemployment rate and that the Middle East is on fire. Maybe we as a nation are somewhat responsible for this unfunny joke of a presidential campaign because we're too easily distracted by its bright lights and shiny objects. Just like trout.
Fortunately, there's still time to turn this thing around. We have three debates between the presidential hopefuls and one between the vice presidential candidates coming up in the next month. It's an opportunity to put the brakes on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride and start talking about the issues and how they plan to address them. I'm hoping that both Obama and Romney take back this campaign from the political hacks, pollsters and pundits and make it about their candidacies and visions for America.
They owe it to us. The sad thing is, I've stopped holding my breath waiting for it to happen.
CHARLIE KRAEBEL is the editor of the Recorder and wants his country back. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.