The beginning of the end

Published 9:59 am Friday, June 3, 2016

The campaigning began early this time around.

Hillary Clinton was the first candidate to join the race in April 2015 — a full 19 months before Election Day. In turn, five Democrats and 17 Republicans threw their hats into the presidential ring.

This campaign cycle has featured the inevitable mudslinging and name-calling, the grandiose promises and lofty assurances of how much better off we’ll be if we vote for this candidate or that one. Gallons of ink and many hours of air time have been devoted to covering the debates and the numerous scandals that spring up in the candidates’ wake as they cruise along the campaign trail.

In other words, business as usual for a presidential election.

However, there’s something darker at work here. Underneath, at the fringe of either party, throbbing like a heartbeat — or perhaps like a bruise — lies a growing fury at the activities of those considered the “political establishment.” This has led to voters across party lines searching for “outsider” candidates such as Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. Paradoxically, as the rage against the politicians in Washington grows, people have become more entrenched in the Republican vs Democrat divide, relying more and more on the “us vs them” mentality to make their political decisions.

With Donald Trump as the presumptive Republican nominee and the final round of Democratic primaries on Tuesday, June 7, we’ve reached the beginning of the end. Whittling down the 23 candidates to the final two has been an exhausting, vitriolic process, as the Democrats and Republicans alike dig in and prepare to fall in line behind their prospective candidates, readying themselves for the approaching final battle on Nov. 8.

I do not wish to endorse either candidate, as both have their own hosts of problems, but I do want to offer a suggestion to those who wish to rail against the establishment: There is nothing that the so-called establishment hates more than an educated voter. They’d prefer someone who mindlessly votes Republican or Democrat, regardless of the candidate; someone who automatically opposes Democratic legislation or Republican ideas because they have previously voted for the opposite parties.

In my first semester of college, I took a Western Philosophy course that has changed my view of politics. Throughout the course, our professor presented us with a series of philosophical issues and assigned us into groups that must argue for or against that idea. For example, once when reading Voltaire’s Candide, I was assigned to argue in favor of the idea of theodicy, the idea that God permits evil to happen because it all flows together in a greater plan for the good. After the first debate, the opposing groups were ordered to switch sides and argue the opposite stance. This practice, called intellectual charity, allows an individual to think critically about his or her own opinions and convictions and to gain better understanding of their opponents’ ideas. More importantly, it humanizes our political opposites and weakens the “us vs them” mentality that modern political pundits strive to instill in us.

In the coming months, as the attack ads continue and the nightly news becomes a never-ending rehash of various political fumbles and scandals, remember to give intellectual charity to both candidates. Put yourselves in their shoes and try to understand why they believe what they believe and why you agree or disagree with them. Try to see what politicians on either side of the aisle can offer, and make an informed decision when you step inside that voting booth on Election Day. There’s no better way to express your anger at the establishment than to elect the candidate you think best represents you, and to hold them accountable for their campaign promises when they’re sitting in the Oval Office.

Walter Francis Jr. is a student at American University and is serving as a staff writer for The Tidewater News this summer. Email him at