Seasons of Words

How do you measure an election year?

Theodore Roosevelt noted in his autobiography, “A vote is like a rifle: Its usefulness depends on the character of its user.” Before assuming the American presidency, this reputed hunter had also served as New York City police commissioner, governor of New York, and vice president.

bowns-sept-1Photo Credit: A&E Television Networks, LLC

Election season is a crossroads for politics and public administration. It’s that time of year when existing policies may soon face dramatic change. That’s often the word on the street. It’s a time of renewed promises, as incumbents strive to maintain loyalties. Brand new promises come as hopefuls fervently reach to establish legitimacy with a skeptical electorate.

It represents an end for the tenure of many ambassadors, U.S. attorneys and cabinet members. Elections have major policy ramifications across the board, at all levels of governance.

The change will come. We may embrace it, scorn it, spurn it, but we cannot stop the new faces which shall soon fill those grand halls of policymaking which we call our U.S. Capitol and all of those 50 capitol buildings in every state nationwide. While the presidential election has captured the gaze of most, including the media, we cannot forget all the other races in progress, too.

As a young boy, Teddy Roosevelt and his brother watched President Abraham Lincoln’s casket pass below, as it intersected with New York City’s Union Square Park on April 22, 1865. That tragic assassination at Ford’s Theater prompted Vice President Andrew Johnson’s inauguration as the new commander-in-chief. Yet it’s an unusual coincidence that Roosevelt himself experienced the same when President William McKinley succumbed to a similar fate in 1901.

bowns-sept-2Photo Credit: National Geographic

During his time in the Oval Office, Lincoln opined about the state of politics at the time in New York, “Well, it is the people’s business, — the election is in their hands. If they turn their backs to the fire and get scorched in the rear, they’ll find they have got to sit on the blister.” He recognized the importance of action and the consequences of inaction.

Today, we stand again at the final third of an election year. It’s time to cast a vote out into the sea beside millions of others who are all waiting to see what candidates they ultimately net. As Lincoln noted, it’s the people who must endure the end result whether they do or do not. The policies and appointees who will come, those ramifications will all come later. Now, the future is still in the hands of the people, now more than ever before.

Author and commentator Gore Vidal has died, but the legacy of his fiery intellect and especially those infamous debates with “Firing Line” host William Buckley are not so quickly quelled. Here’s what he once said about an informed electorate: “Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half have never voted for President. Let’s hope it is the same half.”

bowns-sept-3Photo Credit: The National Review

So how do we measure an election year anyway?  By promises or insults?  With heated debates on television or perhaps even in the workplace and at home?  In cups of coffee or Earl Grey tea?  In dollars and cents spent for political advertising?

Perhaps by counting how many campaign signs you’ve noticed– increasingly standing at attention like loyal sentries– as you stroll through your neighborhood?  Maybe you even have one propped up someplace, too.

This a season of words, but what do they mean?  Measuring those is left to us.

Submitted by Jason Bowns

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