We stand at the edge and it scares me

Author: Barrett Rainey

Looking back over recent political columns I’ve written, the word “ignorant” pops out a lot. I’ve been using it more lately.

Surveying our recent and current political landscape, listening to candidates, watching the foreign-backed attack ads and sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of certain candidacies, the word keeps coming to mind. Over and over and over.

Now, when one uses the word “ignorant” referring to someone or their mental makeup, it can seem the writer … in this case me … is making some sort of judgment; putting himself … me … in a higher or more informed classification and, thus, indicating that he … me … is smarter. I mean no such thing.

Repetition of a word is a writer’s trap we’re aware of most of the time and try to avoid. So, we scan the text, attempting to come up with other words that may be more apt; more descriptive.

Scanning my recent commentaries on national … and for some of us local … political candidates, use of the word “ignorant” comfortably applies to some of them but was, indeed, overused. I should’ve substituted “uninformed,” “deliberately uninformed,” “unqualified,” “phony,” “liar” and, in a few cases, “dangerous.”

In nearly 50 years of reporting and following our country’s political adventures, I have never seen so many people unfit for public office vying at such lofty levels. Nor have I seen our political system as fractured from top to bottom as it is now.

Normally, when we have contested races, the winner is usually the one whose thinking and declared positions most closely match the majority of the electorate. Sometimes my guy; sometimes yours. Somehow, no matter the struggle, we find areas of agreement and support someone with our vote.

In far too many races, not this time. I fear many electors are so mad at something, and so scared about something else, they’ll vote against someone and not for anyone.

Where I live … Oregon’s 4th Congressional District … is a good case on point. A 12 term middle-of-the-road incumbent faces a guy whose self-described outlook on life is badly uninformed, ignorant (there’s that word again) about many issues, who is unwilling to compromise on anything, wants to close all public schools and who has made a pile of money sending racist home-school texts to people around the world.

He is the poster child of an unsuitable candidate for the United States Congress. The antithesis of a reasonable person. Yet friends whom I respect, people who have been successful in business and other facets of life, people who love this country and some who have served in it’s military … these same people are running around town with this nut’s campaign signs and vowing to vote for him.

I can’t believe these competent, thoughtful and otherwise normal people really support this nutcase; a guy who would go to Washington, D.C., disappear into a fog of political goofiness and be totally incapable of effectively representing this district and its very serious needs. But they swear they will.

That’s one totally unsuitable candidate. There are others; many others. Fear, anger, economic uncertainty, a willingness to get rid of anything that smacks of Washington, D.C., billionaire’s with millions to burn and an unlimited amount of anonymous dollars pouring into campaigns regardless of the suitability of the candidate. We’re inundated with hypocritical advertising enriching the advertisers but not the electorate. We know the dirty linen of office seekers but not the content of their thinking to serve in public office. All these and more are tearing the two-party system to shreds.

I have fears, too. I fear this “anybody-but-him” mentality will result in long-term harm to our political system. I fear the needs of local constituencies will go unanswered as unsuitable and uncompromising office holders spend their time in black and white inconsequential efforts trying to take us all back to 1952. I fear for our place in a world more linked than ever in our history but, because of these ideologues, unable to participate because of their unwillingness. I fear ignorance replacing statesmanship.

That word again. Well, sometimes it’s the only one that works.

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