Before I really start, I must offer an apology–I haven’t posted here for about two months! At the risk of excusing my own tendency to neglect things at times, I will say that I have been really busy with mundane things like home, grounds, maintenance, and repair. Mea culpa, sorry.
Now, after a long pause, I really have to clear my mind of a heavy load of garbage–namely, the US Presidential election of 2016. Of late, each time I try to put thought to the page, my mind comes back to the assault on the collective intelligence and attention span of the electorate that passes for a campaign. The former is insulted and the latter is strained by the daily weight of the exchanges of dubious accusations, labels, and outright lies that pass for the candidates’ presentation of themselves for the highest elected office in the country. I would like to say that I am appalled, but “appalled” is not nearly a strong enough word. I am psychically sickened, and nearly physically so. I heard a news story the other day that claimed some high percentage of the American public is reporting severely increased levels of stress over this interminable mudslinging festival.
So, I am figuratively banishing Donald and Hillary to their rooms for the duration. I want to hear nothing from either of you until November 9, and on that morning, I want to hear only a concession speech from one and a humble thank you from the other. And I can only hope that the country will return to some semblance of civilization. I will explain and give examples of bad behavior on each side in a little while.
So I intend to dismiss the two candidates of the only two parties with even an infinitesimal chance of winning? Yes, and I can do so by merely ignoring the “advertising” by each candidate on TV or radio, continuing to reroute their printed propaganda to the county landfill after a brief stay in one of my garbage cans, and clicking away from their online trash dumps of well-spun conclusions as soon as any of it materializes on my screen. I have, in fact, already voted, and I have no further function in this farce except to watch election results on November 8 with morbid fascination and cringing dread.
It is worth noting that the USA is home to a multitude of splinter parties; these parties and their candidates have gotten some added coverage this election season. The nominal “third party” is the Libertarian Party, which says via its website that it advocates “natural rights,” fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and non-interventionist foreign policy. They have been humorously compared to cats in that their attitude appears to be haughty indifference to most issues, but they enjoy all the things that citizens of a modern state do without acknowledging any irony in the duality of attitude. Their candidate (as he was in 2012) is Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico. Governor Johnson might have been better off with less coverage from the media than he has gotten–on several occasions in the glare of the TV camera, he has appeared to be a man who has forgotten much of what he once knew. He once offered (as a positive) the fact that he couldn’t go to war with a country he couldn’t find. The Libertarian candidate usually gets about 1% of the vote in a presidential election. Johnson may surpass this low bar, but will be relevant chiefly as a drain to the Republican candidate, that is, how many disaffected small-government, “traditional” conservatives decide to burn their votes in this quixotic column.
Jill Stein carries the Green Party flag into this campaign. Her most fervent supporters appear to be disappointed Bernie Sanders voters, especially the younger cohort of those voters. Dr. Stein (M. D.) practiced and later taught medicine in Massachusetts for about 25 years, then began political activism, which led her to run for state office in Massachusetts four times, including twice for governor (all four campaigns resulted in losses), local office twice (which she won both times), and US President twice as the Green Party candidate. The Green Party’s platform is similar to its European analogues’ manifestos: more clean energy, less militarism, more government involvement in health care, a pullback in foreign adventurism, etc. All in all rather idealistic, but in reality, she will get less support than even Gov. Johnson. And just as Johnson picks off disaffected republicans, what support she does get will tend to be at the expense of the Democratic candidate.
There are numerous other minor parties, all of which make Libertarians or Greens look like powerhouses.
So, why do I denigrate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, the only candidates with a chance to win, by talking as if they were unruly preteens? Because they deserve it, each one in his or her own way.
If you want to read them, you can find all sorts of websites, “news” sites, and more that quote from 7 to as many as 30 “reasons to vote for Donald Trump.” Trump himself endlessly crows about many of them. Take, for example, the endlessly repeated line that Trump is a great candidate “because he is not a politician.” This would be my favorite…except for the fact that many Trump supporters appear to take it quite seriously. This is much like saying that a professional baseball team in need of an ace pitcher should hand the ball to someone with no experience and be thrilled to do so because he won’t do what all the others do. It’s probably accurate; all the others try to pitch strikes and keep the other team from hitting and scoring, rather than saying how great they are. Performance and experience are very important in government, statesmanship, and diplomacy. Trump has neither.
