The Practice Corner: Another Election Cycle Has Ended
by Daniel DeWoskin
We survived another election. For some of my friends and colleagues, they might consider my statement more ominous and less humorous than I intend it to be. The vitriol and panic about what this election meant seemed higher than previous elections, although it probably just seems like that. In actuality, I remember my friends talking in 2000 about how, if the U.S. Supreme Court came back with this decision or that decision, it would mean the end of democracy. It did not.
As I see things, we are approaching 240 years of bloodless exchanges of power in politics. Once again, more cynical folks than I (if there can be such folks) would say that they were not all bloodless. The fact remains that different political ideologies have more power and less power at a given time. Voters can be fickle and the influence of the media, campaign money, special interests, foreign politics, and a host of hundreds of other factors have a profound impact on who gets elected. It is never as apocalyptic as some people choose to believe.
Like most if not all of you, I am most relieved to stop receiving emails, hearing snarky voice-overs in radio and television ads, and answering calls from colleagues I have not heard from in a long time only to hear them request campaign funds for this candidate or that candidate. I understand the importance of the money, the support, and the cause, but to say it is frustrating and exhausting is an extreme understatement.
It is difficult to not consider the giant sums that were expended on these elections. All of them. I realize that it is folly to think about what other uses and impact that collective money could have, but it is tough to put out of mind. According to some reports, including MSNBC, nearly $4 billion was spent on midterm campaign spending. The North Carolina Senate race exceeded $100 million alone. These amounts go far beyond staggering. The influence on our actual political landscape will not look the same as if the elections had gone in other directions, but what these cycles say about us as a country is troubling.
For myself, I have trouble appreciating the impression that both major parties wish to impose, that as a nation we are on the edge of a dangerous cliff. This cliff may be our national security, Ebola outbreaks, zombies, the extinction of any number of species, the economy, or whatever. We need to pay attention to the environment. We need to focus on improving the economy. We need to address national security concerns, but the level of panic suggested to be appropriate is not warranted.
As for the economy, gas prices are lower than we have seen in a long time. The stock market is thriving. Unemployment numbers seem to be going down. And as you are all aware, we can attribute these things to the successful policies or failures of any given politician that we are inclined to like or dislike at any given moment. These things will also change for the better and for the worse. It is a matter of when. In 2016, we will elect a new president, and depending on what takes place between now and then, and the spending of billions more in campaign funds, we may see the control of our legislative government shift again.
I try to think back to when I was in grade school. I try to recall what my thoughts were on the big issues of the time. There is no doubt that politics were not something that held my interest until just before high school, but can see how upset my parents would get about certain candidates. If I had a time machine and could go speak with them during those election cycles, I doubt that they would seem any calmer about what an election meant. The difference would be that politics would be discussed in social settings, or with a stranger generally in a supermarket, but that they would not pervade every aspect of television, print, and radio in the way that they do not. Or would they?
Is the big difference in my perception that I received a dozen emails a day? I suppose it could be. It could also be because I am an attorney whose professional and social circles lend themselves to more of these discussions and topics than those of some of my friends. I can say that I felt like I couldn’t go five minutes without having some contact with a political ad, conversation, solicitation, or reference to upcoming elections. I am ready to put it aside now . . . until 2020.
Unfortunately, I expect that given the continued polarization of the parties and the laborious and tedious stalemate that our government is likely to endure, campaigns for the 2016 presidential election will be in full swing come the New Year. As a nation, we have so much to be proud of, and still so far to go.