Why has the 2016 election cycle been so fraught?
From the rabid last-minute campaigning to the people vowing to leave the country if their candidate loses, should a national election really matter this much?
Of course elections matter. Who governs our nation from the White House is a big deal. But our national elections are doing more to divide us as a nation than to bring us together behind a consensus government.
We need to solve that problem.
I’d argue that the solution is to make it so that national election matters less. Or, put another way, we need to take some of the power away from the presidency, specifically, and the federal government generally.
Presidents working to expand the power of the executive branch and all its myriad departments and agencies is hardly a new phenomena. It’s a long American tradition reaching back across both Republican and Democratic administrations. But the Obama administration, whether it’s the unilateral obstruction of pipeline projects or national school bathroom policy set from Washington D.C. – has been a particularly egregious offender.
This is something which has contributed to the rancor of the 2016 presidential election every bit as much as Trump’s boorish personality and Clinton’s propensity for dishonesty and corruption.
The 2016 election has been a harrowing experience for Americans because, with the Obama administration having set a bold new tone for presidential meddling in just about everything, there is perhaps more on the line today than ever before.
It shouldn’t be this way.
America was founded as a republic, a union of sovereign states governed by a constitutionally-restrained federal government. It was, and still is, a perfect system of government for a nation as large as ours was even at its founding
Our system of government allows for local government – states and their political subdivisions – to go their own way on policy. But the trend has been for more and more national policy. One-size-fits-all laws and regulations for a nation that is diverse in every sense of the word, from race to politics to geography.
Is it any wonder, then, that we’re all at each other’s throats over who gets to set that policy?
I’m afraid that isn’t going to change until we can get the federal government to leave things like school lunch menus to local school boards, and that sort of a sea change in federal governance will require that the egotistical, power-hungry, megalomaniacs we elect to federal office be willing to give up power.
It will also require that we the electorate, more populist than ever thanks to the advent of the internet and social media, stop demanding that the federal government intervene in whatever the latest trending outrage is on Facebook.
I’m not hopeful for either of these outcomes.