As have so many, I’ve been following this year’s Presidential campaign with appalled fascination. I believe, as do many, that we have been saddled with a “pick the lesser of two evils” choice of candidates, so we will wake up the day after the election with a new President but probably still lack a national consensus regarding how we are going to deal with the many challenges ahead. Moreover, until we get around to voting, we will suffer with the political equivalent of mud wrestling that will—tragically enough—serve to only further degrade our fragile national discourse and sense of unity.
No matter who comes out on top on Election Day, it is likely that all our hopes and fears for the next few years will be crushed by a signal economic fact: our nation will be carrying roughly $20 trillion in debt that will need to be serviced, and this dismal reality will erode our ability to lead secure and comfortable lives.
Taxes will certainly go up, yet federal government support for children, students, the elderly, and the poor will shrink as we divert money to pay the interest on our mind-boggling debt. This same scenario will play itself out at the state and municipal level, and the additional problem of paying public pensions that are eating up more and more tax revenue is going to dominate a great many budget discussions as fewer and fewer workers try to support more and more retirees.
This is not to say, however, that it does not matter who wins on Election Day. The nominations made by the next President to the Supreme Court and our Federal Courts, both of which hold ever-widening sway over our daily lives, will play a huge role in determining our futures. In addition, because the Presidency has become more and more a perch from which to issue executive orders in order to circumvent the legislative process, whoever occupies the Oval Office in January is going to wield incredible power over our nation. Finally, the long-deferred and much-debated issue of how to deal with our nation’s over 11 million illegal immigrants is going to be resolved by the Presidential election because the aforementioned control of the courts and power to issue executive orders will likely determine its resolution.
Because the Presidential candidates of our two major political parties this year offer voters such a stark choice of direction, the day after the election is, I strongly suspect, going to feel very much like a new chapter of our country’s history. Constrained by debt and taking the helm of a nation as politically divided as it has been for generations, the next Presidency is going to be one of impossible choices. Whoever takes office will be closely scrutinized, endlessly analyzed, and roundly criticized for every single action and inaction. I don’t envy the winner, and we can likely count on partisan fights verging on open warfare as whoever it is attempts to steer the ship of state in one direction or the other.
Nonetheless, I hope we can, to the extent humanly possible given the enormity and complexity of the issues facing us, respect the political process while discussing more and attacking less. The day after the election—and the many days after that—we are all going to occupy the same patch of earth together. We need to do so with as much civility and respect as we can possibly muster if we want to avoid yet more frustration, fighting, and fracturing as we try to move forward.
Unless you are planning to build a spaceship and set off for Mars, the people with whom you are fighting today will continue to be your neighbors tomorrow—and every day thereafter.