CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the tag “voting”

On Politics and the Presidential Election of 2016

Politics.

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.

Honors to the Military

First, I must confess to being an unabashed Conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan.  I have been, since High School.  And for those counting, that’s at least thirty-seven years.  In fact, I invited President Ford to my High School graduation (I still have his “thank you” around here somewhere).  And I have always loved the military.  Understand, as a career police officer, I have known guys that love to hang around cops, are dazzled by cops,  gravitate to cops.  So I’m not like that with those that serve, or have served in the military.  But I respect them and honor them (and their families) for their service.

My Father was drafted into the Army in WWII.  He never talked about his time in the Army much, but every now and then I could get him to tell a story or two.  I know he was in France.  I know he was tapped to go to Officer Candidate School but turned them down.  I know he was a foot soldier under Patton’s crew for a while.  I know he shot at people, and (I presume) was shot at in return.  One of the things he was happiest about regarding his time in Europe was that he could honestly say that “he didn’t know if he ever killed anybody,” which, if one reads between the lines, meant he was in some engagements somewhere.

I remember as a kid finding the few mementos he kept; some collar brass, a compass in a leather pouch, shoulder stripes.  I played with them endlessly, imagining myself to be in the middle of “the action.”  Of course, like most American kids, I had no idea what that meant.  I only knew that at the time, I thought my Dad, my uncle, and everyone else that I knew that had served was a hero (of course, that has not changed.  Ever.).

I had always wondered what medals Pop might be due, but it wasn’t until after he died that I actually looked into it.  There was an address that I found that would supply those medals earned and awarded, so I sent the required information, and promptly forgot that I had done so.  A few weeks later, a rather stuffed package came in the mail from an address that I didn’t recognize.  Upon opening it, I discovered that it contained my Father’s medals from World War II.  He had earned several, including Victory in Europe, Occupation of Germany, things like that.  However, he also had gotten a Purple Heart (he would have said that was for trench foot).  The largest I saved for last.  I opened it up, and my heart nearly broke.  My Father, as a rather low-ranking Sergeant drafted as a farm boy into the Army, had been awarded the Bronze Star.  Included with the medals was the paperwork citing what he had done to earn the medals.  However, there was a problem.

Many years ago, there was a rather extensive fire in a government warehouse that destroyed many, many of the records of military men and women.  My father’s was one of those.  The only thing salvaged of my father’s records was the page listing what he was due, with nothing saying what he had done to earn them.  Even the page with the medals awarded him was scorched and incomplete.  So, with Dad dead and buried, there is little I know to do to find out what he had done to be awarded the Bronze Star.  But I was right.  My Dad is a hero.

So I have always loved and respected the military.  I graduated High School in 1975, and close to my graduation date I called the Army recruiting office to see what I needed to do to enlist.  I remember my heart was pounding, and I was as nervous as I could possibly be.  At that time, I didn’t immerse myself in politics as I do now, and was only partly aware of stuff, although I think I knew more of what was going on than I might think I did.  Anyhow, Viet Nam was pretty much the defining event of my generation, and that was in my mind as I called the recruiter.  And I got  the oddest response I have ever had, and certainly not the one I expected.   He told me, “Don’t bother, kid.  The conflict’s over.”  And that was that.  I still looked into enlisting, in order to pay for college, but my folks insisted that they would pay for school.  As I had posted earlier, it wasn’t until years later that I learned that when I was adopted, my parents promised that they would get me an education, a promise that they were determined to keep, and did.  Even so, I went to Behrend College of Penn State and was one of the founding members of the ROTC program on Behrend Campus, learning under Captain Small (later promoted to Major), and Sergeant King.

These were two very interesting guys.  Captain Small was one of the first Cobra pilots in Viet Nam.  He was a good commander of the ROTC unit, good sense of humor, definitely a leader.  He had an odd habit, though.  He chewed on his hands.  He would kind of nip them all over until there were small scabs all over both hands; they would heal up, look great, and then a while later he would do it all over again.  I figured it was due to his time “in country,” but never asked about it.

Sgt. King was my hero.  I have said that he is the second heroic man who influenced me in my life, my Dad being the first.  Sgt. Don King was a large man, quiet, and a Green Beret.  He had been field grade Captain in Viet Nam, but due to the fact that he didn’t have a college degree was rolled back to Sergeant after the conflict.  I learned a lot from that man.  As far as I know, he retired to his home state of Texas, and if anyone knows of his whereabouts, I would appreciate connection, address, anything.  When I finished up at Behrend, and transferred to main campus, I opted to not continue the ROTC program there, and not enlist upon graduation.  One of the hardest things I have ever heard in my life was the words that Sgt. King said when he learned that I would not continue.  He looked me straight in the eyes, and said, “I’m disappointed in you, Clark.  You would have made a fine officer.”

