On Election Day, I’m voting for …
Actually, it’s none of your business who I’m voting for. In fact, I believe there is something wrong with those columnists, pundits and commentators who have, as of late, felt the urgent need to share their presidential picks.
This could be a sign of the times. Many in the media feel compelled to share personal details of their lives with readers, listeners and viewers to establish a personal connection.
It’s one thing to pepper a column with “I” or “me” or “my,” or refer to your own childhood during a segment on parenting. But once cable news hosts began referring to their sexual orientation during interviews or appearing in magazine spreads in skimpy outfits or identifying themselves as immigrants while berating a nativist politician, all the revealing got creepy.
How long before those who deliver the news figure out that we tune in to find out what’s going on in the world – not what’s going on with them?
Journalists and other media figures could also be sharing their voting preference in an attempt to persuade others to second the motion. That assumes we have the power to persuade anyone to do anything. And I for one have accumulated much evidence to the contrary – which includes stacks of columns that fell on deaf ears.
After I declared myself to be “Never, Never” in this election – committed to not voting for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump – a lawyer sent me an email asking for clarification “so you don’t cause or encourage exhausted voters to stay home.”
I don’t have the ability to depress voter turnout. That guy has me confused with the weather.
But winning converts is not the role of journalists either. There is an epidemic of people in the news business losing focus and trying to do everyone else’s job but their own.
In the 27 years that I’ve written for newspapers and websites, I’ve been a freelancer, reporter, editor, columnist and editorial board member. And I’m clear on who is supposed to do what – and who isn’t. Just like reporters must keep their opinions to themselves, so too should those who are tasked with writing columns resist the temptation to write editorials.
After writing more than 2,000 of each, I can tell you that those are two different animals. And my journalistic pet peeves include sentences that end like this: “This column endorses … “
Seriously? So now the column is a living breathing entity? What should we do next? Take it to lunch?
Another problem with that approach is that it feeds into the unhealthy notion that those of us who are paid for our opinions somehow operate on a higher plane than those who aren’t. You must have a pretty high opinion of yourself, and your thought process, to let your column “endorse” anyone for any office – let alone president. The best way to do this job is to take your craft seriously, and yourself not so much. And on that score, many of my colleagues come up short.
When Americans step into the ballot box, we’re all equal – rich and poor, African-American and Latino, those who write columns and those who read them.
Still, I’m not immune to the pressure that so many Americans are feeling as we approach this election. My wife has been pushing me to write a column explaining what people should be thinking about when they vote, not necessarily telling them how to vote but explaining what the main issues are.
At this point, given all the ugliness we’ve witnessed, there is only one issue that matters: character. If the person you settle on has character, he or she will keep promises, forge alliances, avoid scandal and put the interests of the country ahead of his or her own. And if that person is lacking character, the country will suffer. And haven’t we suffered enough?
On Nov. 8, all Americans have the same six options: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, a third-party candidate, writing in a name, leaving the top line blank, or not voting. I’ve ruled out the first three, and the last one.
Frankly, I’m sick of Trump and Clinton. I think they’re both awful, and neither should be trusted with the power of the presidency. Because I love my country, I’d like both of them to lose. My only consolation is that one of them will.
Contact Ruben Navarrette at firstname.lastname@example.org.