Election exposes bitter America

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By: Bennett Fuson

“We need to internalize this idea of excellence. Not many folks spend a lot of time trying to be excellent.”
– Barack Obama, Illinois Senator

I recently spent an afternoon working at a polling station for the Indiana Primary, which, coincidentally, was the state’s most important primary in many years. As a first time voter and slightly under-informed political student, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. But I can say that in the two hours I spent standing and campaigning for a local candidate, I learned a lot about the integrity (or lack thereof) in American politics.

I worked close to a woman who was campaigning for another local office who claimed to be a staunch Republican. In an effort to make conversation, she asked me what party I supported. Since I openly admit I don’t know enough to have a well-based stance, I opt to be called an independent voter. But if you’ve been in a situation where a good first impression essentially defines the immediate future in front of you, you know that sometimes the easier answer makes more sense than the correct answer. So I told her I was Republican (which is sort of true; I was raised Republican).

Big mistake. Republicans, it turns out, are not happy. With anything. For the next two hours, I heard complaints ranging from the increase of socialists (which I’m not sure really exist) at IU to Carmel’s inadequate schooling. But what really struck me was this quote: “You know, Democrats are just so bitter.”

Bitter. The word struck me as odd for two reasons. First, the comment came about a week after Sen. Barack Obama criticized the working class in Pennsylvania, saying that they were “bitter towards the government.” Although the comment (in my opinion) really wasn’t that bad and actually rather true, Obama was written off as an “elitist” by his opponents and the media. But what really got me was the irony of the statement. It didn’t fully hit me until hours later that this woman, who had spent the previous two hours griping about everything except the kitchen sink, had the audacity to turn and label others as bitter.

As I continued reflecting on this statement, a thought hit me. This woman’s sentiments were not isolated. The American people have turned on each other. Flip on any television, and at any moment the latest jab at another candidate becomes breaking news.

Although Obama’s quote was not necessary (and he did apologize), the following controversy brought out the bitterness in both John McCain and Hilary Clinton. McCain, who bears the standard in what could be the Republican’s worst moment since Nixon’s scandal or the Hoover administration, has chosen to focus on Obama’s “elitist” comments rather than his own problems with his continually-changing stances on the Iraq War.

Clinton, who has run what could easily be called a “bitter” campaign since the Florida primary, has used the statement to further divide the Democrats, courting the working class by making them bitter not towards the issues, but towards Obama and his “elitist” supporters.

This isn’t the way democracy is supposed to work. Instead of dividing ourselves between candidates, we should be striving toward agreement for bettering our country. Not political unity; the Founding Fathers couldn’t even agree on everything. But we must recognize that our nation is changing, regardless of who we support or what we say. Instead of remaining “bitter” Americans, let’s become better Americans.

Bennett Fuson is a reporter for the HiLite. Contact him at bfuson@hilite.org.