The question came up in a recent discussion, “Why are you so sure if more people had voted they would have voted for Hillary?” Well, I’m not. I am fairly certain most of them would not have voted for Trump. I base that on a very simple number: Trump pulled the base that always votes that way and in fact received fewer votes than Mitt Romney. You can try to spin that any way you like, but to my mind that says something very significant. Namely that the GOP in its current manifestation is utterly dependent on two things to stay in office—that base and keeping the rest of the country disaffected from the political process. They do this by a number of strategies, the two most important being propaganda about their opponents and redistricting in key states. A host of lesser strategies added to these have effectively suppressed votes in some areas while largely throwing the opposing electorate into a bog of ambivalence about their political choices.
For their part, the opposition—Democrats, liberals, so-called socialists, and a variety of smaller categories with perhaps less clearly defined boundaries—have played into this by a combination of solicitude and poor explication of their positions. As well, it seems that they have failed to connect with the ground level concerns of those who normally would be their natural constituents, namely working class people being displaced by the changing economic and social ecology.
To be clear, when I say solicitude, what I mean is the perfectly reasonable and basically preferable practice of bipartisan cooperation in order to move the business of the people forward. We have a rich history to show that this always works best and it is natural to assume it is the way to govern most effectively. However, it presumes a two-way street, give and take. When one side or the other decides that no matter what, cooperation is not on the table, then it behooves the other side to understand the new paradigm and respond accordingly. When you see the kind of obdurate obstruction on the part of your opponent that we have seen for the last eight years, it becomes frustrating to see your preferred representatives continually yielding in an attempt to “work with” the other side. That willingness is being used quite opportunistically to undermine programs and run a cynical power grab to their own benefit. The Democrats for their part seem not to be willing to risk losing what seats and positions they have to form a line and push back against this, possibly because what information they get from whatever sources they use tells them people wouldn’t like it. They might even feel retributions for such resistance could cost ordinary people. Whatever the reason, they have been unwilling to play as dirty as their Republican counterparts, at least in the public’s view, and this has resulted in continual loss of confidence.
To be clear, “playing dirty” is not something either side should be doing on our behalf, at least not with each other, but it is a reality. The Right has a plan, or at least a goal, and they have adhered to it with religious fervor. One thing we should note is that criticisms of that goal based on the undesirability of it play poorly. Telling someone that what they just voted for will result in a loss of civil liberties for a particular group has no moral traction because that is exactly what the desired outcome is. When you say to someone who seems to be on this bandwagon “But you’re taking away their rights!” it is as if an imp of the perverse in the depths of their psyché claps its hands in glee and shouts “They shouldn’t have those rights in the first place!”
We must be clear about this. Legislation based on the notion that certain groups, however they’re defined, should not have certain rights—which in the parlance of the Right comes out as “privileges” instead of rights—we cannot confront this by trying to explain to them how they misunderstand the nature of such things. As far as they’re concerned, they misunderstand nothing. Their desired outcome is to suppress. What needs to be done—and is being done by many—is to confront and declare that they are flat wrong. And their success will bite them in the end when they lose their rights. Or are they privileges?
It is unpopular and unpleasant to recognize a basic misapprehension about rights. We have floated for centuries now on the belief that rights are somehow Natural. The Natural Law argument which informed most Enlightenment thinking, which is the thinking that defined the context in which the Founders constructed our national image, may have considerable to recommend it, and we could have a very healthy discussion about it, but we aren’t talking here about nature but politics. The reality is, and has always been, that a right is an artificial construct, and is only as true as our ability to assert it in the face of antagonistic forces seeking counter-advantages. This is why we put such stock in so-called Rule of Law. If a right were so self-evident, as we like to say, why would we need law to establish it, define it, and defend it? We may wax philosophical about “natural rights” all we want, but rights do not exist in nature, they are the product of intellect and political will.
This is unpopular for many reasons, but one of the chief in our present era is that it demands responsible participation, and for people who do not wish to be bothered this is burdensome.
Seldom in our history have the consequences of not wanting to be bothered come so viscerally home.
Why do I say that? Because, depending on which breakdown you look at, the entire edifice of the current Right is in power based on less than a quarter of the electorate. Somewhere between 35% and 50% nonparticipation in regular elections—all of them, not just national, but it is in national elections where the consequences are so dramatically evident—means that a minority always determines the political complexion of the country. It may well be that the true majority of Americans prefer what we have now, but we don’t know because people do not vote.
