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Choosing a President

Kennedy, Maureen Shawn MA, RN, FAAN

AJN The American Journal of Nursing: October 2016 - Volume 116 - Issue 10 - p 7
doi: 10.1097/01.NAJ.0000503276.76520.15
Editorial

This campaign season has set new bars—both high and low.

AJN Editor-in-Chief E-mail: shawn.kennedy@wolterskluwer.com

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Four years ago, our October cover featured a political cartoon of a nurse with her fingers on the pulses of the two presidential candidates, Republican Mitt Romney and Democrat Barack Obama. The cover was so well received that we decided to ask the same artist to illustrate this year's presidential election.

This time, we chose to show the two major party symbols, a donkey and an elephant, bandaged and battered in hospital beds, recovering from the wounds inflicted during a bruising primary campaign season. A nurse stands ready with blood to infuse each party with new strength and to revive them after the internal and external battles they've withstood. One hopes that this “transfusion” might also reinvigorate the parties, restoring a more civil discourse on the issues and enabling the candidates to provide the public with their visions for America's future. Surely the real issues we face deserve focused and thoughtful debate rather than the sound bites and quips that have drawn the attention of the media.

On a global level, the election may determine whether the United States continues its participation in many long-standing international partnerships or whether we adopt a more nationalist and isolationist stance. On a recent visit to the United Kingdom, everyone from cab drivers to shopkeepers told me that many UK residents are more concerned about our presidential election than they are about the UK's departure from the European Union. Like it or not, we're part of the global community, and we need—and others need us—to have a voice and a presence.

On a national level, economic issues, including pay inequality and job growth, seem to be the greatest concern for most Americans. Polls also show that race relations, dissatisfaction with the government, education, crime, gun control, immigration, terrorism, health care, and education are top concerns.

The presidential primary campaigns of 2016 will be remembered for several things. On a positive note, both the Sanders and Trump campaigns prompted many people who had been disengaged from politics to become politically active. These candidates offered ideas that drew crowds of support from new, young voters and from those who had largely ignored politics.

But what I will likely remember most is how the debates descended into speeches—awash in rhetoric and personal attacks—that fell short on substance. What was missing were the specifics on how candidates would actually implement policy changes that could realistically address America's ills. It's easy to make promises, and talk is cheap unless it's backed by a plan and a clear strategy. Additionally, both parties’ conventions had contentious factions that threatened party unity. In the end, though, we are left with two candidates, each with a very different vision for this country. And although each has promised to elevate the conversation, I still shudder at what we might hear in these last few weeks leading up to the election, as time and campaign dollars grow short and candidates become hard pressed to win votes.

Even more disturbing is hearing many people say that since they don't really like either candidate, they don't plan on voting; instead, they're thinking of “sitting this one out.” Abdicating our voice is not a choice we should make—the stakes are too high. Even in Congress—where many seats are up for grabs in both the House and Senate—partisan squabbling has put us at risk: unable to come to an agreement on funding to enable the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address the spread of Zika virus—a very real threat to national health—Congress simply shirked responsibility and went on vacation. Meanwhile, cases are increasing in Puerto Rico and Florida. As of August 17, there were 7,855 and 14 cases, respectively. Have we learned nothing from the Ebola outbreak about early intervention?

In this month's Policy and Politics column, Deborah Jean Walker addresses some of the issues especially pertinent to nurses, our patients, and our profession and outlines the candidates’ positions on these issues. While we offer a synopsis of the salient points, we urge you to go to the candidates’ Web sites and read their statements in detail. Exercise your mind and your right—learn the facts (instead of listening to the rhetoric) and vote for the candidate you feel best represents where we should be heading as a country.

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