Remember when you were sick as a kid and your mom asked you to take your medicine but you didn’t want to because it didn’t taste good? Today, it is America who is sick and nobody wants to take the medicine because it does not taste good. Worse yet, it does not actually cure the illness, it just treats the symptoms. Compounding these problems are the nation’s doctors – the politicians – who write expensive prescriptions.
A year after Ferguson, the national homicide rate has increased, with violent crime and murders up in Baltimore, Los Angeles, and Houston. The traditional cure for violence has been to rely on policing. However, the deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray, exacerbate the threat of the police felt by many individuals and communities. When combined with endemic unemployment, growing social inequality, and eroding race relations among segments of the population, it’s hard to find the American Dream. The fact is, America is sick. And the symptoms do not represent the greater illness—the moral fiber that holds this country together is being torn apart.
America’s sickness is continually misdiagnosed and often times the prescriptions written are misaligned to the real ailment. Individuals, communities, and municipalities’ experience high levels of unemployment, poverty, violence, and increased social tensions across race, religion and gender lines. Unfortunately, these issues do not make great soundbites for campaigns like abortion and same-sex marriage. They are not helped by pundits ranting over transgender issues or the military being used as a social science experiment. They are not cured with quibbling over deals with Iran, building exclusionary walls, or defeating ISIS.
As news coverage of the 2016 presidential election increases and dominates our daily discourse, we should look at the candidates as doctors and ask – who can you trust?
The 2016 Presidential Election is dominated by candidates who are part of the status quo. They rely on what they have learned and grown accustomed to throughout their political careers to solve America’s problems—government sponsored programs and reliance on industry. Like the medical industry, it is big business’ influence that funds the prescriptions America’s politicians hand out. Candidates are linked to foundations, the oil industry, Wall Street, and private donor PACs, all of whom influence the diagnosis and medicine prescribed. For example, the classic political sound bite, ‘make our military strong’ is linked to defense contractor lobbyists that are part of the expansive military industrial complex that does not provide a cure for domestic problems.
Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush are emblematic of the dynastic politician. Capitalizing on name recognition, the two epitomize the status quo of career politician. Hillary (Hillary for America) and Jeb (All in for Jeb!) both try to win your trust on a first name basis. However, the Clinton Foundation is linked closely to industry, while Bush is linked to the oil sector. Not surprisingly, both lead in money raised, although Jeb has almost double that of Hillary at $120 million to her $67 million. These two doctors are in bed with the pharmaceutical industry that charges an arm and leg for your medications.
Other prominent candidates like Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Scott Walker vary slightly on issues but are practically interchangeable. They all vie for ‘fixing’ a broken nation with a placebo that has been prescribed repeatedly. Rubio and Walker are excellent über-conservatives who advocate typical issues (abortion, same-sex marriage, a flat federal tax rate) with worn out solutions. Christie, Kasich, and Paul alienate constituents with their polarizing demeanors and personal agendas. Among all the candidates one thing is constant, these doctors have all been trained at the same med school and despite slight nuances they are likely to prescribe the same elixir.
Political think and the status quo have stymied initiative and inhibits positive change from occurring. Fortunately, there are four candidates – Dr. Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump – who break the traditional mold and are not career politicians. Their recent surge in the polls demonstrates America’s disdain for the status quo and desire for fresh new ideas and solutions: namely, a new medicine that America’s community’s need.
The witch doctor Donald Trump, unlikeable and unpopular among women and minorities, leads Republican candidates with 22.8% because he is different. He fails to deliver concrete answers to important questions, yet he is defiant and stands by his remarks, exemplary that the status quo is broken. Bernie Sanders is the medicine man for the left. Bernie is unexpected and wildly popular. He is not the status quo: his messages resonate with millennials and he is creeping up on Hillary’s solid base. While Trump’s voodoo is abstruse, Bernie’s socialist remedies offer a refreshing alternate.
Ben and Carly are non-traditional candidates. They do not speak nor act like politicians since they are not politicians coming from backgrounds of businesswoman and physician respectively. These shaman view society through a different lens and offer different solutions, which not only makes them attractive but also gives us hope that a successful drug can be concocted.
America is sick because it has moved away from collective values to sensationalist, individualist attention that is now entrenched in our political system. The first step to healing this great nation is to elect someone who will bring solutions into office in addition to proposing them on the campaign trail. The second step is for Americans to accept change that may not always taste good. To progress as a nation – to overcome growing social inequality, religious extremism, and racial tension – we as citizens must work for America, not against it. The population is moving towards a tipping point but instead of descending into fractured chaos, we must find a leader that can move beyond the status quo and marshal the passion that exists within the citizens of this great nation for positive change.