Voter suppression is real, however. Let’s not forget that. In fact, that alone is illustrative of my point above about rights. The right to vote ought to be a given, so how could it be possible to deny it to so many people? One example that rarely rises to the surface in such estimates is the approximately six million people denied the vote outright due to felony convictions. If voting is a “right” then why should that be allowed? Redistricting—gerrymandering—has resulted in distortions of state elections and subsequently a distortion of the electoral college outcomes. The Supreme Court overturn of the Voting Rights Act resulted in the closing down of several hundred polling sites, overwhelmingly in the south and overwhelmingly in African American and Hispanic districts.
But this kind of thing has been the case for a long time now and we have seen higher voter turnout even when it has been difficult for many people. Ninety million people did not participate this past November, which suggests that all the effort to dissuade as well as suppress paid off. Because Americans have traditionally disdained politics, advantage was taken.
All the major news sources failed to behave ethically, some morally. Trump received an inordinate amount of free air time and in a culture that values celebrity the way we do, negative coverage can be just as useful as good coverage. Any careful analysis of what he said on the campaign trail shows he had very little of any substance. Hillary Clinton demonstrated clear superiority in all three of her debates with him—command of facts, comprehension of the global situation, a set of policy positions—while his entire rebuttal amounted to “She’s a nasty woman.”
Uncharitably but realistically, one can only conclude that people did not vote for her because they didn’t like the way she dressed.
The argument that she carried a “lot of baggage” is simply another way to avoid the responsibilities of reason and the requirements of citizenship. During the course of the campaign, as details emerged, and material was made available, it became increasingly clear that most of the negativity about her was baseless, that in fact she proved to be even more honest than her chief rival, Bernie Sanders (a fact which surprised even me), but overcoming well-nurtured antipathies and working through the tsunami of rightwing invective about her apparently proved to be too much effort.
During the campaign one could make the argument that Trump’s opposition was based on the same kinds of detractions—smear—and that once he was in office it would be different.
I doubt any reasonable person, even one who voted for him, in the secret chambers of their own heart, thinks he is doing the job they may have imagined him doing.
On the other hand, maybe he is. Maybe what was desired was no more than validation in the office of the president of their basic belief that government does not work. Maybe they put him there purely to prove their opinion—uninformed, ill-considered, often bitter and sometimes malevolent—was right.
Whatever their reasons, what should concern us all is that so many who most likely feel otherwise felt it acceptable to stay home.
But to return for a moment to the current situation. Trump’s selections for his cabinet demonstrate a clear misunderstanding of the purpose of the office. He is surrounding himself with mediocrities. Nixon did the same thing, but he also had a few people who actually knew what they were doing. The conflicts of interest alone ought to disqualify most of these people, but the Republican majority is proceeding to try to rubberstamp them. To be clear, Rex Tillerson is not a mediocrity—but clearly he has no business being there. I’m sure some would disagree, but his financial ties to Russia alone argue against him, and right now a bill is being introduced in the Senate to repeal a disclosure law that sheds light on foreign bribes which has been a thorn in the side of Exxon.
Trump did not seem to be aware that Steve Bannon would have to be approved by the Senate before taking a seat on the national security council. This is basic knowledge.
We can continue, but his supporters will not care. What is important is that those rights of which I spoke must be recognized as at risk and that relying on the privilege of never having been a target to remain uninvolved is inexcusable.
Lastly, regarding Trump, is the question of moral suitability. “Giving him a chance” is an empty plea. When he mocked Serge Kovaleski, he demonstrated a clear absence of moral capacity. How can I say that? He was just goofing? No. This is basic. This was at the level of courtesy, it is so basic. We don’t even consider it in the context of moral failing because we view it in terms of good manners. But this was a powerful man making fun of a less powerful man in public (South Carolina) in order to discredit him. Rather than attack the news article that prompted the attack, he attacked Kovaleski’s handicap. That is the tactic of a bully.
No. Special pleading, “Oh, he didn’t mean it”, attempts at recontextualizing it after the fact, none of that alters the fact that he behaved boorishly, without regard for another human being, attacking—mocking—the thing that had nothing to do with any issue at hand, and then lying about it afterward. That was a test and he failed. And if you voted for him, you failed, too.
