Monday, October 3, 2016

We need more Papi in politics

I get emotional about the Red Sox. I curse when they lose and jump up and down they win, so it was for the best that I was alone at home when Sunday’s pregame featured the culmination of David Ortiz’s year-long retirement celebration. With a lump in my throat and tears on my cheeks I was glued to the screen and thinking about how lucky I am to have been a Sox fan in his time. He carried his teams to three World Series wins — a bounty that no pre-2004 fan could have thought to imagine.  But more importantly, he inspired us to want to be like him: relentless, resilient and kind. With that huge smile and giant swagger he taught us to push away doubt and to think that something good could happen if we could believe in ourselves. And when terror struck, he was the leader who embodied Boston Strong and helped the city bounce back. His departure leaves a huge hole in the Red Sox lineup and reminded me that we have very few inspirational leaders in our country right now, particularly in the race for President.

There are nearly 319 million people in the United States and the two people who have been nominated by the major political parties to be president are probably the two worst candidates in U.S. history. This campaign has turned into a "he said she said" about non-issues and both candidates have wasted time and effort name-calling, making accusations and labeling the other unfit and dishonest. The din of the discord is so loud that even careful observers have lost track of the insults being volleyed back and forth. It's disheartening to think that we've been left with these choices and that the next four years will be long ones if only because nearly half the country will be upset and the outcome of the election.

All is not lost. Regardless of who gets more electoral votes on November 8th, I know two things to be true: first, the outcome of this race will not derail our democracy. After 240 years, the Republic will survive 48 months of an unpopular president. Second, the founding fathers saw 2016 coming and made the President of the United States a relatively weak executive. Because Congress holds the purse strings, a President can only do so much without the cooperation of Congress. Even Supreme Court nominees need approval from 60 members of the Senate, ensuring that a party-line vote is not possible by either party. Neither one of these candidates can — or will — ruin this country as president, but the damage done to this electorate by this divisive campaign will last for a long time.

From beginning to end, this campaign has lowered our standards in what we want in a president. Because the major party candidates are so badly flawed, we have dropped our standards to meet what they are giving us in terms of temperament, integrity, character and judgment. Because each one is still working so hard to motivate their own base of supporters, neither is working to appeal to anyone outside of their own camp. Even worse, strong supporters are using the opponent’s negatives to get votes. If it’s not, “you have to vote for him, she’s a liar,” it’s “you have to vote for her, he’s a pig.” Ack.

It’s too late for 2016, but if we have any hope of pulling American politics out of the gutter, we need some better prospects and we must have higher expectations for our candidates. It might be too much to hope for a David Ortiz-type to rise up politics and bring us back from the abyss, but Big Papi did it in 2004, so it can’t hurt to believe.

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