I think it’s time to bring out the talking sticks for Election 2020.
As I peer dubiously down the road toward Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020, it occurs to me that what I probably look forward to the least is the noise. In fact, my ears have already started ringing, and my head aches at the thought of all that partisan racket continuing for the next 11 months or so. Simply put: Why does it all have to be so loud?
Part of the reason is that there are just so darned many voices.
Writing a couple of weeks ago in Business Insider, Ellen Cranley and Grace Panetta created a tally of the crowded field of Democrats vying for the party’s nomination for president.
“Vice President Joe Biden, six current and former US Senators, three current and former members of the House of Representatives, three mayors, two governors [although Montana’s Steve Bullock dropped out this morning], two businessmen and one prominent author are now in the race,” Cranley and Panetta report. Plus, there are a couple of Republicans challenging President Trump.
And this has been going on for some time – since July 28, 2017, to be exact. When former Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) entered the field, he broke the record for the earliest candidate to file, a full 1,194 days before Election Day 2020. (Even though he officially announced his reelection bid on June 18, President Trump filed a notice of his reelection committee with the Federal Election Commission on the day of his inauguration, January 20, 2017.)
With all these folks and the additional cast of characters in the impeachment drama, we have your basic, garden-variety noise – variously labeled din, commotion, cacophony, clamor, dissonance, disturbance, katzenjammer, brouhaha, hubbub and uproar. But there is a solution: Talking sticks.
As I understand it, some Native American cultures have used such speakers’ staffs to keep their meetings respectful and controlled. The person who has the stick is the only one who can speak. All others are to listen intently so that when they have occasion to speak, their own remarks won’t rehash what’s already been aired.
Along with the talking stick, there is an answering feather. Should the person who is speaking wish to pose a question to another, he passes the feather to the one who will answer. No one else can interject an opinion. The website First People notes even children learn quickly to respect another’s point of view. They may not all agree, but their personal honor is at stake if they don’t “honor the Sacred Point of View of every living creature.”
Imagine a political debate in which the moderator held the talking stick, and the room remained silent as he or she spoke. Imagine the drama as said moderator passed the answering feather to a candidate for a response, and then snatched it back at an appointed time. Oh, the civility! Oh, the humanity! Oh, the quiet!
Nevertheless, I’m sure we’ll survive this unprecedented campaign, with or without a talking stick. As humorist Will Rogers put it, “This country has gotten where it is in spite of politics, not by the aid of it. That we have carried as much political bunk as we have and still survived shows we are a super nation.”