So, reality check: Supposedly, you voted to “Make America Great Again.” How is that working out? We have a bully in the White House who instead of “draining the swamp” is importing more alligators. None of them have a thing in common with you unless you’re a member of the seven figures annually club (and most of them probably did not vote for him). He is threatening to end longtstanding agreements around the world, given verbal approval to Japan and South Korea to develop nuclear programs, annoyed China to the point where a war is at least imaginable, appointed people to his cabinet with zero expertise in the fields chosen for them, thrown hissyfits on Twitter over the size of the crowd at his inauguration, placed gag orders on various agencies, made promises he is either backing out of or revising to fit the feedback he gets from FOX News, has anointed a xenophobe as his chief strategist, threatened long-settled law with Executive Orders, allowed that a man dead since 1882 is an African American who has done great work that is being recognized more and more, asked for prayer at the first national prayer breakfast for the new host of one of his reality shows, and has yet to release his tax returns while threatening American businesses and playing with their futures by indiscriminately tweeting about them. He has given tacit approval to the president of the Philippines for his “program” of murdering alleged drug dealers in the streets without due process and he has gotten into a flame war with the president of Mexico over a wall that would do nothing to alleviate a problem he has no real concept about in the first place. He has signed an order barring immigration based on religion—no, it is, because we have it on record that he asked several people, especially Giuliani, how he could legally keep Muslims out of the country, so his backpedaling on that is for naught—while not barring immigration from countries we already know have originated terrorists that did us harm. He is restarting the antipathies with Iran that over two decades of diplomacy was beginning to alleviate and get us to a point of normalizing relations with, in spite of their presumed leadership, what is really is a moderate country and could be an ally given the right moves on our part. He has placed people’s lives in jeopardy over this for no reason other than apparently a lot of his supporters are scared to death of people who dress funny and speak with an accent. The only reason he has apparently, for now, backed off of attacking LGBTQ rights is that a “friend” of his called and asked him not to.
There is no thoughtful consideration evident in any of this.
While all this is going on, at the state level we have a sea of Republican controlled legislatures and governors who are passing Right To Work bills designed to strip unions of any serious power and although we have seen the consequences of such laws in state after state wherein standard of living and even environmental conservation erode in their wake, somehow the people voting for these representatives believe it won’t happen to them.
My conclusion is that such votes are driven by spite. The almost volcanic eruption of people who suddenly realized that they might loser their healthcare under the man they voted for is telling. It’s just probable that they thought it would only affect Those People Over There, the ones they’ve been told to fear and hate, who have been “getting away with things” and “cut in line” and “get things they don’t deserve.” Along with that, the number of people who apparently did not understand that the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare were one in the same thing, while marginally amusing on one level, is stunning example of the corrupting power of corporate media.
Next up is the privatization of Social Security and MediCare. I’m sure some people think doing so won’t change a thing and then maybe congress can balance the budget and pay off the national debt. I’m sure some feel that way.
I’ve been trying to compose my thoughts about what transpired last November that has left us with one of the most uncertain political situations we have faced in so long that I find it difficult to make a comparison. Possibly Rutherford B. Hayes. Possibly Harding.
The aspect of this that has baffled me most is the fact that sixty million of my fellow citizens cast a ballot for a man they do not trust.
An odd statement, I know, but in all the rhetoric I’ve seen, both before and after the election, I see very little that suggests anyone actually trusts Trump. That’s not to say there weren’t many reasons for those who did to vote for him, but I don’t believe trust is one of them. Maybe it’s opposite. Certainly a good dose of cynicism was involved.
I’m not going to rehearse here the various theories about stolen or corrupted elections. I’m not concerned with that at the moment. What I’m concerned about is those sixty million voters. Those and the ninety million who did not vote. For the purposes of this piece, I see them all of a piece.*
So one hundred fifty million Americans put a man in the White House they do not trust. Other metrics were involved. Other motives.
Firstly, about that trust thing.
When Obama was elected, people voted for him with a measure of confidence that he would represent their interests. That change was in the offing. That he was capable of making a difference to the benefit of the country. They talked about hope and change interchangeably. It was obvious that they felt he would do positive things. They trusted him. Both times.
And the reaction of his opponents came out of recognition of that basic reality. What his enemies had to do was destroy that trust, if possible. And because of that trust, their main weapon was denial. Because it meant their candidates did not command such confidence or trust. He had to be shown, therefore, to be ineffective.
He had to be delegitimized.
In the brawl over the last eight years, perhaps they succeeded on a level not intended. They did not, I think, manage to delegitimize President Obama. Rather, they fulfilled one of Ronald Reagan’s rhetorical dictums and managed to delegitimize the idea of governance.
