Dec. 7, 2012: Elections don’t have to be just about mud-slinging and spending, by Patrick Sieben

So this is the way things are. First we have months of mud-slinging and name-calling by the candidates at all levels, with relentless attacks intended to discredit both people and policies coming from pundits on all sides. All the while we complain about how things are in Washington or Topeka or wherever, and moan about how we ought to “throw ’em all out!”

Then comes Election Day, when we can engage in that great American tradition of selecting our local and national representatives and leaders.

Let’s look at what happened on Nov. 6: We Americans returned to national office mostly all of those we had complained so bitterly about for the last two or four or six years. Congratulations to us!

Sounds like I’m a bit frustrated, does it not? Absolutely. It’s genuine frustration at how we seem to have sunk to just about the lowest point of respect for statesmanship.

The most obvious example of that is the presidential campaign.

The amount of money spent from start to finish, including the Republican primaries, to get us to choose between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney is estimated at $2.5 billion — with a B. That’s $2,500,000,000.

Here is a little bit of perspective: That’s about $20 for every voter who cast a ballot for either Obama or Romney. Or, another way to look at it: Candidate Romney said he would eliminate the subsidies for public broadcasting, Amtrak and the National Endowment for the Arts — but if you add those annual budget items together, they just barely top $2 billion, or 80 percent of the cost of the presidential campaign.

All spent on a national election that, after all the hoopla, returned to office the same person and left the country still painfully polarized.

In my opinion, that’s not the most efficient use of supposedly scarce monetary resources.

How about here in the Sunflower State? Did we do better?

After our state Legislature was unable to come to agreement on House and Senate district boundaries, a panel of federal judges drew up a last-minute solution. That left us with members of the same party — at times with encouragement from higher level elected officials — at each other’s throats over who was the more conservative or more liberal candidate. It would have been nice to hear solutions for the problems facing our state rather than the mean-spirited personal attacks that dominated campaign rhetoric.

I am frustrated, but not bitter.

We members of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee meet regularly and try our best to provide opportunities to respect diversity of thought and ideas.

No, we will not agree on everything as a nation, or even as a community, but we must strive to be respectful of ideas, institutions and individuals as we move through the 21st century.

When we exercise our right and our obligation to vote on issues and candidates, we should do so as informed and enlightened citizens who above all are thankful for the freedom we enjoy to hold peaceful elections.

When the election is over, it is our responsibility to respect the outcomes, even if “our side” did not prevail. That is a responsibility of a society governed by democratic process.

Lastly, it is not acceptable that the destruction of a candidate’s personal reputation has become a hallmark of politics at any level. If the kind of good women and men we want representing us are certain their character will be assassinated, they will not choose to seek public office.

America is capable of better; we as Americans are capable of better. We are not perfect, but we can strive for respect and statesmanship in our public display of our democratic process.


— Patrick Sieben is the Director of Bands at Cloud County Community College and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee.


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