The Halloween season is again approaching, as is the presidential election. Both have a lot in common. Several trick-or-treaters appear on the ballot wearing the mask of public image, designed by ad campaigns, mailers, debates, the media, and carefully scripted public exposure. The noise of ghoulish propaganda distracts us from learning who really is behind the mask.
It takes considerable money to make a mask these days, let alone the cost of spraying graffiti on the opponent’s mask. The nameless mask makers use globs of hope, fear, and greed smeared with dazzling promises to carefully mold their creation around the candidate. Unfortunately, the promises are designed to satisfy targeted constituent voting blocs as tested by polling. We no longer pick the candidate. He picks us, and we meekly follow, if one buys into the pretense. The presidential election process has become a charade.
Once upon a time, a great American running for president stood before the people and stated his position on the issues and said what he would do if elected. His opponent, Stephen A. Douglas, an accomplished orator, did the same. They respected each other and had debated previously for the Illinois Senate seat, which Douglas won.
The two men focused on facts and stated their position on them. The Lincoln-Douglas debates today are considered a very accurate portrayal of a major turning point in American history. The cost of the election was a small fraction of modern elections, and the people selected Abe Lincoln because they clearly understood and approved of his vision for America.
Lincoln did what he said he would do: unite the American people and preserve our values. He didn’t shape his policies to get re-elected, and many policies were unpopular to the North as well as the South. He didn’t blame James Buchanan, his predecessor, for the mess he inherited. Neither was he beholding to the wishes of campaign contributors. With a firm resolve he acted on his conscience and vision for America and did what he thought was right.
The homely, gawkily Lincoln would not have a chance in today’s masquerade, where the best costume wins rather than the substance and integrity of the candidate. Lincoln would be a tough sell today, but 150 years after his presidency, every American remembers him.
But, the masquerade this year may have some surprising outcomes. Dissatisfaction with political corruption and Washington’s infighting is a big concern. The people are aware of the insincerity and ineffectiveness of their government. The best man may very well win as voters ignore the media hype as well as their past party loyalties and look at the big picture. The people usually are smarter than the professional politicians and power brokers presume.
More people have become aware that a main issue in the 2012 election, like Lincoln’s election, is about uniting America and preserving American values. Americans hold the precious traditions of our heritage most dear, more so than the corrupt and bickering Washington realizes. The people in 2012 will vote for the person most likely to be able to pull the Congress and the country together and reform Washington politics as well.
The 2012 election also bears a resemblance to the Harry Truman election of 1948, when the results surprised both the political pundits and the biased media. Truman said in his final campaign speech: “The smart boys say we can’t win. They tried to bluff us with a propaganda blitz, but we called their bluff; we told the people the truth. And the people are with us. The tide is rolling. All over the country. I have seen it in the people’s faces. The people are going to win this election.” He was right.
The best costume will not win in 2012. Americans will seek out the person behind the mask. They will look at his past record of achievement, the substance of his plan, and his vision – not his promises and excuses. Truth trumps promises, as Harry proved.
It has become increasingly clear that growing government control of the private sector initiated in the 1960s has failed. The naked truth written in history is undeniable. The acceleration of government intervention in the last four years not only has made a shambles of the economy but divided the nation in a blame game over the failures.
As occurred in the 1940s, the Fair Deal ideology of “depression equality” will be scrapped and a resurgence of a liberated public sector will bring prosperity. Once again, the election process will be reformed as well as the implementation of congressional reform, including term and compensation limits. America will become strong once more, but because of its people, not its government.
Are these extravagant projections? I think not. Precedence makes them likely to occur. Historically, the American people have a knack of correcting political cycles that stray from our goal of a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.” The passion for freedom is inbred in our blood. “The people are going to win this election” because we follow a dream, not an omniscient leader.
I suspect, a hundred years down the trail, someone will ask, “Say, who was that masked man?” Few will remember what he did here, even fewer what he said here.