Can America recover its dignity and find common ground after this presidential election?

A month from now, this horrible American presidential campaign will be concluded and the results should be known. Most of you aren’t surprised to know that I’ll be voting for the Democratic nominee, in large part because I dearly hope that the Republican nominee does not become our President-elect. Even if we manage to avoid that almost unthinkable result, however, I will not be cheering.

I wrote in the spring:

As this angry, vulgar, and often heartless American presidential campaign trudges toward its November 8 Election Day, I can’t help but wonder how we will start to pick up the pieces the day after.

This blog is mainly about work, workers, and workplaces. But the broader political climate certainly relates to jobs, the labor market, and employee relations, and that climate is quite dismal. Both the tone and substance of this campaign have been largely absent any sense of dignity, kindness, and empathy, and the interests of everyday workers and their families have been largely marginalized in the so-called debate.

To me this campaign represents the culmination of multiple breakdowns in our civic culture that started to brew during the latter part of the 20th century and have reached a fever pitch in the 21st. We have become unhinged and terribly polarized. We have lost our heart quality and compassion. We have lost our ability to communicate and to listen across partisan lines. A national election has become a dispiriting game show.

I carry these sentiments in light of exchanges with folks of different social, economic, and political stripes, including friends who may be voting in different ways from me on Election Day. The standard response is dismay, weariness, disgust, and/or alarm over this campaign season. However, will that understanding lead us to a better place, fueled by a commitment to jointly addressing the challenges that face us? I think it may depend on whether we can learn any lessons from this national embarrassment of the 2016 race for the White House.

7 responses

  1. This is a Bullying Web site so the question needs to be asked:
    Can anyone who has been “bullied” really recover whether that is a nation of
    individuals or specifically an individual who to maintain integrity has lost a meaningful job, income, respect and in his/her heart lives knowing the bully& friends remain in place?
    Does it really matter who you vote for or your friends?
    If we apply your definition of bullying will anything really change?

    • Tim, I appreciate your comment, but this blog is not solely about workplace bullying, even if that is a dominant theme here. It is the blog of an entity I founded, the New Workplace Institute, which is devoted to advancing healthy workplaces in a variety of ways. It’s why you’ll read posts on many topics related to work, workers, and workplaces, with an occasional broader commentary tossed in such as this one.

      I’ll respond to one of your points here. Voting matters to anyone who has been in the thick of the legislative advocacy efforts to enact the Healthy Workplace Bill and similar bills to advance worker dignity and well being. If we don’t have elected officials open to our message, then we have no chance.

      • I appreciate the extra things you toss in but would prefer to stick to what you are so great about namely helping so many people understand & deal with the damage that despicable do to good and decent people in the workplace.
        We have a principle and dynamic thanks to your Healthy Workplace that articulates in a clear way what is just and decent. Rejecting the game played by bullies is a non negotiable principle.
        There are some decent people who run for political office and there connection to decency should be identified and support for the goals you advocate should be identified.
        Advocating to support one bully over another bully is incongruous to the majority of this site.
        Again appreciate deeply all you do
        and all the information. It is lifesaving.

  2. I think your points are valid David – these are the ‘leaders’ of the strongest country in the world and the behaviours they are demonstrating are pathetic. Donald Trump is disgusting in the way he treats people so disrespectfully and I find it hard to believe he’s made it this far. I don’t have a lot of respect for Ms. Clinton either because she has been dishonest and demonstrated her hunger for power more than anything else. Neither one impresses me as caring about the American people.

    Your comment: “Both the tone and substance of this campaign have been largely absent any sense of dignity, kindness, and empathy, and the interests of everyday workers and their families have been largely marginalized in the so-called debate” is spot on.

    I have never been so grateful that I am not American at this time in history.

  3. Hello. Great viewpoint. My question IS: What American Dignity are we talking about? When we allowed george bush, powell, cheney to orchestrate an invasion costing thousands of murders of our soldiers, loss of limbs, Billions of taxpayer dollars all the while lining their pockets?

    Or, when bill clinton continued to engage in predatory sexual misconduct? Or, when w/o evidence other than criminals dressed up as politicians said we were attacked by Iraq & we swallowed it hook, line & sinker. And, those who dared question these criminals were threatened and silenced.

    When we have an oligarchy that we proudly proclaim is a democracy. Or, when we have 2 of the worst pieces of human matter running for the highest office in our land.

    Or when we continue to allow a political system that seems value in the American people they are supposed to be working for, protecting as simply pawns in their centuries long obsession of maintaining power by ANY MEANS NECESSARY?

    Those time when america had dignity?

  4. I agree with you David and with many of the comments above. This has been horrible. Lying, cheating, thieving, raping… can we get any lower? Woo hoo. Makes me proud to be an American. (NOT!) I’m voting for Johnson… made some verbal gaffes, but was a darn good governor, and I’ll have at least tried.

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