On Politics and the Presidential Election of 2016
Ugly, dirty, nasty word, even for those that enjoy it. Politicians tend to be close to the very bottom of nearly every survey regarding profession’s standings as liked or trusted. Yet we are inundated with politics nearly every day, particularly so every couple of years, and overwhelmingly so every four.
Some of my friends absolutely hate it. Politics to them is about as tasteful as eye boogers, coughing in someone’s face, or pooping in public, and as welcome as fingernails on a chalk board or listening to Justin Bieber sing (but I repeat myself). Some friends just tolerate it and hunch their shoulders, just hoping to get through the “silly season” relatively unscathed. I think both of these groups just figure that it doesn’t really matter who is elected, one is as bad as the other,
But although it isn’t much of a secret, I personally love politics. No, let me clarify that. I am passionate about politics. To me there are very few things as important to the direction that we go as a society as who is elected, what their world view is, how are they going to solidify or change the status quo.
The reason I started thinking about this topic as an evaluation is that I saw a couple friends posts on social media in which they loudly proclaimed their hatred of politics. And they got several “Amens” on their posts. I can understand their feelings. I know how distasteful the process can be. Mudslinging, disparaging comments, accusations, candidates’ current nastiness revealed and past nastiness rehashed, skeletons best left in the closet discovered and paraded around in public, counter muck thrown, indignant denials and rebuttals, and on and on and on ad nauseam every hour of every day until one feels like they are Prometheus chained to a rock, watching an eagle rip out and eat their liver. Every. Single. Day.
So. I understand, and I respect them for their viewpoints. I understand their anger. We are all unique (Wait. Does that mean that by definition we aren’t unique? Whoa…), and we have our own individual likes, dislikes, enjoyments, and tolerance levels to those things happening around us. But sometimes we have to pay attention to situations, and do stuff we don’t like to do. When one is scheduled for a colonoscopy, one must ingest certain compounds that will, shall we say, hasten the movements of one’s bowels. Sometimes one must receive an enema. None of these things are enjoyable, including the colonoscopy procedure, but sometimes, as distasteful as these things may be, they are necessary. And I think the political process is one of those necessities (comparing politics to an enema? Kind of hard to rebut that.).
Ok, here is where I was going to go into the responsibility and necessity of being politically informed. But a few days ago, I read a column by Mike Rowe, and it actually changed my mind about a few things. Read Mr. Rowe’s thoughts here: (Mike Rowe: Urging “The Masses” to Get Out and Vote). What has changed for me is this. Since I was about eighteen I have felt that not only is it our right to vote, but it’s our responsibility to exercise that right. But I was wrong. Yes, it is the right of every citizen to vote, but like every right guaranteed by the Constitution, each citizen has the choice to exercise, or not exercise, that right. The example given by Mr. Rowe concerns the Second Amendment. I am a huge Second Amendment guy, but I agree with Mr. Rowe that not everyone should own a gun. Before owning a gun, one should know how to use it, clean it, one should practice with it, and be comfortable with it. Yes, it is one’s right to own a gun, but nowhere does it say that one is obligated to use that right.
And Mr. Rowe’s example can easily be carried over to other rights as well. We have the right of free speech. But we are not obligated to speak freely in every situation at any time for all reasons. Same with our Freedom to Assemble (we do not have to go to the protest if we choose not to), our Freedom of Religion (we can be of any religion we choose, or none at all, as we wish), and on and on. What the Constitution guarantees to each of us is a binding contract between the government and the people, that our rights, should we choose to exercise them cannot be arbitrarily taken away, or refused. We are not required to exercise these rights.
And that includes the right to vote. Exercise that right, or choose not to. Your call. For me, I would feel guilty if I did not vote. For 41 years I have voted in every presidential election as it came along. And I have probably missed only two mid-term elections in that time period. But I have also taken my vote seriously. I don’t go in just to pull a lever, I study the issues. I study the candidates, their stands on the issues, their platform as well as the party planks. I look at each candidate’s background, how they have voted in the past, what they may have studied as younger people, and how they are likely to vote in the future. Or in the case of a candidate for President, what programs they will likely move to enact, what type of Supreme Court (or lower court) appointees they will try to confirm, and how they would likely protect the U.S. in the case of war or domestic trouble. I compare them to my values, and my understanding of right and wrong. I then vote for the individual that is closest to my beliefs. And I also confess that I very, very seldom vote “third party.” I know many people believe the third party candidate has a chance to win, but I simply don’t believe that. Third party candidates have not won since Lincoln, and that was a unique situation, in which one of the two major parties was nearly extinct anyhow. In fact “The Party of Lincoln” actually replaced the dying major party and became the Republican Party we know today. So when I vote, I contain my vote to one of the two major parties, today being the Republican Party and the Democrat Party. And as I said, when I vote, I vote for the candidate that is closest to my values and my worldview, regardless of the “D” or “R” by their name.
