Smearing. Mud-raking. Social proselytizing. In a changing social fabric, which is manifesting itself all over the country as younger generations and more diverse demographics are entering voting age, it appears at least in a small pocket of Virginia politics are being done right.
The victory of Virginia General Assembly Delegate Danica Roem, on one side, is representative of the changes taking place in society. A publicly transgender candidate, Roem’s victory over 26-year Republican incumbent Robert G. Marshall is, in my opinion, a positive sign of the times.
But, when you look closely at the race between them, another point, one which I believe is more important, emerges. It seems to me that it wasn’t being transgender that got Roem elected, it’s what every politician should be doing—focusing on the issues that matter most.
Several news outlets reported in the days leading up to the election that Marshall refused to debate with Roem, and his campaign apparatus even actively tried to attack Roem’s character, most likely in an attempt to make up for the lack of ability to confront her on issues important to the people of Prince William County in Virginia, one of the hottest being traffic.
I think this shows that, across the country, there is hope to return our politics to be more closely aligned with practical issues, not moral ones. Should our elected officials care about who loves who, or should they be focused on making the trains run on time? If you remember, that’s one of Benito Mussolini’s biggest achievements in Italy, and we all know how that turned out.
In the age of Trump, I believe people are becoming more aware of how he won the election—it wasn’t focusing on the issues at hand, but at using emotional triggers to create a veritable frenzy around the ideas surrounding Republican ideology. It was smearing Hillary Clinton, and invoking nationalist ideals, again, a strictly emotional appeal.
His approval rating is quickly running into the tubes, almost defeating President Gerald Ford at his lowest (who happens to have made the record in the past 60 years as the president with the lowest approval ratings, according to http://www.fivethirtyeight.com).
It’s becoming more obviously apparent that focusing on practical issues, which politicians should be doing, is going to be the most important factor in maintaining power in a United States of quickly changing demographics. Millennials are seeing floundering job prospects, cost of living, and accessibility to quality life standards (that’s United States quality life standards) riding on a wave of uncertainty.
Politicians going forward should take note of what happened in Virginia, and I can imagine in many other places around the country. Focus on the issues, not on rhetoric and ideals that do not address practical realities.
It comes down to this: who is going to care about restricting marriage rights when they can’t get to work on time? What is a “bathroom bill” going to achieve when more and more families are finding it difficult to put food on the table? What is going to happen when all you have to go on is religiously-motivated rhetoric, while young people who take to the voter polls are more worried about whether the economy has any place for them?
It’s very easy to see in the 2016 Presidential election that there was a severe disconnect between the practical issues of society and the agendas of Republicans and Democrats.
In my opinion, this is why Bernie Sanders holds some of the highest approval ratings of a politician in history (something Politifact rated as “mostly true”), even amid dropping ratings almost virtually everywhere else.
Could it be time for politicians to, as I have exhaustively said before, focus on the practical issues?