WASHINGTON — Let us take a moment to examine what we have learned thus far in the presidential race. After months of campaigning by passionate candidates, the answer is … nothing of significance.
Not one single issue has been resolved. No policies are clearer. No mandate has been delivered.
We have barely discussed — let alone thrashed out — how we will end growing inequality, how we will use technology to solve problems such as climate change, how we will keep global peace and maintain our security without being the world’s policeman, how we will pay for rebuilding our infrastructure, how we will reform our immigration system, how we will boost the economy through trade without sacrificing American jobs, or how we will teach our children to get along, to think and adapt to constant change.
Except for the debate among the Democrats, this has been a remarkably substance-free campaign marked by denial of science, fear of people who seem different, ridicule of other candidates and hatred of the president.
We know merely that a lot of Iowa Republicans did not buy Donald Trump’s pathetic argument that Ted Cruz is not a legal citizen because he was born in Canada.
We know that Cruz is an iron-clad ideologue almost without equal, without friends among his peers and lacking concrete, proactive ideas on solving the nation’s challenges, except for his legitimate opposition to ethanol subsidies for corn producers.
We learned that Trump’s dyed hair is attached to his head and that his braggadocio is breath-taking, his xenophobia terrifying and his manners atrocious. But he offers no rationale for being president.
We learned that nobody these days knows what a socialist is. (Hint to Trump: not a communist.)
We have learned that most political rhetoric is cheap, explosive and nonsensical. For example: Break up the banks. Carpet-bomb enemies. This is God’s victory. Don’t aid refugees because they might be terrorists. New York values.
We learned that young voters are more excited about an older man’s passion and call for political revolution (Bernie Sanders, who got 84 percent of the young Democratic Iowans’ vote) than are drawn to a younger woman’s pragmatism and call for competence (Hillary Clinton, who got 14 percent).
Once again, we saw that Iowa’s Democratic caucuses are one of the least democratic election methods on earth.
We have learned that young Marco Rubio’s high-heeled boots, tendency to miss important Senate votes and refusal to answer specific questions (Chris Christie dubbed him the “boy in the bubble”) will not prevent establishment Republicans from embracing Rubio wholeheartedly because he is A) not Trump and B) not Cruz.
We also learned that if you are a Republican running for the White House, you can use any uncivil language you want to attack the sitting president without being factual, specific or fair.
We also have been told repeatedly that we Americans are angry, scared, resentful and anxious.
And why wouldn’t we be, having been hit non-stop with the message that our country is a mess and it’s the president’s fault.
Mistakes have been made; opportunities have been lost. But our country is doing remarkably well eight years after a terrible recession, especially compared with the rest of the world and the undeniable fact that Republicans in Congress vowed not to work with a Democrat in the White House.
Unemployment is down from 10 percent to five percent. We have just experienced two years of the strongest job growth since the 1990s. The United States is close to energy independence. More Americans than ever before have health insurance. We are no longer engaged in two debilitating wars. We have resisted extremists demanding our men and women die in new wars. Our national existence is not threatened.
America can and must be better, but we should rejoice in “our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery, our diversity, our commitment to rule of law — these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come,” to quote Obama’s words just a few weeks ago.
Yes, that president. For one more year, while we figure out what we want.
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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]