No, I don’t think that’s what they intended to do, but the fight they engaged was over fundamental principles of the purpose of government. In past fights, it was easier to simply discredit the person in office, either by impugning his reputation or exposing corrupt policies. This time, though, they had neither opportunity, not in any useful way. What policies they attempted to present as corrupt were not. Some of them were mistakes, some bad ideas, some poorly managed, but none were in any way explicitly corrupt. And the man himself offered nothing to attack. Even Obama’s detractors, unless they were being programmatically obtuse, could not but respect him.
Which left them only with a fight over principles.
Which they were losing.
Why else adopt a tactic of pure and undifferentiated obstruction? This became obvious with the nomination of Merrick Garland, who had previously enjoyed more than a little praise from the very people who then refused to even have hearings about his appointment to the Supreme Court. There was no good reason to do this. It was purist petulance. The commitment on the part of GOP senators and representatives to block everything Obama attempted to do had no basis in logic or sound thinking. It was entirely party driven. A short-sighted policy to delegitimize Obama’s presidency.
The intent, no doubt, was to show Obama’s philosophy of governance wanting. That the Democrats, as exemplified by the president, had no good ideas. That based on their success at roadblocking even discussions on his policy measures the Republicans would show themselves as morally and philosophically superior.
The problem is, without that discussion there is no way to know who has the superior governing philosophy. Ideas need airing, discussion, debate in order to determine their merit. Instead, the GOP has successfully damaged, possibly destroyed, public trust in governance of any kind, at least at the federal level, for a substantial number of citizens. By blanket opposition to anything Obama attempted, nothing was shown to be superior—only achievable. Namely, the inevitable loss of public confidence in government.
They managed to strip the presidency of legitimacy.
They intended to strip Obama of legitimacy. They failed. He still retains it. But he’s leaving office. It is the office that has been damaged, though public understanding of that fact has probably not caught up with the reality.
What could be more inevitable then that we elect a man who already has no legitimacy to an office that may be badly lacking it?
The idea of legitimacy is a tricky one. It precedes trust. It is an intangible assumption that a person or institution deserves to be entrusted with representational responsibilities, that they are what they appear to be, that their actions, in part and in total, are born out of sound motives and based on confidence in the abilities and competencies required to be present and at the ready. In part, it is a kind of faith that what will be done will be done for the benefit of the community. That even in failure, the attempts to fulfill duties are done in good faith. When all these various implicit characteristics are in place and extant, then trust follows.
Legitimacy underlies all assumptions of power back to the days of kings and pharaohs and other potentates. It is the reason for such grave concern over lineage and the legal rights of heirs and successors. Because continuity is important, certainly, but the imprimatur of authority must be seen to pass rightfully from one hand to the next in order for chaos to be kept at bay. It is a delicate, powerful thing which, when in place, is hardly thought of but once damaged or absent can be seen as all important. Which explains both why we are now so troubled by possible outside interference with this election and why forms are being so rigorously defended by those who know something is amiss. Why, specifically, the Electoral College did not act in its legal capacity to change its vote in the face of evident misadventure and the clear unsuitability of the president elect—because in the absence of legitimacy in the outcome the legitimacy of the institutions must be protected. Because the office has been damaged in the eyes of the people, a changed vote by the Electors could easily have been the final blow to a marginally creditable system. Barring Trump would be seen as less a decision against a usurper than as one more reason to distrust the system.
I say “usurper” purposefully, though with full admission of the irony implied.
It was usurpation that invented those so-called popular sanctions, those speeches, those monotonous congratulations, the customary tribute that in every age the same men pay, with great prodigality and in almost the same words, to the most contradictory measures. In them, fear apes all the appearances of courage, to congratulate itself on its own shame and to express thanks for its own misfortunes. A peculiar stratagem that deceives no one! A game that impresses no one and that should have succumbed long ago to the arrows of ridicule! But ridicule attacks all and destroys nothing.
Benjamin Constant, On the Spirit of Conquest and Usurpation, 1814
Constant was talking about Napoleon, of course, but consider—Napoleon achieved a position of ultimate power in France with the assent of the people who claimed legitimacy to bestow that power. That Napoleon turned out to be other than what anyone expected made him a species of usurper. He replaced legitimate authority by virtue of pure assertion. That he did so in the wake of the complete loss of legitimacy on the power of the monarchy only underscored the fact that he had no authenticity, only the force of a manufactured popular mandate.
People loved him.
