Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Halloween is here and scarier than any goblin at your doorstep is a bitter political season filled with high pitched rhetoric that has invaded too many homes and induced a ghoulish mood within the electorate. Political operatives stir the pot of vitriol with a concoction of two parts suspicion, one part contempt and a dash of hatred. But those outside the political main aren't drinking their witches brew. They've had enough.

Conservatives in both parties have come up with their own response to heavy-handed executive actions, controversial court decisions and a broken political system that protects power over principle. Couple this with a monumental loss of confidence in mainstream media, distrust of established political parties, a coarsening popular culture and the result is a political creature that rivals a Boris Karloff character. Yes, Donald Trump is alive and he's been in the making for years.

This scares establishment politicians and mainstream media used to decorum and respect for certain boundaries. But weren't other boundaries breached in another way, although more respectfully? It appears that what the political left has accomplished with decorum through established institutions and processes the political right seeks to undo with a bombastic figure with little decorum and even less respect for the process.  So let's unmasked what has brought us to election 2016 and the presidential candidates we are stuck with.

Years of heavy-handed administrative dictates and controversial social engineering by Washington's political left has created a monster of a dark mood at the grassroots. It's 2000 pages of government mandates and tinkering in healthcare law that's led to skyrocketing premiums and policy cancellations. It's a mandate from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice to public schools ordering them to open up girls' restrooms, locker rooms and sports teams to biological males.  It's the U.S. Supreme Court striking down 32 states' Constitutional amendments and redefining marriage. It's Planned Parenthood executives caught on tape dickering in baby body parts and continuing to receive federal subsidies. It's bakers in Oregon ordered to pay a six-figure fine and losing their livelihood because they refused to bake a cake for an event they disagreed with. It's vowing to make coal as an energy source obsolete and dealing entire regions a crippling economic blow. It's unreasonable EPA regulations that hurt our farmers. It's the refusal to call terrorism terrorism. And its the clandestine transfer of billions of dollars to the world's biggest state sponsor of terror. It's failure to address the breakdown in our immigration system. And it's the twisting of the plain meaning of words to suit a political outcome that the average person can see through.

So the proverbial masses with torches and pitchforks find their catharsis in the candidacy of Donald Trump—the guy they want to send to Dracula's castle otherwise known as Washington D.C. and put a stake in his heart. However you look at it, this is a dark chapter in our history—and our problems are more than just political.

Victor Davis Hanson compares modern America to the Dark Ages of ignorance and instability of a thousand years ago.  As for points of comparison, he cites national security threats, huge debt and financial insolvency. People in the Dark Ages were marked by superstition, ignorance and didn't enjoy free speech. But are we much different today?   Today speech codes are imposed at our universities. Superstition abounds as 25 percent of Americans believe in astrology. Ignorance abounds as 40 percent can't name the vice-president. Yet a major difference separates us according to Hanson "[p]eople living in medieval times believed in transcendence and a soul, and sought to keep alive culture until civilization returned. People living in  modern times increasingly live for their appetites without worry about what follows — with little awareness of what has been lost and so not a clue about how to recapture it."

Next week, the electorate may choose the candidate who promises an immediate fix to our political mess, but our problems are bigger than any one candidate and their policy prescriptions. Long-lasting political change comes from the realization that freedom is preserved over time by patriots at every level of government. And it can only be maintained by a disciplined people who nurture their souls by pursuing virtue and conforming themselves to the truth. When this happens, voters will demand candidates who will resemble creatures of honor and integrity instead of creatures resembling our darker side. Until this happens, we're stuck with two poor choices which are a product of the times.

This column appeared in the West Kentucky Star on October 31, 2016.