The 2016 election campaign has finally come to a close. One of the most bizarre and odious chapters in American history has ended and, for better or for worse, the citizens of the United States have made their choice.
It would be worthwhile to point out that nasty mudslinging and malicious attacks have been part and parcel of American politics for more than two centuries. Back in 1800, when Thomas Jefferson ran against incumbent John Adams, the president’s supporters described Jefferson as a dangerous radical, ridiculed his religious beliefs — or lack of them — and called his followers “mad men” who would bring a “reign of terror” equivalent to the bloody French Revolution.
Jefferson’s supporters, in turn, depicted Adams as a tyrant conspiring to create an American monarchy and crown himself king, and claimed his followers were “plotting to subvert human liberty and impose slavery on the people.”
Sixty years later, when Abraham Lincoln faced off against Stephen Douglas, Lincoln and his supporters viciously mocked Douglas. “Answers to the name Little Giant. Talks a great deal, very loud, always about himself,” was how a handbill released by Lincoln’s side described Douglas. “About five feet nothing in height and about the same in diameter the other way,” it added.
Douglas was reportedly equally charitable in his description of Lincoln, describing him as a “horrid-looking wretch … a cross between the nutmeg dealer, the horse-swapper and the nightman.”
Yet, the just concluded campaign seemed to have reached an ugly new low, and Americans across the fruited plane are presumably giving a deep sigh of relief that this hideous battle is over.
In many ways, the news headlines over the past weeks and months appeared to be so far-fetched that any responsible fiction editor would have rejected them as too unrealistic. The seemingly endless news cycles filled with revelations of new and old scandals, cruel personal insults, betrayal and deception more than sufficed for any moral American to lose trust in the system of electing a president. In cities and towns across the nation, Americans expressed fury and frustration.
Now that votes have been cast, it is a time for those individuals who played such major roles in the debacle also known as the election process to look themselves in the mirror and ask themselves if they can possibly justify their actions.
While the mainstream media has long been accused — for good reason — of having a left-wing bias, in this election, some of the best known outlets abandoned all pretenses of impartiality, dedicating article after article to trying to ensure that the GOP candidate doesn’t make it to the White House. While there is a valid role for media to play in voicing their editorial opinions — that is what Op-Ed pages are for — news articles are supposed be informative and balanced. Regardless of whether one agrees with their assessment of the Republican nominee, they crossed every line of fairness and decency in their coverage.
The unprecedented activities of the Russian government to try to interfere in the U.S. elections are also a grave area for concern. While it is unclear what Moscow’s motivations are, no foreign power, especially one whose security interest is so often at odds with Washington, should have a say in a U.S. election.
This is also a time for all sides of the political divide to recognize that it is vital that they put their own inflated egos aside and work together for the good of the country. Strongly held fundamental differences of opinion are a healthy sign of democracy, and expressing these views in a forthright and open way are a crucial element of a free society. So is recognizing reality, the acceptance of the legitimate elections results, and the ability to find room to compromise without forgoing longheld ideals, and finding common ground for the benefit of all Americans.