For a while, at least. And when he had been beaten and exiled the first time, the Sisyphean task of recovering legitimacy in a Restoration ran into the reality of a desolated economy and a broken public trust led to a final surge of popular support during his Hundred Days.
Now, a usurper can still do the job, but has the same problem as the delegitimized “rightful” ruler, namely a lack of trust from the people. In this instance, the office is the damaged part, which is why Obama was unable to pass on his still-intact legitimacy to an heir, namely Hillary Clinton. Large segments of the popular base that swept him into office in two historic elections did not stir itself to grant its favor upon her because she had been the one the ongoing attempts to delegitimize Obama had successfully tainted. They could not damage him so they attacked his staff. The repeated harangue over settled questions served his enemies well, because she was seen finally as corrupt—so corrupt in fact that her corruption was beyond revelation.
Constant again: Usurpation brutalizes a people while oppressing it—accustoms it to trample on what it respected, to court what it despises, to despise itself. And if usurpation manages to endure for any length of time, it actually makes impossible any freedom or improvement after its fall.
The irony in our case, of course, is that the usurpation has been done for the usurper, rather than by him.
When I say that no one who supported him trusts Trump I base this on the immediate and almost desperate sounding apologia that followed on the heels of his election, that he never really meant all the things he said, that he was speaking allegorically or metaphorically, or, more cynically still, that he was only saying those things in order to win and would never actually act on any of it. Often these apologies are made by people who months before lauded him for plain-speaking, for “saying it like it is,” for being “genuine.” And again, this was all said with no sense of irony. Wishful thinking, perhaps. But disturbingly, I think, based on a perception that it didn’t really matter, which suggests either no understanding of what was happening or an admission that all faith in the office had been lost and it was of no consequence who inhabited it.
Of course, the apologies on his behalf also suggest some understanding of how undesirable those things he said actually are. People made excuses for the visiting uncle at Thanksgiving who couldn’t stop telling off-color jokes and wondering why cousin so-n-so had to go an marry someone not of his or her ethnicity. Oh, he doesn’t really mean that, he’s just being, you know—
And no one seems to have the authority, the moral will—the legitimacy—to tell him to leave, or just shut up. Possibly because they see him as a founder of the feast.
This is no surprise in a movement which on the one hand is represented by David Brooks and on the other end by Alex Jones.
The lack of trust manifests among those who must now work with him. Many stepped up to voice opposition to him during the campaign, but are now backpedaling because they see him as the one who may be useful to them. But while they may be acting as if everything is as it should be, they do not trust him, and may well believe he is not legitimate. They’re stuck, though, because the institutions they have worked so hard to control are in danger of collapse after several decades of sapping, and if they move aggressively to correct what is clearly a mistake they risk losing everything they have worked toward.
In order for a government to work effectively, a certain degree of confidence must be in place that what it does is done legitimately. The general populace may know some of what goes on, but the entire point of a government is in its function of dealing with things too vast and complex for the average citizen to access, at least in the details. We have to trust that the institutions in place are managed by people who do what they do with a minimum degree of competence and for the benefit of those they represent. When Reagan began his campaign of delegitimizing the very idea of government (“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.” August 12, 1986) he put at risk that powerful, fragile trust necessary for a government to function. It has never been a question of criticizing the government—we have always done that, it is part of the very institutions we rely on that we do that—but the very idea that the general will can be legitimately expressed through those institutions that Reagan called into question.
I doubt he intended the results we see now, but this is his true legacy. This is what has become of popular conservatism.+ Whether intended or not, this has been the consequence of the struggle against progressivism.
Conservatism itself has been usurped. It has morphed from a philosophy of preservation and economic and demographic caution to one that simply rejects change. From there it has become dynamically retrograde, identifying a priori change as a viable target, rejected out of hand as having somehow violated conservative prerogatives. Hence the assault on even New Deal concepts which have long become part of the settled landscape of Things To Be Conserved. (The entire movement to privatize as many public programs as possible is part of this. Should they acknowledge the legitimacy of these programs as part of the proper purview of government, they would be forced to admit change as a necessary aspect of their philosophy.)
There is in the current manifestation of the Conservative movement a deeply-nurtured mediocrity. Partly this is a result of a mangled understanding of the nature of equality, but mostly it stems from a distrust of anything that requires imagination or innovation. The only vision put forth by their best lights is a vague ritual solemnity that masks an avarice without taste and certainly stripped of genuine morality. Form is all and even in that it is only the form of denial.
There is no climate change. There is no viable secularism. There is nothing to evolution. There is no alternative to oil, capitalism, or god.
