This presidential election, even by historical standards, has been divisive. Friendships have been lost, business ties have been severed, insults hurled back and forth — and that’s just the Republican side.
It is clear that as technology has progressed, even beyond an ever-present news media, the unending feed of social media accessible almost anywhere in the world has resulted in more people becoming more emotionally invested politics.
Sure, we have heard it from both sides — the country is on the brink and if you do not show that you care, the United States is going the way of the Roman Empire.
To be sure, a month from now, we will have a better idea of what is to come. The election will long since have been settled. The news will be about cabinet appointees and the new upcoming Congress as things slow down and we head into the holidays.
But just for a moment, look at back at the silly season of the presidential election and frenzy caused by a vulgar audio clip, Wall Street speech transcripts, tax returns, “deplorables,” media bias — every little thing that did not impact your life directly but was enough to make people act in ugly, reprehensible ways just for the sake of scoring points.
The problem is people are treating their politics a lot like they treat an allegiance to a sports team. Obviously it is not healthy to get too high or too low over sports teams, but the thing with sports is that it serves as a release or break from the rigmarole of day-to-day life.
Going to an Alabama or Auburn football game and yelling your brains out is, for some people, a cathartic release. Your team win or loses, then on Monday you go to work and live your life.
Politics was never intended to play that role in our society — indeed, many of the founders eschewed party divides and factions — but it has become an outlet for those not frustrated with day-to-day life but instead the way they perceive the country to be headed.
If you look at some of the Trump rallies, including the one held in Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium last year, if you didn’t know better you would think you were at a sporting event before it got underway.
The chanting, music and, at some of these events, tailgating — it all has the atmosphere of a sporting event.
That is not a knock on Republican nominee Donald Trump or his campaign for ginning up this level of enthusiasm. The phenomenon is brilliant and well played. He has created enthusiastic support unmatched by any presidential candidate in recent memory, and it should be a model for future presidential hopefuls.
But if you are just the average spectator, you need take a step back and realize this: A lot of it is for show.
When the next president is elected, be it Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, they will still have to deal with Congress. All the boisterous political events with Trump’s Twisted Sisters’ anthem “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blasting on the loudspeakers probably won’t change the mind of the ranking Democrat on the Appropriations Committee demanding funding for his pet projects.
Even if you are an anti-Trump Democrat or one these “Never Trumpers” fighting the GOP nominee (like one of those Japanese soldiers stationed on an island in the Philippines during World War II who didn’t realize the war was over until 1970s), you have to recognize what is going on with the engagement of the Trump voter.
Where these high-minded pseudo-elites are wrong with their pushback against the GOP nominee is that they are getting just as emotional about politics as the masses they disdain. “How dare this vulgarian, third-rate real estate developer from Queens sully our politics with his populist and patriotic rhetoric! Does he not have a clue that is not how the world of politics works?”
And it devolves from there because Trump voters and sympathizers hear and see that as a slight against them for supporting a candidate and they double down. Then the other side doubles down, and so and so forth.
Meanwhile, all of this is just a product of getting too emotionally involved in something you probably do not have much of say over anyway. No matter how loud you yell, how many tweets you send or how many radio talk shows you call into, in the end your vote counts just as much as everyone else’s.
It’s certainly something we in the press have not dealt with properly. In some cases on TV news the instinct is to show where a candidate is factually wrong in way that seems to serve the purpose of showing viewers how stupid they are for supporting that candidate.
“We can’t have a border wall! It’s too expensive. Why are you so stupid?”
While that may not be what literally is said in these fact-check segments, that is certainly how they come across.
There is nothing wrong with being engaged in politics. It is important. It is interesting. But if you are riding an emotional roller coaster headed for Election Day, be wary of what is at the end of that ride.
Speaking from personal experience, you are setting yourself up for a big letdown if it does not come out the way you hoped, and that just is not worth it.