But even though I did not serve, I have honored the military and those that have served, throughout my entire life.  And this is where I get “political.”  Politically, if you are liberal and get irritated easily, I would not be hurt if you stop reading here.

See, I just don’t understand how one can serve in the military and still lean liberal.  I hear liberals voicing honor to the military and my first inclination is to get irked.  Ok, I know many liberals that honestly appreciate the military, and are sincere in their voicing that appreciation.  My problem comes from having lived through the 60’s.  I remember how the military, and those that served then, were treated.  I remember seeing troops getting spat upon and called “baby killers” in public.  I remember the shame that was heaped on them, and that at a time that, as always, I loved the military.  From my perspective, the “traditional” liberal attitude is one of contempt for the military, including the Clinton years in the Presidency, when a General, upon saying good morning to one of the Clintons’ top staffers, was told, “We don’t talk to uniforms.”  The attitude of liberals may have changed to the point that younger liberals honestly see no inconsistency between being politically liberal and appreciating the military.  As I said, my perspective has been shaped by the 60’s, which by the way, I hated when I was in ’em.  And I simply do not believe liberals of that generation, say anyone older than 40 or 45, when they say that they like, love, or simply appreciate the military.

I seem to recall that during the Presidential election in which George W. Bush beat Gore, that the military vote was suppressed.  I didn’t hear howls of protest from the left about that, and if the military vote had been properly counted (as I recall that it was not), there would have been no doubt of the outcome.  Same with the current Presidential election.  Oh, I hear screaming from the left about this group’s vote being “disenfranchised,” or that group’s vote being suppressed, but the military?  Not a word.  Personal opinion?  Theirs is the only vote that should be taken early.  If you’re not in the military and can’t vote at the appointed time, on the appointed day, too bad, so sad.  There are absentee ballots for those with legitimate reasons for not getting there on time so use them!  If you forget, if you don’t have a legitimate reason to cast an absentee ballot, forget it.  You don’t vote.  In fact, voting is a constitutional right, I understand.  But I think it is a right that is also a privilege, and if you don’t show a certain respect for that right and privilege, then I would have no issue with denying that vote.  Liberal or Conservative, there is no reason that one should not understand the basics of our system.  I would personally institute a test that one must pass prior to voting.  The test would consist of something like the following questions:  first, what is our type of government?  The answer would be Democracy, Representative Republic, something like that.  Second, what are the two major political parties with candidates running for office (Democrat and Republican).  Third, define the difference between Capitalism and Socialism.  Fourth, what are the names of the Democrat and Republican Presidential nominees and their running mates.  Simple.  And if you don’t pass, you don’t vote.

Anyway, back to the military.

I read a Robert Heinlein story once in which the only eligible voters in that society were currently in the military or veterans of the military.  I was intrigued by that concept, and I would almost (emphasis on almost) support giving up the right to vote under that condition.  I would probably add police officers, fire fighters, nurses, and perhaps even something like the Peace Corps.  My thoughts are that if you aren’t willing to serve, do you really have the right to decide the course of the country?  Of course, I know the answer to that, and I support our country, the Constitution, and the intent of our Founding Fathers.  Even so, it’s an intriguing concept.

And I know of liberals that have served in the military.  Several I worked with on the Erie Police Department, and several that I have met along the way.  But I guess I am kind of puzzled, since generally speaking, it is the more conservative political party that appreciates the military.  The liberal side?  Not so much.  I remember John F. Kerry running against President Bush.  Kerry wore his service on his sleeve, and my personal opinion is that he joined, not out of patriotism, but cynically so he could utilize his service after he got out.  Even so, I appreciate his service.  At least he joined.  It’s what he did while in there and after that I despise, and acts as an example of what I believe is the general opinion that liberals have of the military.

I was prompted to write this blog after seeing a post on Facebook.  One of my liberal friends posted an article written by one that had served in the military on why that person was voting for Obama.  My friend stated that because of the author’s service, he should be taken seriously.  My friend and I are in what I would call the beginning stages of friendship.  We respect each other and our opinions, even though they often conflict.  But I am a good judge of character, and I believe that Steve is sincere when he vocalizes support for the military.  But I can judge his sincerity because I know him.  It is much more difficult for me when it is someone I do not personally know, and cannot read their character enough to judge their sincerity.

So, to all in the military, to all that have served, and to all that shall serve in the future, my undying thanks.  You have my appreciation, my admiration.  Your political persuasion is irrelevant to this, and I thank you.  As a right-winger, as an American, I applaud you, even if you are a “leftie.”  Your service is admirable, and this country would not, could not be what it is without your service, and your sacrifice.  May you be blessed and honored for your service.  May we who are protected get it right.  May you never have a moment’s time in which you are not certain that the vast majority of Americans are grateful for what you did, what you do, what you will do.  May God Bless.

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