Just a few more hours — 224, give or take — is all the time we’ve got until one of the most contentious election seasons in my lifetime will come to a close. And more than likely, it’s the most consequential presidential contest ever — at least since 1860. And certainly, it’s one of the nastiest and most deplorable to date!
How did it come to this? How did friends of a lifetime become estranged because of presidential preferences? How did husbands and wives, often in lockstep with their own choices for high elected office, separate at the ballot box in ways never before recorded? How did parents, excited about teaching their children the responsibilities of good citizenship and the benefits of public service, become protective of their children to the point that presidential debates became off limits because of language and sexual content?
People far smarter and much more knowledgeable than I have opined on the origin of all that has plagued one of our two great political parties. They will tell you the seeds of self-destruction were sown in the latter part of the 20th century when the GOP tried to force disparate groups of stakeholders into the Republican tent. It started with Nixon’s Southern strategy and was fueled with the Moral Majority of the Reagan years. In the 1990s, the hard-liners and their Contract with America sealed the deal that would make it just a matter of time before the GOP came apart at the seams.
I am not ignoring what happened with the Democrats — they had their coming-apart party in the 1970s and 1980s. And, yes, that party did cleave down the middle and stayed that way until Bill Clinton, a Southern governor with more moderate political tendencies than many of his fellow Democrats and a desire to shake up the status quo, put the Humpty Donkey back together again.
So now, I believe it is the Republicans’ turn in the barrel. And they are being aided and abetted by the least qualified candidate for president ever nominated by either major party. But why has this happened? Who allowed this to happen, this collective loss of our civic mind to the extent that we could possibly elect what is anathema to our democratic way of life?
For lack of a better scapegoat — after all, the one lesson we have learned during this election cycle is that the new American way is to blame anyone and everyone else who is not us for whatever problems ail us — I suggest it is this great and aging generation of which I am a card-carrying (that would be an AARP card) member.
That’s right, I think the baby-boomer generation bears a great deal of responsibility for the fine mess we have gotten ourselves into, and I hope in a week, we will figure out how to get us out of this mess of unpatriotic proportions.
Just a wee bit of context: My generation was not only the largest growth industry of its kind at the time, but it was also the first American generation to not only turn on our parents and their way of life but also our government institutions and the values for which they stood.
That is what happened to us in the 1960s and 1970s.
And then we had children. And those children had children. And here we are. The one constant that has permeated each new generation is that same lack of trust in government that caused the boomers to split from their parents so many decades ago. Except that along the way, the political operatives found ways to make those divisions far worse than they otherwise might have been. So much so that an entire generation of new voters has learned that government is never the solution, just always the problem.
So that is where we find ourselves today, eight years into the greatest recession most of us have ever witnessed and from which some of us have yet to recover.
It is my generation that started the Tea Party, a group of people unhappy with and untrusting of government. It was my generation that made the decisions to go to war in the Middle East — having grown impatient with the region’s intractability and too confident in our military’s ability to change facts on the ground. And it is my generation that justified boardroom decisions made in the interests of the shareholders without regard for the interests of employees and the communities dependent upon those corporate decisions.
And it is in the aftermath of all this that Americans are called upon to vote for the person who has the best plan and ability to fix this mess. Or at least make a good start.
I have been as vocal as I can be about the person I believe can lead us forward. Conversely, I’ve also spoken out about the person who I am convinced will drive us back to some darker age from which it will be difficult to return. It is no secret that I am with Hillary Clinton — enthusiastically, fervently and with complete faith and trust in her ability to make some sense where none currently exists.
What I need to be clear about, though, is that at a time when some baby boomers are reluctant to apologize for anything — ever — I am among the first of my generation to say, “I am sorry.”
We did a great deal for our country, our children and our grandchildren. But I am afraid that so many in my generation continue to do a great deal to hold us back. We thought that burning the American flag, our draft cards and more intimate articles of personal clothing was the patriotic thing to do back when the Vietnam War was raging. Perhaps it was.
But in 2016, it is un-American and totally unpatriotic to act like we did as children at a time when the younger generations need the baby boomers to finally act as adults. It is way past the time for us to blame everyone else.
We must vote to advance this great country. Not defile it.
Brian Greenspun is publisher, editor and owner of the Sun.