The 2020 presidential election is one of the most hotly contested and polarized in recent memory. In the Biden and Trump camps, it’s clear voters feel a great weight as we head to the ballot box or fill out our mail-in ballots at home. In a year in which all of our lives have been completely upended by a pandemic, many voters likely feel life, liberty and pursuit of happiness are on the line.
On the question of who should represent Southern Illinois in Congress, many of us already have decided, just as we have in a polarizing presidential race. Our congressional race has displayed its own share of bitterness.
Regardless of who we choose in any race, we all need to relocate the context and perspective reminding us that, outside of politics, we have more in common with each other than differences.
It’s likely those of us who will vote for President Donald Trump will choose Mike Bost, the incumbent Republican, and those of us who will vote for former Vice President Joseph Biden will choose Raymond Lenzi, the Democratic challenger.
Divisiveness has been front and center in the race.
Lenzi’s camp has called Bost “Chicken Mike” for his choice not to participate in any debates or public forums this year — even having a person in a chicken suit with a Bost mask pose for photo ops. Bost’s campaign manager wrote in a letter to the editor that Lenzi will “say anything to gain traction for his failing campaign.”
Lenzi and Bost are both good men who have spent their careers fighting for what they believe to be best for Southern Illinois. Bost has had a long career as a politician, representing Southern Illinois in the Statehouse for 20 years before he was elected to Congress in 2014. Lenzi was the director of the SIU Office of Economic Development, where he founded the school’s Research Park, and also later served as the CEO of the SIU Foundation.
Both men are qualified to represent the 12th District in Congress. Both remind us that people from differing political perspectives can still want the same thing — for Southern Illinois to thrive and succeed.
The decision of who to vote for, it seems, comes down to this: Your vision for the country.
In our editorial board interviews with the candidates, we asked both if they supported the candidate at the top of their party’s ticket. They both, without hesitation, said yes. And, throughout the interview, both invoked the plans and policies of the two major party presidential candidates.
Lenzi has made his campaign “to retire Mike Bost” about the congressman’s unwavering support for Trump. Bost, on the other hand, isn’t shy about his support for the president.
But there’s a silver lining to the divisions.
This is the first time in several years that both 12th District candidates are deep Southern Illinois folks, making them both attractive candidates for our readers. For several years, the Democrat on the ticket has been from the Metro East.
Just how attractive Bost and Lenzi are to individual voters comes down to this: Are you happy with Trump? Or, are you seeking something different on the national stage?
In the end, you must decide while remembering that peacefully coming together as a people — particularly after an election — has been the hallmark of our nation’s ability to thrive.