“He’s a great negotiator.” Really? As shown by what negotiations? Getting his shirts made in China or India? Negotiations between governments are far more complicated and frustrating, far more long-term than sitting across a table and saying, “If you can’t make these widgets for 15 cents each, I know someone in Bangladesh who can.”
“He’s a fabulously successful businessman, a billionaire beholden to no one, so he can be trusted.” If you had inherited several million dollars, paid no income tax for years, and were currently so indebted that you had to seek out foreign sources of credit…do I need to finish this thought? Didn’t think so.
“He’ll bring jobs back to the USA.” No, he won’t. I am amazed that so many Republican stalwarts endlessly harp that no one in government can do anything to help the US economy until one of their own makes the claim. The jobs in question are manufacturing jobs, outsourced now for three decades or more to low-wage countries. The one-percenters who own means of production move that production (with minor exceptions) as it suits their purposes, and it suits their purposes to keep their money. That’s why the Walton family buys its goods for resale overwhelmingly from Chinese producers. They are not altruists. They’re capitalists, and I say that without any judgment–just to acknowledge the truth.
Anything linked to “Whitewater,” “Travelgate.” Vince Foster, or Bill Clinton’s sins. Sorry, folks, that’s all over, and for most of it, there is no “there” there and never was. Now, if, because of any of that, you just hate Hillary, alright. But the reason to vote Trump is your hatred. Pure and simple.
He’s the “Christian” choice. Christians are, by definition, followers of Jesus Christ, who advocated charity for the poor, non-violence, humility, love thy neighbor, etc. The US Christian right, for three decades or more, has tirelessly–and uncritically–championed the Republican candidate in every presidential election, and this year is no exception. By “championed” I mean advocated over the airwaves and from the pulpits that the Republicans were the party of “morality,” without getting much more specific, meaning that the Republicans were usually willing to include in their platform language that promises to outlaw all abortions, restore compulsory Christian prayers in public schools, and a few other items. All this comes to naught every time, but it still is a way to whip the fundamentalists into a righteous frenzy, keep the donation flowing, and maintain the lifestyles of Ralph Reed and Jerry Falwell, Jr. The “love thy neighbor” and other stuff? Well, maybe later, after Republicans control EVERY lever of power. This endorsement is nakedly, cynically meaningless, since Trump is even less likely to lead this segment of the electorate to its promised land than previous Republican candidates were, and he is a horrible example.
He’s the LAW AND ORDER candidate. Oh, yeah. This one is, and has been for years, code for “He’s more likely to put minorities back in their place.” Since HRC has no history of promising to “stop and frisk” in all cities, or engage in the mass deportation of 11 million (or 40 million, or whatever Trump claims today) illegals or undocumented immigrants, or objectify women as fit only for his viewing (and maybe groping) pleasure, this is no doubt a point in his favor for all those who long for the 50’s.
He’ll stand up to Putin. Don’t even get me started. He and Putin are so alike on an elemental level, and he admires Putin so much, that this is totally empty. Kennedy did stand up to Khrushchev in 1962, but he had a large group of advisors to help him through the Cuban missile crisis, and he had seen firsthand the horrors of war. How Trump would react in a crisis is, to be fair, unknown. But loudness is not courage. Nor is it knowledge.
Enough? No? I actually saw a Breitbart post claiming that we should vote for Trump because Melania will be a beautiful First Lady. OK. Melania is a fine-looking woman, and certainly more pleasant to look at than Bill Clinton. But we’re not electing a national beauty queen. Get real.
As for Clinton:
Why can you not run a campaign that’s about YOU rather than incessant negativity about your opponent? I would like to be treated to a few campaign ads that accentuate what you accomplished during eight years as a senator. There is some content here, why not use it? And a term as Secretary of State! Even if the record were not stellar, it counts as relevant experience, as in, actual foreign affairs, not bellowing. And the supervision of the senior US cabinet agency, what about that?
Benghazi: Clinton has been assaulted by the Republicans in Congress (and of course, by Trump, who, when he was in charge of a casino or two, never let such a thing happen on his watch…) for 4 years and counting over Benghazi, where 4 Americans lost their lives. I have said it before and I will say it again: this was a sad, unfortunate, and fatal incident. But, in fairness, there was little if anything Clinton could have done. All the endless attempts to blame her are purely political. Unlike many in the political sphere, she did accept ultimate responsibility–as the senior executive should in such instances. Ambassador Stevens knew there was danger in the event he chose to attend, and chose to attend anyway. He paid for it, and so did three others. To hold that Clinton could have, would have, should have “done something” (a phrase popular among poolside quarterbacks) is demagoguery, and has brought relatives of the deceased much unneeded grief.
