Scott Rasmussen: Keeping presidential election in perspective
In the political realm, 2016 will be filled with bombast, anger and fear along the road to select the next president of the United States. We don’t know how things will turn out, but it’s fairly certain that activists on both sides will loudly proclaim that the nation is doomed if their team doesn’t win. Trying to be uplifting rather than frightening, candidates will claim that they are the only one who can lead the nation to the Promised Land.
The nastiness will spill over to the real world and depress people who don’t live and breathe politics. In fact, having an interest in life outside of politics will be deemed irresponsible as the media becomes even more obsessed with campaign coverage. Every news story will be endlessly analyzed from the perspective of which candidate it helps or hurts.
The good news is that the hype is bigger than the reality.
Sure, the election matters, but not nearly as much as the politicians want to believe. The fate of the nation does not depend upon the outcome. No matter how much the nearly 20 candidates for president claim they will bring about the change we need, that’s not the way things work. Politicians don’t bring about change. In the real world, the culture leads and politicians lag behind.
To take just one example, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 remains an important historical document. But it was not a document that led the nation into a new Civil Rights era. It wasn’t passed until 17 years after Jackie Robinson broke the major league color barrier in 1947! During those 17 years, there were many heroes of the movement who worked to persuade the nation’s politicians that it was time to act. Some, like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. are now household names. Others labored in obscurity.
Congress did not lead the nation on Civil Rights. It avoided the subject until there was strong public support for a new measure.
Another great example of this phenomenon is the digital revolution.
During the 1970s, journalists covered everything from Watergate and Vietnam to stagflation and energy crises. Nobody paid any attention when Bill Gates and Steve Jobs dropped out of college to launch Microsoft and Apple. Looking back on it, just about everything that the politicians and media talked about in the ’70s seems irrelevant today. It was Jobs and Gates — and the companies they created — that changed the world.
Since those tech entrepreneurs dropped out of college, seven men have served as president of the United States: Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama. Historians will long debate their impact on the nation. But Jobs and Gates did more to shape the world we live in today than the combined legacy of all seven of those presidents.
Politics and politicians don’t lead change. They follow. That’s their job.
Somewhere in America today, there are unknown entrepreneurs who will do more to shape the future of our nation than the winner of the 2016 presidential election.
If you keep that in mind, 2016 will be a lot less stressful.
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