By the way, I actually think that an understanding of the issues is required of anyone that chooses to vote. I understand voting is a right. But if someone doesn’t know some basics of American politics, why do they feel that they should exercise that right? Some examples: What are the three basic forms of government (Monarchy, Socialism/Communism, Democracy)? What are the three branches of American federal government (Executive, Congress, Courts)? What are the two major political parties in the U.S. (Republican and Democrat)? Who are the two party’s candidates for President (this year, Clinton and Trump)? Who are their running mates for Vice President (this year, Pence and Kaine)? If one can’t answer these basic questions, how can they possibly have the depth of understanding to know the issues, and how the candidate elected will affect those issues? In my opinion, these are hugely important issues, and this is why I study, learn, and choose “my” candidate.
This year, we have two clear choices for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And here is where I will probably veer away from relative objectivity to opinion. You see, I think this election is immensely important, perhaps the most important since 1776. Big statement. I know many elections have claimed that “this election is the most important ever,” and that this claim is overused. But for over 40 years, I have seen each successive election as hugely important. I have seen Presidents that have helped our country, Presidents that have at best done no harm, and Presidents that I believe have harmed our country. Unfortunately, I feel that three of the presidents I have seen as an adult have done tremendous harm to America, and have successively, in their turn, worsened our country. I believe that the values upon which this country was founded are under assault, and that America is dangerously close to being radically changed into something that was never meant to be. So I think that this year we are at a watershed moment in our country, and depending on which candidate is elected, I believe that our country has at least a chance to flourish, or that it will cease to exist as a vibrant, shining City on a Hill.
As I said, we have a choice between Clinton and Trump. One is a career politician, having married a politician, and has been personally involved in politics or connected to politics for pretty much her entire adult life. The other has never been in politics, but is an extremely successful businessman, and is connected to entertainment as well as more traditional “business” ventures. One is a committed Socialist who believes our current system is unfair and in need of drastic change. The other believes the “traditional” values should be revived and the changes made in the last eight years reversed. Critics of Clinton say that she may be a Socialist, but she is just as concerned for her personal power as she is for social change (if not more so). Critics of Trump say he is a bloviating political bumbler and a liar that has only converted to conservatism when it was expedient for him to do so. All of these observations have at least some basis in fact. Any objective analysis of Clinton will show that she is clearly a Socialist, and that she is tremendously concerned with her own wealth, power, and position. The same analysis of Trump shows that he was at one time a Democrat, that he moved in the same circles as the Clintons, that he has a huge ego, and that he is an absolutely novice in politics. However, none of these negatives are enough, in and of themselves, to disqualify either candidate from the Presidency. Depending on other factors, any candidate, even with the negatives cited, could be a good president.
But I believe this country is at a crossroads. A watershed moment. There is no need in this post to go into the specific negatives of Clinton or each of the positives of Trump. My personal opinion is that Ms. Clinton has absolutely no accomplishments that qualify her to be president. I believe her to be an evil person, and that she has already harmed this country terribly. And I honestly feel bad for her, as I think her health is such that she simply cannot serve competently as the President of the United States. Conversely, I think that Mr. Trump has shown that he has the chutzpah to be the president, that he has succeeded in every endeavor he has attempted and I believe he has the temperament and ability to do the job. Mr. Trump is a true outsider. And I find it interesting that people clamor for a political outsider, but when they get someone that actually is an outsider, the fact that he is a political outsider is characterized as a negative and should be a disqualifier. Further, I believe that the traditional news sources have abdicated their responsibilities to be objective and equitable, and are now committed to the Democrat party, to the extent that organizations such as Wikileaks (https://wikileaks.org/) is now doing the job that journalists used to do. It appears that traditional journalists are willing to dredge up and present any potentially scandalous tidbit on Trump, but refuse to investigate the actual actions of Clinton, actions that may be illegal and disqualifying.
This is why I am passionate about politics. This is why I pay attention. I do not enjoy the process, and heaven forbid that I should ever be a politician. But the importance is huge, and I believe that the Democrat party, United States news organizations, and other areas of society are skewed against my beliefs and worldview. This election may well determine the direction of the Supreme Court for decades, as will any appointments to lower Federal courts. America’s standing as a superpower will either be rehabilitated or further degraded. The influx of undocumented individuals, among whom are undoubtedly hidden a number who want to harm this country, will dramatically increase or dramatically decrease. Our methods of dealing with terror groups will continue as it has (in my opinion very ineffectively), or change to be more direct and effective. The President lying and disregarding facts about the actions of police officers will continue or cease. Respect for law and order will continue to decline or police may be supported again. Jobs will continue to erode or increase. Dependence on government for income and insurance will grow or revert to the individual. I believe we are on a slide toward Socialism, which will very quickly mean the end of the greatness of America. I believe that it is getting more and more difficult to slow down this slide and reverse the trend. Looking at Mr. Trump, I am hugely impressed with his drive and his ability to persevere. I also recognize his positives and his negatives. I believe it is possible that he may be a poor president. But I also believe that he has the potential to be a good president, or even a great one. It is far too soon to tell. But I absolutely know, without a shadow of a doubt that if elected, Ms. Clinton will be a disaster. So I will vote for the one that at least has potential to be a positive.