There’s a very cute Youtube video going around the internet of a little girl named Abigail crying because she’s tired of hearing about the upcoming presidential election. I imagine that she’s heard a lot less about it than those of us who are actually of voting age, which just goes to show you that everyone is sick of this presidential campaign. I know I am.
For over a year, we have heard partisan bickering and billions of dollars spent (for a job that pays six figures).We knew that this was going to be an ugly and expensive campaign (those two adjectives go together more often than you would think). This expectation has, unfortunately, proven correct.
Just like every other presidential election, people who are paid lots of money to do so are telling us that this is the most important election of our lifetimes. This time they’re right. The future of the country really is at stake, and, because of America’s unique and exceptional role in the world, so is the future of the entire planet.
But I thank God that it won’t be decided by the pundits, the talking heads, the Super PACs, the bundlers, the journalists, or even the politicians. It will be, to the glory of this country, decided by the people.
In one evening, half of the Beltway will look foolish, and half will look prescient; at least half of the country will be terribly disappointed. The world will go on turning, but it will never be the same.
None of the ink that has been spilled, the money spent, the ads cut, the incessant blabbering done matters anymore. None of it will matter, except what the American people decide, in one collective act, the closest thing that we have as a political body to a sacrament.
We have all the data we need by now. Imagine if you had voted early: in some states, some people voted before that crucial first debate. I’m sure at least some of them changed their minds after it was too late. The rest of us, however, know more than enough.
Consider this: Both sides have spent about $1 billion each, presumably to win over about seven percent of the electorate. We spend more and more money each election to win over fewer and fewer voters. Is this the next bubble to burst?
Also, consider the fact that $2 billion is about as much as the federal government borrows every few hours.
If you think about this long enough, you will realize why we spend so much money to persuade such a small group of people: There is a lot at stake. The left often attacks big political donors, not withstanding their own, as unfairly influencing the government to get what they want. But this is precisely the problem of big government: If we had a small government, then there would be small incentive to influence it.
The Founding Fathers understood this, just as they understood that, although no system is perfect anymore than any politician is, some are less flawed than others. I cannot help but feel a little trepidation at the possibility that the American people might make a terrible choice in this election. But even if they do, they will have to live with the consequences. A free people gets what it deserves. If there is any problem in our Republic, it is not our system, but us.
In fact, there is a very good chance that, despite record levels of anger against incumbents, we might end up with exactly the same situation that we have now: a Democratic President and Senate, a Republican House of Representatives. Although that would make almost no one happy, it would be a great tribute to the design of our Founders: It would be a sign that we are accurately and faithfully represented.
This is our Constitutional right, and our patrimony. But I’m afraid that all of the get-out-the-vote campaigns overshadow what a great privilege it is, a privilege denied to so many people around the world, and, for much of our history, even in our great Republic. I know that I am grateful for this chance to vote, but I also know that there are many people out there who disagree with me.
It is that gratitude that should make us take this seriously, and vote intelligently. John Erskine wrote in 1915 of the moral obligation to be intelligent; we have a moral obligation to vote intelligently, not based on race, good looks, popularity, charisma, or even emotions, but based on reason.
If you vote, you should be able to say why you were right to vote the way you did; if you can’t, then you shouldn’t vote at all. It’s not a duty, but a precious, sacred privilege.
Armstrong Williams is an African-American political commentator who writes a conservative newspaper column, hosts a nationally syndicated TV program called “The Right Side,” and hosts a daily radio show on Sirius/XM Power 128 (7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m.) Monday through Friday.
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