There are 568 days until the November 2016 general election and I’m already making preparations.
This past week I scrubbed my social media contacts list, dropping anyone and everyone who posted something negative about a potential candidate, or party. No Benghazi memes, no Obama references ... no rants against the right. I eliminated dozens of people from my social media feeds, including some relatives. So much for any family reunions.
I just don’t want to read all this, watch it or listen to it. It’s vitriolic blather, repeated daily.
The 2016 presidential election will be the most elaborate work of fiction in history. We will witness the politics of destruction at its zenith, unchecked and unscrutinized by anyone who matters. The body politic will tune out by the first primary. And sadly, many will stay home on Nov. 8, 2016.
This is our first full-tilt social media election. Former NPR commentator and current Fox contributor Juan Williams said it best when he came to Baylor last year as part of Chancellor Ken Starr’s On Topic series. Williams said today’s campaigns are not about convincing voters to choose a candidate. The choices, he said, are already made. We’ve all been herded into one of two camps and elections today are all about turning out the vote. From what I’ve seen, fear and hatred are the weapons of choice in the turnout battle.
It takes reason and debate to earn a vote. Unfortunately, both of those are in short supply in the so-called Information Age.
The level of political discourse in this country is pretty bad already, but it’s going to get worse over the next 18 months.
So far there are a number of qualified candidates who have announced they are running for president. Some have more experience than others, and they all seem to have unique qualities that bear closer examination. I’m determined to find answers to some fundamental questions this time around, because I find myself completely undecided for the first time in a long time.
This election will be more divisive than any other in history, fueled by social media and ignored by the masses of independent and moderate voters.
Sadly, important issues won’t get much attention in a social media election. Our national debt, government spending and legacy programs such as Social Security and Medicare will get lip service only, while candidates flail about online preaching political purity, exclusion and class warfare.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton launched her 2016 presidential campaign last Sunday by posting a video to YouTube and posting the announcement on Twitter. The former first lady has 3.1 million Twitter followers and her announcement was passed along (re-tweeted) 100,000 times in the first 24 hours.
By Monday morning, my Facebook timeline was full of anti-Hillary messages — most repeated from the same ambiguous source.
On Tuesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted his presidential announcement. By Wednesday, the anti-Rubio crowd had invaded my timeline.
So I did some social media house cleaning. It serves no purpose to spew venom and remind people over and over how much you dislike a candidate or party. Unless you purge your own contact list and add several new contacts every day, you are basically repeating yourself to the same audience.
We get it. You think Obama and Cruz are evil. Move on already.
Since social media will likely play an even larger role in this election, it’s a given that division and discord will take the place of debate and deliberation. As Juan Williams said, this is about turnout, not conversion.
The information I seek cannot be gathered on social media.
Call me old school, but I’d like to know exactly how we’re going to secure the border. (Are we building a wall? A fence? Firing on those who cross? What?) I’d like to know how we’re going to pay off the national debt. If we’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act, what exactly are we going to replace it with? (Emphasis on the exactly.) Since Social Security and Medicare are the biggest drains to federal coffers, what do you suggest, Mr./Mrs. Candidate, to keep them from going bankrupt in our lifetimes?
Clearly, engaging in reasoned debate is too much to expect from many of my social media contacts. So to them I say goodbye for now. I’ll catch up on your recipes and grandkids around Thanksgiving next year.
Unless you read this first.
Steve Boggs is editor of the Waco Tribune-Herald. Email firstname.lastname@example.org