Letters from the Editor: Sick and sad again

For the past few weeks, our advisors have been roasting the staff of the Sun Star soundly for our lack of election coverage. It’s a valid critique; there are plenty of contentious races and initiatives in our state and borough that are worthy of coverage.

But the big focus, much as it is every 4 years, is the presidential election. Perhaps we’ve slipped in bringing you, our readership, coverage of this contest, particularly its impact on campus. Maybe we’ve missed enthusiastic rallies or meetings that illustrate support for democrat Hillary Clinton or republican Donald Trump. As editor-in-chief of the Sun Star it is absolutely my responsibility to bring this topic to light, and I will make a greater effort to do so.

Which is frustrating, because as an ordinary human being I am absolutely sick of this garbage.

As of mid-2015 I was perhaps a little more optimistic. My views (or the closest mainstream version of them) were being represented by Bernie Sanders, while the republican primary was dominated by a field of milquetoast replicants. It wasn’t as electric a contest as the 2008 election, but it was at least more engaging than 2004 or 2012.

But as the primaries wore on into 2016, it became clear that the democratic contest was sticking to the script just as the republican one was flying off the rails. These are, as my professors have noted, the least popular candidates in the past forty years, and it comes as no surprise when you consider their backgrounds. Clinton is a career politician, widely regarded as untrustworthy, unrelatable, and out of touch with most of America. Trump, meanwhile, is a flustered, blustery reality TV star turned fascist posterboy. The result is a shockingly virulent and divisive — yet utterly vapid — contest.

Many of my friends have encouraged me to vote this cycle, eagerly and unironically citing that I should pick the lesser of two evils, that it’s not the time for a protest vote. But why should I? In a lot of the ways that matter to me, there’s no decision to be made: stated positions aside, we will almost certainly continue to surveil our own citizens en masse, crack down on whistleblowers and execute foreigners under suspicion without due process. Odds are we’ll start a war against a sufficiently scary “other.” Recreational drug users will continue to be thrown in prison. The detention facility at Guantanamo Bay will remain open. Picking from a false dichotomy for a moderately more comfortable domestic policy feels selfish at best and futile at worst.

A lot will have to change before I really get into an election again. The two-party system is broken, yes, but it’s not even the biggest problem in US politics by my reckoning. The overturning of Citizens United v. FEC (possibly via constitutional amendment) would be a start, as would the elimination of the electoral college. There’s pretty good ideas already out there for improving the way we select our leaders; the shame is that few people selected under the current system are likely to want it abolished.

This is hardly a new point of view; no small number of my contemporaries seem to feel similarly (at least in my social media echo chamber). My parents do, too; after urging me to vote for my entire young life, this year they’re hard-pressed to pinch their nose and make a decision. More than anything, though, I’ll just be glad when the ceaseless soundbites and perpetual punditry of endless electoral coverage draws to a close — for better or worse.

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