Fair warning here: This post is about politics, not something I normally do. If you’re sick to death of the Dumpster fire that is the 2016 elections, I wholeheartedly encourage you to bail, and hold no ill will. Good? Good. Also, all opinions are my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of my employer, publisher, family, mail carrier or bartender.
I studied politics and government in college. I covered politics at the state level early on in my journalism career, and later on I covered the intersection of business, politics and the judiciary with some regularity, and let me tell you, U.S. politics is unique across the globe. Part of that really is American exceptionalism: Our founding fathers did a pretty good job of setting up a system of government.
But part of that is how the political class, across the ideological spectrum, is forced to reconcile the quest for personal political power with the need to show results and to be judged by the voters regularly. In other words, no matter how much you backstab, betray or belittle, you still need to go home and show your voters that you did something for them, and not just for yourself.
Some politicians take this dichotomy in the spirit which, I think, the founding fathers intended. You go to the state house or Washington and you roll up your sleeves and get to work. You compromise with other representatives and try to craft laws and create new initiatives to improve the lives of your constituents. When you’re up for reelection, you go home and you tell folks what you did, and your opponent in the election gets to poke holes in your record. The voters judge, and you go back or you don’t.
I miss those folks. They’re a dying breed. I’d like to think Barack Obama was one of these. Yes, his rise was rapid and meteoric, and he didn’t build much of a record in his prior political offices. But for me, he gets full marks for trying to get stuff done, especially when dealing with a historically recalcitrant Congress. And you’ll notice that, in eight full years in office, he avoided the national scandals that plagued so many other presidents since Nixon.
Then you have the other politicians, those who actively go after their opponents. They tear down as much as they build up, and their records become less about actual accomplishment and more about ideological purity. There are sometimes scandals. There is hubris. There is pride in obfuscation and obstruction, rather than genuine accomplishment. Some of these folks genuinely try to do good stuff, but they’re ready to throw down against someone to gain another bit of power if they can.
Why, yes, I put Hillary Clinton in this camp. I genuinely think she wants to do good for the nation. In fact, I can say that she and every other major-party nominee in my lifetime, except one, has at least a modicum of personal honor and integrity, and wanted to implement policies they believed would help people.
While this country could use more compromise and deal-making than the political obstructionism that’s defined the Obama administration, I’m still generally OK with, shall we say, an ambitious political class. Nobody puts themselves through hell to be president just because it’s the right thing to do. There’s hubris and a desire for power that goes with it, and even Obama undoubtedly had some of that. Plus, you get a kickin’ plane, a bulletproof car, a helicopter and a sweet rent-free house.
You know…maybe I’m a candidate for 2020. We’ll see.
But my point is, I’m forgiving of a fair amount in my political candidates. I know they’re there to win more power. I know they want the house and the plane and the respect and the control. It’s what they do with it that interests me. It’s how they wielded power in the past, how they manage themselves in the campaign and what they’re plans are for the future that gets my vote.
I also trust in their own enlightened self-interest — that overreach and failure will result in a loss at the polls. Their very desire for power keeps them from overstepping their bounds, for the most part. While this can lead to paralysis at times, I’d rather that than a whole big stupid thing from happening.
So yes, Hillary Clinton is a very typical politician. In fact, she’s more flawed than most candidates. She’s also incredibly experienced and almost frighteningly knowledgeable. She wouldn’t have been my first choice amongst the Democrats, but on the whole, I’m confident she’ll be a decent-to-good president, and I think there’s room for some upside on that.
And then there’s this other guy.
Seriously, I don’t even know where to start with Donald Trump. Maybe policy? Does he have some? Let’s see:
- Big wall. Biiiigggg wall. Multibillion-dollar wall that we can’t actually force Mexico to pay for, unless we bankrupt the country with sanctions or just invade. (For God’s sake, don’t get any ideas, Donald!)
- Speaking of billions, the tax cuts he’s calling for would be ruinous to the federal budget, and the benefits would largely go to the rich. This is what you get when you look to an alleged billionaire to be a working-class champion.
- So how to afford those cuts? He’s talked about asking China, which holds trillions in Treasury bonds, to actually take less than what was promised — a haircut, in financial parlance. Given that the entire global financial system is predicated on the full faith and credit of the United States, any attempt to devalue Treasury bonds would plunge the world into a financial crisis that would make 2008 look like an ATM error message.
You know what? That right there is a whole lot of stupid in just three bullet points. That last one scares me the most, but it’s not like the other two are great. So let’s move on to more ideological topics, like:
- The xenophobic and completely un-American take on immigration.
- The utterly unconstitutional ideas around monitoring Muslims and closing mosques.
- The frequent, unfounded and (again) unconstitutional attacks on freedom of the press and freedom of speech.
Again, I could go on, but right there you have a candidate who literally wants to walk back huge chunks of the Bill of Rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly…dude. What the actual hell? That doesn’t even get into his regressive and racist stance on policing, for example. For example. I need a drink.
I won’t even get into the support from white supremacists who are now trying to rebrand themselves for a new generation of hatred and intolerance, all thanks to Trump giving them cover.
Finally, last Friday, we all heard and saw The Tape, which he called “locker room banter” and which I call “bragging about sexual assault in a disgusting manner and why God why are you even running.” So let’s add a virulent form of predatory sexism and the possibility of sexual assault into this caustic, abhorrent stew.
It’s more than just wanting to prevent Donald Trump from living in the White House. I mean, I don’t even want him in my house. I would not actually want him alone in a room with my wife or kid. That is an incredibly sad thing to say about a major party nominee, but it’s true. He’s unfit for polite company, let alone any real power. His policies will ruin the country, and his personality and cultural impact will take the United States to its darkest place since the Civil War.
I’m fairly liberal, though not quite Bernie Liberal. I firmly believe that the United States needs a strong center-right political party — one willing to work with a center-left political party on legislation and initiatives to make the country better. (Actually, I’d like more party options, but hey…baby steps.) One party can’t, and shouldn’t, do it alone, because that’s when overreach and excess happens — and both parties can be guilty of that. That’s why it pains me to see the Republican Party held captive to a shoddy, second-hand demagogue.
I hope the Republican Party can really dig out from this, and recapture its position as the party of Lincoln, Eisenhower and, yes, even Reagan, imperfect as he was. At least Reagan and Tip O’Neill would hash out their differences over Scotch and get some stuff done.
Thanks for reading the rant here, and I’m glad I got it off my chest. Obviously, you know who I’m voting for this year — Hillary Clinton. I honestly don’t care if you vote for Johnson or Stein or write in Paul Ryan or try to get Obama a third term. Whatever. But I would urge you to please, please cast your vote for anyone other than Trump. It’s really that important.
One more note: I moderate comments on this blog, so if you want to comment, feel free — but know that I’ll be approving and rejecting as I see fit. I urge you to keep your comments civil, lest they be relegated to the trash folder. If you want to rant without civility, I urge you to use your own digital space.