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Context Florida: Ed Moore: America is setting the performance bar far too low

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

I know it seems early, but talk about the 2016 presidential election has already begun.

Prognosticators and pundits are opining about who should run, why they should run or why they shouldn’t run. The speculation is inevitable in this age of social media and blogging.

The conversation on the Republican side has turned to urging Jeb Bush to enter the fray, as if he is spending his days reading each post and keeping a tabulation of yays and nays.

I believe him when he says he is considering the time and expense of a campaign and its effect on his family. I’m sure he wants to create a campaign of vision and ideas, filled with passion.

Likewise, pundits speculate that Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey has lost considerable support among Republicans. They’re unhappy about his cordial dealings President Obama after Hurricane Sandy hit the Jersey Shore and the George Washington Bridge traffic jam engineered by some of his staff.

Relentless polling tells us the mood of the voters almost by the day. I would like to meet those folks who change their minds every week, driving one candidate’s numbers up and others down. The depth of this discussion falls somewhat below using Angie’s List to determine which roofing company to hire.

Do voters sit around thinking, “If the polls say a candidate is rising, then for goodness sakes I better jump on that bandwagon because surely thinking on my own and doing some research is a waste of time”?

We deserve more than this and so does our country. We cannot sit around grousing about the current state of affairs while waiting for the right bandwagon to come along that has enough speed to make it to the end. Neither can we condemn candidates for giving thoughtful approaches to the very vexing problems facing our country.

I am reminded of when George W. Bush referred to “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and how pervasive low expectations have become.

Michael Gerson, in an article about the value of Common Core education standards, recently wrote “high standards are only potentially helpful. But low standards are uniformly destructive.”

He’s worried that some politicians are coalescing against these standards, offering little or nothing in their place to raise the bar of U.S. student achievement, which continues to lag behind international performance.

Poor educational performance and fatuous political discourse are hurting our nation.

Voters should chill for a while. They should read about the positions and statements of candidates and even those who have not yet declared candidacy for the presidency.

Each party has outstanding people, but today’s politics don’t allow for the free exchange of ideas. Increasingly, intolerant factions seem to prefer brinksmanship over vision, leadership and a path toward raising the bar.

Our nation has become divided along ideological and demographic fault lines. There are 242 electoral votes in 18 states and D.C. that have voted solidly Democrat for all six recent national elections. There are states that have voted solidly Republican too. The few that go back and forth determined where the bar gets set for our country.

Of those recent six, the Democrat won four. Since 1968, we have had 12 presidential elections, with Republicans winning seven and Democrats six, and three of the Republican wins were by candidates named Bush.

The future of our country lies in selecting a president who can build a coalition that includes voters from his own party, from “no party preference” and a smattering of votes from the other side.

The next president must be able to inspire and unite us. We can either continue to divide ourselves by race and ethnicity, or we can engage in a useful dialog.

The pursuit of excellence should become a driving principle in American political discourse. We need leaders who can paint a picture for people that portrays something better than what we have now. That is the formula for progress. Right now, we accept bars set way too low.

Ed H. Moore resides in Tallahassee, perpetually awaiting rebirth of civil discourse and great ideas. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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