Half a year ago while up in Canada to celebrate my mother’s ninetieth birthday, I had the opportunity to see and visit with my Canadian cousins. It didn’t take long for conversation to turn to the presidential elections. When asked my predictions, I responded: “I can’t tell you who will win; I can tell you however who will lose…the American public.”
In the aftermath of last week’s elections, I’ve revised my thinking. There were three losers to last week’s elections:
Media- once upon a time in America, the media had scruples as far as being fair and objective when election season rolled around. Those scruples seem to have disappeared within this last period of time. As a result, the media lost all credibility with the public. Forty-four years ago, the Manchester Union-Leader effectively put a kibosh on the future of a presidential hopeful by publishing a rumor that he was addicted to the drug ibogaine. That same newspaper subsequently published a letter that the same presidential aspirant had made disparaging remarks about French Canadians (northern New England had a sizeable French-American population). Finally, the newspaper published an attack on the character of the wife of that presidential candidate reporting that she drank and used foul language. The piece de resistance was when the presidential contender defended his wife in a speech during a snowstorm outside the offices of the Manchester Union-Leader. The press then reported that the contender broke down and cried, shattering his image as being calm and in control. What the press claimed to be tears was in reality melting snowflakes. Here we are forty-four years later and it appears that nationally, the media has sunk to the level of the Manchester Union-Leader of February, 1972.
Polls- For close to half a century, students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School have been “casting their votes” to determine the next president. They have never been wrong – until now.
It was the great rabbinic sage Rabbi Yochanan who reminded us that ever since the Temple was destroyed, prophecy has been taken from prophets and given to fools and children. Based on last week’s news, Rabbi Yochanan was only half right. Whether it’s ego on our part or an attempt to control the world around us, we humans seem to have an insatiable need to predict the future. True, we shun the crystal ball, but we invest astronomical sums on studies along with computer fed data and then proceed to place calls to Americans from coast to coast in an effort to get a sense of the outcome. Yet, in our zeal to get that sense, more often than not, we end up with nonsense.
Civility- there are elections and there are elections. No different than other societies, come an election year, we Americans have a penchant for deluding ourselves. There have been elections when a goodly number of us have gone to the polls to elect an individual whom we truly believed was G-d’s answer to our prayers. We actually felt that we were casting our ballot for someone who was going to fix everything that’s wrong with our country and then some. If our candidate lost, then we would take a philosophical approach of “you win some, you lose some” and we would content ourselves with the belief that in four years’ time, the opportunity would again present itself for our voice to be heard. I cannot help but feel that this year we also deluded ourselves. Only this time, rather than believe that we would be voting for a candidate that would assure us a better future, we were convinced that we would be voting against a candidate who was the devil incarnate. As a result, we abandoned every bit of civility within ourselves and proceeded to possess thoughts or even make statements that were motivated purely by fear.
Together with all others, I have absolutely no way of knowing what the next four years will bring. Together with (hopefully) all others, I pray for the very best. But rather than expend so much energy on examining and reexamining the presidency, perhaps our efforts would be better served if we were to take a serious look at the danger of believing everything that the media reports, if we were to take polls with a grain of salt at best and if we were to realize what becomes of our civility when we give in to fear, three true losers of the election of 2016.