As former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill famously said, “Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Unfortunately, this year Americans have been receiving an object lesson in exactly what it was he meant.

The good-government types who usually show up around this time of year to decry “negative campaigning” seem to be curled up in corners sucking their thumbs, as without attack ads flooding the airwaves, there wouldn’t be any political advertising at all.

‘COLD CIVIL WAR’

I’ve mentioned the idea in the past, and others have also used the image, but it seems obvious to me that the nation is so divided along widely divergent ideological lines that we are essentially engaged in a “Cold Civil War.”

Americans are diametrically opposed on some very basic levels (the “civil” part), and are using politics as a way of contesting a variety of issues that engage incompatible yet fundamental worldviews (the “cold” part).

This election will not resolve those differences. Indeed, elections by themselves cannot resolve such basic conflicts, and the side that prevails, inasmuch as it tries to use political and legal means to impose its views on the losers, will only exacerbate the problem by implacably forcing the electoral minority to bend to its will.

Progress in a democracy depends on persuasion and compromise, and we have seen precious little of either from our incompetent elites. Indeed, their failures fully explain the rise of Donald Trump.

Moving on, there’s not much point in commenting upon recent developments in the presidential race. First, it will all be over next Tuesday (except for the court suits challenging the results, which are bound to come from whichever side loses – another fruit of our present disarray).

Second, it’s likely that 37 important things will happen between the time I write this and the time it appears in print that will bear on the outcome of the vote, which is another reason to refrain from commenting on events that are now unfolding at a hectic pace.

Regarding polls, the only one that counts now is coming up in four days. Let’s see how it comes out.

Nonetheless, the current flood of late-breaking events should (but probably won’t) be a lesson to those who have worked tirelessly to encourage people to cast their ballots days, or even weeks, before Election Day.

‘VOTER’S REMORSE’

Sold as an effort to encourage more people to vote, all it has produced is millions of ballots cast without critical but late-unfolding information that has recently come to the fore.

Half a dozen states permit voters to recall their ballots and cast new ones up to a deadline, and it seems as if that would be a good policy for all states that permit wide-open early voting.

Election Day used to be seen almost as another Fourth of July, a day to celebrate our democracy and come together as a nation to meet one of our principal obligations as citizens.

Now, it has been considerably watered down – and I wonder how many early voters are saying to themselves, “Gee, I wish I could get that one back.”

Want to avoid “voter’s remorse” next time around? Have some patience, wait until you’ve seen all the information available and then cast your ballot – on Election Day, the wise voter’s choice.

But that’s not easy or convenient? Folks, we’re picking the leaders of our communities, our states and our nation, the most powerful republic there ever has been.

An action that significant shouldn’t be easy or convenient. It should be difficult to vote, to impress on voters the importance of what they are doing.

LIMIT TERMS

Finally, if I were dictator for a day, my reform of the electoral process would: Have a primary campaign season that begins May 1. Have all national primary elections and caucuses take place during July and August. Hold the party conventions the week after Labor Day, after which campaigning can begin.

Amend the Constitution to restrict the House and Senate to 12-year term limits (six terms in the House, two in the Senate – with no later returns permitted. People say, “Oh, we’ll lose so many well-qualified representatives.” What about all the good people who never get a chance to serve because an incumbent has homesteaded a seat for 30 years?)

Ban early voting except for illness, travel or military service. Make Election Day a national holiday. Ban lame-duck sessions of Congress. And swear in the new president on Jan. 1.

Maybe all this would help us avoid the “When will this ever end?” bout of ennui that normal people felt coming on months ago. We need to end the present election-year grind before it eats up a full four years.

And us along with it.

M.D. Harmon, a retired journalist and military officer, is a freelance journalist and speaker. He can be contacted at:

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