The good, the bad and the ugly of this election

When it comes to the 2012 election, I have four important words for you:

“Thank God it’s over.”

The votes have been cast, the winners have been congratulated, the election-party hangovers have abated and the world has started to move on to the next big thing.

It’s time for us to bury the hatchet for a while and work together.

For those in office, it’s high time to reach across the aisle and find common ground on the problems faced by this country.

I want to know who will be the bigger person, the one to stand up against partisan politics in Washington and our state capitals and do the right thing.

I’m waiting.

We’re all waiting.

However, before we leave the 2012 election behind, I think we should reflect a little on the storm that recently passed.

The good

For all the hatred and resentment that other nondemocratic nations have for the United States, they must respect and envy the way we do elections.

The fact that we even have elections is huge.

To think that much of the way we handle elections and the way we vote have gone unchanged for generations is impressive.

It didn’t start that way with basically only white men being allowed to vote, but the greatness of America is in its ability to re-create and reinvent instelf without losing sight of its original intent.

The fact that two people embark on an 18-month to two-year job application process to become our leader is pretty amazing when you think about it.

Boiled down to the state and local level, I think term limits would be a good idea for many offices. Perhaps term limits would lead to better debates and better candidates and more people interest in the elected offices.

The election process in America is not perfect, and like democracy, it deserves constant evaluation and a few tweaks here and there, as long as the original intent remains.

I know many people are frustrated by the electoral college system of deciding the presidential race, but I speak for many who would welcome discussion about a better, more representational way to declare a winner.

The bad

Apathy, despite the 70-plus percent turnout rate in nearly every county in the Tri-State area, is still pretty rampant.

I stood in line with a baby for nearly 30 minutes at my precinct in Franklin County, Pa., and I expected to wait longer.

My wife — carrying the same baby — waited for more than an hour. One of our reporters was in line for 90 minutes to get her chance to make selections on the ballot.

My point is that if I’m waiting that long, I want the ballot to be more than one page. I want choices in every single race, good choices from worthy candidates.

The problem with not having term limits in state races is that once someone gets in there, you need a crowbar, a texting indiscretion or a stupid comment about sexual assault to get him or her out of there.

A worthy opponent reminds candidates why they are in Harrisburg, Pa., or Annapolis or Charleston, W.Va., or Washington, D.C.

A tough race makes politicians remember that they are there to represent me, not the other way around.

Many candidates have run unopposed for the last several election cycles in the Tri-State and I think the people are the real losers when that happens.


The ugly

The bombardment of political advertising — especialy on TV and radio — has been annoying for years, but now it’s downright aggravating, as my mother would say. (A common description for me and my behavior as well.)

I know why the marketing teams do it and I know how they do it. The ads are akin to nails on a chalkboard.

It’s ages-old political he-said, she-said that maneuvers around the Federal Communications Commission and the Communications Act with the subtlety of an elephant.

The attack ads are meant to confuse, shock and wear us down. Those responsible figure if they continue to yell in our ear over and over that the president is the reason the sky is green and the ocean is purple, that we shall believe it as fact.

And then we will vote for the other guy.

Here’s how we can beat them: Investigate and learn about candidates at all levels.
When the next election cycle begins, take an interest in the candidates and demand more information.

Some tips:

• Call the newspaper and radio and television stations to ask that they cover elections and provide links for more information.

• Attend forums. We sponsored several voter forums this fall in Washington County and several more were held in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. We later ran them repeatedly on HMTV6 to help educate voters.

• Urge candidates for a debate. A race this fall in Franklin County turned sour after the newcomer challenged the incumbent to a debate. He refused and the campaign turned nasty.

I think the incumbent should have just agreed to the debate from the beginning and it would have been a nonissue. I’m certain he would have won regardless, but the last several months might have been less stressful and perhaps he wouldn’t have been dragged over the coals as much.

Bill Kohler is Tri-State Editor of The Herald-Mail. Reach him at 30-1791-7281 or by email at billk@herald-mail.com.

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