Lindsay Graham entered the 2016 Presidential Circus a few weeks ago; later today, Jeb Bush will make his official entrance. Every time a new Republican candidate enters the presidential race —— and that seems to be about every five to seven days —— they manage to claim that, “The stakes are bigger than they have ever been before.” I try to make allowance for the fact that campaigns always involve over-blown rhetorical claims but given all the racist and ridiculous invective the GOP has spewed since the election of Barack Obama in 2008, I have had about enough. Sassafras Mama calls bullshit, y’all.
I suppose it’s the history teacher in me and it certainly is the long-standing observer of politics that I am, but seriously, this “stakes are bigger” claim is ridiculous. Worse than that, the “stakes” that the GOP is worried about are not the right stakes. I’ll get to that shortly. We’ve had plenty of presidential races at very significant points in American history and so I find this “the stakes are bigger than ever” claim to be overblown. All elections are important and 2016 is no exception to that rule. But it’s not bigger than 1968’s election in the midst of the Vietnam War (and, golly, we screwed up that choice). 2016 can’t possibly be as important as the 1932 election held after the Great Depression took hold. Does 2016 outdistance the 1916 election that occurred in the midst of WWI? Surely it doesn’t bear the importance of the 1864 election in the midst of the Civil War? The fact is that all elections are significant but very few involve stakes so great that our nation will collapse.
If 2016 is important, and like all election years, it certainly is, that’s because we need to have some real conversations about race in this nation. We need to recognize that income inequality, student loan debt, and childhood poverty are unbelievably high in this, the wealthiest nation in the world. We need to have some tough conversations about climate change. We need to consider the fact that women, especially poor women, are not permitted control of their bodies in an increasingly wider swath of this nation. These are significant issues with real consequences for all of us. But the Republicans who are so worried about the stakes in 2016 don’t give a damn about these issues. They are instead wrapped up in conversations about dismantling basic health care for poor Americans, ensuring that we all have a gun, and lowering taxes for the rich. You’ll pardon me for concluding that those stakes don’t matter a whit.