History repeating itself?

John Kearney is a retired philosophy professor who taught at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He has lived in Waterloo, Iowa for the past six years.

I had a dream last night. An alien spacecraft landed in my backyard. The creature that emerged communicated through a device equipped with a keyboard and screen, much like a laptop computer. Overall, he seemed like a friendly chap. So, I invited him in.

After exchanging pleasantries, he told me he was a “reporter” from a distant planet called “Ogar.” He landed on earth to learn more about the United States political system.

I thought it valuable to listen to the questions and observations of someone who would hopefully represent a point of view free of agenda driven acrimony and confirmation bias.

My alien guest first asked about my own political leanings. I informed him that I do not belong to a political party and did not vote in the 2020 election. I thought both presidential candidates had major flaws. I reluctantly admitted that I surrendered one of the most important rights I have as a citizen. But, as a matter of conscience, I felt more comfortable not voting rather than trying to figure out which candidate was the lesser of two evils.

I noted that Joe Biden was victorious and, in the aftermath of a very contentious election, the consensus among legal experts was that he won fair and square. If there was any voter fraud, it was not sufficiently widespread to influence the election results. I added that, although not a fan of President Biden, I concurred with that assessment.

I told the Ogar reporter that, in the upcoming election, I fervently hoped I would be able to vote for a candidate whose character and policies would be good for my family, my state, and the country. But, as matters stand, it looks like history may very well repeat itself. Both former President Donald Trump and Biden have commanding leads in polls of the Republican or Democratic primaries.

Interestingly, candidate Trump has already been found legally guilty in two civil cases and is facing four indictments, two on the state and two on the federal level. It is not unreasonable to believe that when the 2024 presidential election takes place, he may be a convicted felon. Yet, to the delight of some of his supporters, Trump has proclaimed that, if elected, he will pardon himself! Sadly, one hears more about Trump’s legal problems than his public policy positions. And possessing morally problematic character traits does not seem to matter to his most ardent supporters.

“Well, what about Biden?” he asked.

I mentioned that Biden spearheaded the enactment of a major infrastructure bill into law. He can also boast that there are more people working that at any time in the country’s history. But Biden’s age has been called into question. There is a growing perception that his communication skills and stamina have declined. Many of the party faithful worry that, if elected, he may not be able to complete a second term.

On the policy front, a sizable number of voters believe Biden has not done enough to curtail the surge of migrants at the southern border or taken measures to stop the influx of fentanyl. Then, too, there is the nagging problem of the price of gasoline and soaring prices at the grocery store.

My alien guest then asked, “So, are you going to sit out the next election?” I replied that I was considering voting for a third-party candidate or writing a name in.

The Ogar reporter seemed perplexed. He had difficulty understanding how a two-party system could produce a presidential matchup that seventy percent of registered voters do not want. He quoted a States United Democracy Center report (July 28, 2022) which states that “in U.S. elections since 2000, the average turnout rate for primary elections is 27% of registered voters. In contrast, the average turnout rate for general elections is 60.5% of registered voters. This means that, on average, more than half of general election voters do not vote in primary elections… Low voter participation in primary elections means that a smaller subset of voters plays an outsized role in shaping our elections.”

“Isn’t that a good argument for changing the way you choose your presidential nominees?” he queried. It did not seem to him that the primary/caucus system for selecting presidential nominees was democratic. “A minority of voters would never hold sway on planet Ogar.”

I found myself struggling to produce a convincing counterargument.

Then, thankfully, the alarm clock went off, and I woke up from my dream.

Top illustration by Merlin74 is available via Shutterstock.

About the Author(s)

John Kearney

  • A Clear Choice

    Biden won 51% of the popular vote and 57% of the electoral vote in 2020.

    A clear majority in today’s partisan political environment.

    Polls 10 months out from an election – many of which use dodgy methodologies – are no indicator of what Biden’s electoral ceiling is.

    Joe’s done an outstanding job under the most challenging of circumstances.

    It’s gonna be Biden or Trump. Democracy or an attempt at autocracy.

    Is that really a hard choice for progressives?

  • No title

    The fact that you could not determine the “lesser of two evils” in 2020 is simply mind-boggling. Only two people have a chance to be elected President in 2024. Choosing to do anything other than supporting Biden is a vote for Trump.
    Why don’t you just go ahead and start working on your, “Oh my gosh, we lost all our rights!” post for February of ’25?