The following was originally published in Northern Express on April 2, 2016
As of March 22, 2016, a total of 1,647 candidates had filed a Statement of Presidential Candidacy with the Federal Election Commission. I’d like to meet them.
Think back to past election seasons, as a nation we would watch the final presidential debate. As you may recall, It has become the norm for the hosting network to assemble a group of undecided registered voters, sometimes even monitoring men and women through electrodes to monitor their excitement for candidates’ remarks. Throughout the debate, and at its conclusion, they are asked if they’ve made a choice. Did you think to yourself, “How can these people possibly be undecided at this point. Don’t they have positions on issues that matter to them? Have they been living in a cave?” When the “undecideds” are asked if they had chosen yet, most would shake their lowered heads in a sort of shameful or self-disgusted manner.
I have voted in every presidential primary and general election since I became old enough to vote. Each time, I walked at a enthusiastic and determined pace into my polling precinct, well prepared to proudly cast my vote. I knew the issues, the candidates’ platforms and positions, and felt patriotic voting for my chosen candidate.
Here I now stand, disgusted and ashamed. I am an independent voter. In the 2016 Michigan primary, I arrived at my polling precinct not only undecided about a candidate, I wasn’t even sure which party’s ballot to request. I wondered if I should cast my vote strategically, emotionally or realistically. I did vote, but it doesn’t really matter here who I voted for. My heart wasn’t in it.
Who are these 1,647 candidates? My heart is up for grabs.
Now, I wish I belonged to a party that would think for me and tell me what to do. Okay, not really. But 2016 has made it a tough year. Being an independent voter, you need to do a bit more homework and this time around there is a mountain of new material for consideration. I never thought our country would discuss the costs or philosophy of free college or building a wall on our border.
I’m a bit jealous of the enthusiastic supporters of Trump and Sanders . They are so moved by these candidates who each represent very different versions of a new kind of president who promise a new kind of government and a fundamental shift in the foundation of our American spirit. Early supporters of these candidates in Iowa and New Hampshire didn’t seem worried about throwing their vote away to a candidate who didn’t have a chance. They voted with their hearts filled with a yearning for change. Again, very different types of change, but similar by degree. These candidates are still in the race, much to the dismay of their own parties.
This is the strangest presidential campaign season that I have ever observed. The fact that one candidate could potentially be the first female U.S. president isn’t even making news, as she is seen as the ultimate representative of the mainstream establishment, her gender not even newsworthy in the midst of Trump’s outrageously vulgar behavior. How can this be? I find myself surprised that even I am not considering her gender to be a issue.
My point here being, that as impossible to comprehend as I may consider a Trump or a Sanders presidency, both campaigns have brought forward what would previously have been seen as crazy, too far left, too isolationist, too kooky, impossible, dangerous, irresponsible, even un-American and illegal ideas to the forefront of political discussion and Americans are on fire with enthusiasm. These novel candidates are bringing new voters to rallies and voting booths across America. This leaves my staunchly republican friends finding themselves considering voting for a democrat if Trump is the GOP candidate. Feminists find Sanders more supportive of their positions than the female in the race.
Past elections were fairly predictable in terms of what the final two candidates would offer voters. Not so, this time around. American voters need to think more carefully than ever before. One thing is for sure, the choices will not be predictable nor will they be comfortable.
I’ve never experienced an election season like it. I don’t know what to make of it except to say that it is clearly evidence that our two party system is not working. The GOP leaders feel their party has been hijacked and seem unable to do anything about it. Which begs the question, should they even try? The voters of this democracy are actually voting, like it or not. On the Democrat’s side, Clinton was previously seen as such a sure fire winner by her party that she only had 2 opponents. Many of us, myself included, feel cheated by lousy choices and a system that doesn’t work.
I predict a record number of votes for write in candidates and an elected president that will win based on anti-votes. My only remaining hope is that the outrageousness of this election season will open our minds to a new system that includes the 1,647 Americans interested in being our President.
Mary Rogers is an opinion columnist in Northern Express. Northern Express is northern Michigan’s newspaper, serving residents of 13 counties. Each week for the past 25 years, the paper has arrived at more than 625 distribution spots free of charge. The paper serves Traverse City, Petoskey, Gaylord, Cadillac, Glen Arbor, Manistee, Mackinaw City, and dozens of towns in between. More than 34,000 copies are printed each week. The paper reflects northern Michigan’s lifestyle, culture, perspective, and news.