It is not uncommon to hear someone theorize about how the plague of fake news may bring ruin to the United States in the future, but that future may be already arriving as the nation’s political discourse and election outcomes have become reliant on straw man arguments, lazy accusations and flat-out lies.
By the time this is published, Virginia’s gubernatorial election will have a winner. At the moment, it is nearly impossible to confidently predict a winner, as Republican Glenn Youngkin has pulled off a considerable comeback to take a slight lead over Democrat Terry McAuliffe in the final polls. What can be said is that the election has come down to some of the most ridiculous issues. Education curriculum, specifically surrounding race, has become a central talking point in the contest.
Critical race theory, a concept most people are literally unable to define, has become a large issue, with the candidates releasing dueling TV ads on the topic. Even further, some Virginians have reportedly become convinced that McAuliffe has a secret plan to shut down the state’s schools should he pull off a victory. This dive into non-issues and nonsense is just a sample of what is spreading around the entire nation.
Instead of discussing proper policy, we are debating if vaccines stop viruses, if classic Keynesian economics is suddenly radical socialism and if elections are magically rigged if you lose. The fact that this frankly idiotic discourse is now determining elections and driving legislation is a sign that our decline is in progress.
Look at our own state of Iowa. Just this summer, the governor signed into law acts that ban CRT and restrict voting access. Two bills that either do absolutely nothing or weaken our democratic process and were passed only to cater to the current talking points. Meanwhile, the state has slipped to 18th place in education and received a C grade for infrastructure, all while sitting on a billion-dollar surplus.
If we continue to let this low-level discussion control our politics, elections and legislation, we will watch the rest of the world surpass us as we squabble over basic facts and straw man arguments. We will see our institutions erode and our futures dim as the real issues continue to go unaddressed because they aren’t as shiny or fun to talk about.
In the end, it comes down to our political leaders to vet this discourse. Instead of standing in front of a sign telling the opposition leader to f--k themselves like Ted Cruz, stand up to baseless attacks on your opponent like the late John McCain. There will be times where it is easier in the short run to promote the ridiculous attacks on your opponents, but the long-term consequences could be disastrous.