After finishing this thought, it’s on to something other than politics, I swear…
The upshot of the circumstances mentioned in the last post (a disincentive to discuss policy in campaigns, a lack of serious planning on the part of candidates and their campaigns, etc.) is rather simple, and one that will surprise no one who has observed a national campaign. Campaigning politicians exaggerate, twist the words and positions of their rivals, and most of all, advance specious “solutions” to what their audiences may see as problems. Such problems may seem blown far out of proportion or even nonexistent to the portion of the electorate not committed to a particular candidate, but that really doesn’t matter: the speechifying candidate has no real intention of carrying out most of the things he/she advocates, anyway, and perversely enough, his/her followers are fully aware of that fact, but often appear to be swayed by the idea of someone’s putting it into words.
I’ll just take a couple of examples to illustrate this paradox. Once again, Donald Trump serves as the prime example, if only because of the sizeable outrageousness of a couple of his pronouncements, for example, his recent statements on illegal immigration. On different occasions, he stated that the “…Mexican government sends…” these people to the United States, as if some official in Mexico toured that country to draft people to decamp for the United States. (And never mind, by the way, that many are not Mexicans anyway.) This is so absurd as to need no rebuttal, but then he expanded on the proposition, stating that the number of such persons present in the US without benefit of legal immigration status was probably more like 30,000,000 than the commonly estimated 11,000,000. Where did that number come from? Never mind, it’s just to make a point that he could simultaneously get rid of all these people and stop more from coming by…wait for it…building a wall all along our southern border with a “wide doorway” to welcome in those we wish to welcome.
A wall more than 2,000 miles long? How high? Built of what? By whom? At what cost? In what time period? Don’t worry, there will be a detailed plan later. Right after we announce how we will push out 30,000,000 people against their will. (And, in the case of a good number, against the will of US employers, as well.) You see? It’s really simple. Our leaders are just stupid. And many “man in the street” interviews featured people who lauded Trump for his “plain speaking” or “saying what is on his mind.” Non-serious talk is met by non-critical acceptance, because those who cheer Trump on know full well he is not serious…but are sure he’ll do something.
Let’s look at another campaign theme. Climate change is an issue this time around; in brief, the specifics are hard to nail down. Burning fossil fuels causes a concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and that increased carbon dioxide absorbs more heat than said atmosphere used to; ergo, the earth is gradually heating up, but climate science is complex, and the numerous variables present in a layer of air large enough to cover the entire earth mean that atmosphere may react in quirky ways at times. Though the general trend is toward a warmer and warmer climate, it is not possible to quantify it in neat tables leading toward a date specific when, for example, polar bears will definitely be extinct.
Rather than accept the scientific consensus, though, the fossil fuel industries point to that impossibility to interpret the whole issue as indicating that climate change is “not settled science.” Dollars continue to flow into Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and Consolidate Coal’s coffers (among many others) while the issue is “debated.” This is not politics, in reality. It may eventually be survival, but deep-pocketed industries are endangered by any effort to curtail current practices, and those industries will want to stall, at least until they can find somewhere else to make more millions. So campaign contributions flow to oil state senators like James Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) who uses a snowball made in Washington, DC, on a winter day to “prove” climate change is not real. Does this show up in the current campaign?
Texas Republican Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz has been quoted to the effect that there has been no significant evidence of a global warming trend for the last 17 years. Former Pennsylvania (coal state) Republican Senator Rick Santorum also has spoken disparagingly of scientific studies that came down on the side of massive climate change, declaring that various predictions have not come true. Others find different ways of putting off any genuine action. While this topic is not exactly parallel to Trump’s outlandish posturing about immigration, he again takes any unknown quantity to the extreme, claiming climate change is a “hoax” perpetrated by people who want to intrude into, and regulate to a greater degree, the lives of the American public. Many voters, fearful for their livelihoods if any change in energy generation and use is in the cards, react in the usual way. If our candidate says it, it must be true. Sort of. Well, at least he won’t let “them” intrude and regulate any more than they already do…right?