While I was watching the Vice Presidential Debate on Wednesday night, I came to a personal realization: seeing two politicians from different sides of the aisle greeting and thanking each other for being at an event literally warmed my heart. How messed up is that? The smallest, most trivial aspect of that debate made me feel content. Of course, that contentment was soon replaced by annoyance and disgust as Mike Pence’s embarrassing phoniness was revealed and Kamala Harris couldn’t wipe that smug grin off of her face.
Let me unpack this a bit more. I value respect very highly, it’s one of my non-negotiable morals. Seeing respect in politics is sometimes hit or miss, but it’s been extremely absent from politics in recent years which is why the slightest show of respect and (at the bare minimum) civility gives me a fleeting sense of pride.
My dad and I have joked about my unluckiness before in that I have not had a winning Cleveland Browns football team in my life (yet…), but we can add to that list the fact that I’ve not had a presidential election in my conscious memory with two acceptable candidates! I have been alive for six presidential elections, including this upcoming election.
I do not remember a single thing from the 2000 to 2004 elections. What can I say, I wasn’t a very politically active infant/toddler! I have a few memories from the 2008 election season with Barack Obama and John McCain, but nothing really specific about the campaigns. I mostly remember thinking that we were either going to have our first Black president, our oldest president, or our first female president (Hillary Clinton). I also remember watching Obama’s inauguration in my 3rd grade class but the details are fuzzy.
Oddly enough I remember a lot of Mitt Romney’s advertisements from the 2012 election. It was also the first time I wondered why people were fighting so intensely when they were supposedly on the same side (the Republican Party). It definitely seemed odd to me, but I didn’t assume that that was the norm when it came to elections.
The election season of 2016 certainly did not do anything to quell the suspicions brought on by the previous presidential election. Perhaps 12 year-old Claire was too idealistic and didn’t want to believe that running for office meant that you had to sling mud and be disrespectful towards your opponents. I thought that a debate could involve an ideological argument without getting nasty and personal, but obviously Trump and Clinton in 2016 and now Trump and Biden in 2020 have done everything to disprove young Claire’s thinking.
I do not think that elections have always been this way. In fact I know that they haven’t after having studied political science and American history for years. But unfortunately for younger generations of voters like me, we have not been able to see much respect and professionalism in recent elections. It is very disappointing and disheartening to me. For a young person who is not interested in government or politics at all, this nastiness and quite frankly, childishness, could completely discourage them from voting at all.
It’s all very sad to me. The respect in politics in our country has hit an all-time-low as polarization reaches its highest peak, in my own opinion. There is definitely room for improvement. I hope that some of our elected officials will set aside their strict partisanship and bring some respect back into our democracy. There are bound to be personal differences between candidates, but the American public should not have to sift through their personal drama to figure out their ideological differences.
I shouldn’t be so emotionally moved by a simple greeting between vice presidential candidates, it’s absurd! But unfortunately I have seemingly become desensitized to disrespect in politics that even this small act is sentimental to me.
Here’s hoping for brighter days with bigger things to be proud of…