E-mail: I won’t go through all this again. My earlier post from several months ago stated unequivocally that she brought this all upon herself by setting up a private, parallel communications system. I stand by that, but I do not believe there was damage to national security. Clinton is nothing if not savvy to the ways of Washington, and those who are savvy just do not put damaging things in writing, except when absolutely necessary. My instinct tells me she set up the parallel system on advice of legal counsel. The seeming inability of lawyers to recognize that something can look bad without violating the law (and Clinton is a lawyer) continues to amaze me. In sum: bad move. Not the big deal her opponents try to make it. But, Madame Secretary, YOU HAD TO KNOW IT WOULD BE GRIEF IF IT EVER CAME TO LIGHT.
The Clinton Foundation. What a can of worms. Think about an ex-president and a potential president, a married couple, soliciting donations here, there, and everywhere, all for a good cause, or good causes, but, again, the optics. The optics! Any donation from any unsavory head of state or private businessman, or any private party who later turns out to have hidden any yucky episode in his life gets Trumpeted to the sky as “proof” of corruption–pay to play, or a source of funds for nefarious purposes–who knows? The point is, you had to know it would happen eventually. The odds in favor of it are enormous. Why not, since you are planning to be a full time president, turn the foundation over to some figure who will engender no controversy? Former Senator Robert Kerry comes to mind, as might Bill Gates. All that is necessary is that you not be involved for a few years!
She’s part of the problem! Refer back to Trump’s not being a politician. His badgering of her at a debate as to why she didn’t close tax loopholes illustrates this one well. Stories are now circulating about how Trump’s evading taxes on almost a billion dollars in losses in the nineties was probably not legal at the time, but was not (most likely) disallowed by the IRS. A few years later, then-Senator Hillary Clinton voted to make such financial gymnastics definitively illegal. Nothing clears the Senate without a majority vote, though. One Senator does not have the power to make laws (though they can singly obstruct them all too well). Senator Clinton generally served her constituency well.
But still…her constituency included hordes of Wall Street movers and shakers, and her public life has included much too much care for their interests for my liking.
In the end, the choice to me was clear, and I will not hide mine. I did vote for Clinton. She was not my first choice. Rarely does my first choice make it to the finish line, and this time was no exception. BUT (in case you didn’t notice, this is a big but) there was another factor, as well. Just as in 2008, I harbored real doubts that the country could elect a black man (actually, half-black, but he identifies as black) as president, I have doubted for years that the country would actually elect a woman to the same office. I want us to be ready for a woman in the job. (In three careers, I always worked side-by-side with women, so it never seemed out of the ordinary to me.) But just as ugly racial negatives emerged during Barack Obama’s time in office, we have seen equally ugly (and outdated) misogynist sentiments working against Secretary Clinton. In a friendly conversation with an older man, he asked my preference, I said, though without a lot of enthusiasm, that I would vote for Clinton. In response, he said, “There’s no way I’ll ever vote for that bitch!” I tried to find out why he thought she was a “bitch” but could not. Old prejudices, like old habits, die hard.
So, like someone handing the car keys to a new driver, I would say to HRC, “Here, be careful, and drive it with the next driver in mind.” And, assuming she becomes the next president, I will be watching with a very critical eye. There might be a two-year window for her to accomplish anything, since the Republicans (who are in permanent campaign mode) probably will get the Senate back in 2018 and will engage in what they do well–obstruction, in preparation for a presidential run by someone like (ugh) Sen. Tom Cotton. If she is not respectful of the office; if she continues to be a personal distraction or, worse, lets her First Spouse bring embarrassment on the office and/or party, I want my keys back, and so will a lot of others. Primary challengers will line up. And a primary challenge does not have to oust the incumbent. If you are too young to remember, check out what happened in 1968. Sen. Eugene McCarthy challenged President Johnson; Johnson saw the writing on the wall, and withdrew from consideration, starting a long chain of events that led to President Richard Nixon, and to the latter’s resignation. So go to your rooms and consider the country ahead of yourselves and your parties.