There is no good progress.
Whether intended or not, this has been the consequence of their struggle against progressivism. Lacking a substantive alternative, they have engaged a battle of labels. Over time, the things meant by those labels have been abandoned, so we no longer know—possibly on either side—what they mean. So attempts at restructuring the economic landscape, for instance, to shift the flow of resources to a broader population are labeled Socialist, but what is meant by that within the context of the struggle has nothing to do with socialism.
So what has replaced genuine conservatism is a regressive denial of progress. Consequently, one method in play to thwart progress is the categorical dismantling of the material and legal scaffolding on which any progress depends for any success. Like social security. Or voting rights. Progress is not to be trusted. Therefore the tools and foundations of it must be denied those who would most likely pursue it on behalf of those who would most likely support its use. The so-called Safety Net must be destroyed so those it allows a degree of comfort and security to move forward cannot affect change.
This philosophy has been ideal for those who have been pouring huge amounts of money into the political process in order to secure for themselves a free field of movement to guarantee their hegemony over resources. The use of money in campaigns may have begun as a tool to support ideas and a representational legitimacy, but as the contest fragmented and the points of focus were lost, it became a means of winning. When it was no longer clear what winning served, money became the end in itself. Building war chests on the chance that one day there might be a philosophy worth supporting has become endemic to the struggle. Consider the point-free arguments over taxation. We rarely hear clear arguments over what use taxes are to be put, only increasingly strident rhetoric over whether they should even exist. Meanwhile, borrowing continues, because that feeds private coffers which then pay for more strident anti-tax rhetoric.
Through all this the one thing that is excised from our political life that will be perhaps the final brace to a damaged system is competence. Competence aligned to legitimacy is dangerous to a self-justifying mediocrity.
As I said at the beginning, I did not intend to talk about outside intervention here. I am concerned with the voters, who have chosen to reward an illegitimate candidate, both by direct ballot and, more importantly, by abstention. The work of delegitimizing our institutions is all but accomplished and this election is proof. Because popular sentiment became invested not in the office but in the persons involved, to the exclusion of much if not everything else. Once there was a time when it did not matter so much which candidate won, we all trusted that certain basic duties of the office would be fulfilled regardless.# So those who lost grumbled and went home and geared up for the next election and got on with their lives knowing the scaffolding and superstructure was in place. That the one who won at minimum would fulfill the required functions of the office to the general benefit of the community. We trusted in the legitimacy of the elected candidate. We could change our mind in four years.
That did not happen this time. One hundred fifty million voters decided there was no legitimacy to be had, so on the one hand keep the competent one out and on the other hand assume a principle aloofness and refuse to participate. Because those who voted for Trump do not trust him. This will become apparent. Nor do they have confidence in the institutions anymore, so why elect someone who would be adept at running those institutions?
They have placed themselves in a mindset that allows for no real alternatives other than the continued deterioration of systems they no longer believe in but hope will not abandon them. We have a crisis of legitimacy. Worthy candidates will be seen as more a danger than a benefit because making things work to our benefit has been characterized as somehow inimical to our identity.
In a way, we have usurped our own government. In its place will now be a set of forms that will set the stage for a series of convulsions until finally we get past the constraints of our fear.
*And yes, I acknowledge that voter suppression was an active force in all of this, but ninety million? No, suppression cannot account for even half of that.
+ To be clear, I do not see this movement as legitimately conservative. This is the name they have taken from people who are or were genuine conservative thinkers and who would never have countenanced the circus taking place under their rubric.
#No, I do not mean to suggest there were no differences between candidates, only that regardless who won, which ideology or philosophy became dominant for the duration, the institutions of the country could be depended on to continue and that certain values were held on common by both sides of the political divide.
It has been clear for all of the campaign season and is now becoming clearer that Donald Trump should not be president. He is temperamentally unsuited to the position, he does not have the working knowledge of how things work in a government, and he is wildly unpredictable. He is also as thin-skinned as they come.
But so what? He has been elected. For better or worse, unless something remarkable happens, he will be president for the next four years.
By remarkable I mean any of several possible legal scenarios.
There is a petition circulating to request the Electors of the Electoral College change their vote. This is possible and, as previously noted, not only perfectly legal but one of the reasons the College was established to begin with. It is also possible Trump will decide this is a bad move for him and resign. It is questionable whether this would leave Pence in place. After the inauguration, it is possible congress could impeach him. There is ample in his background that would seem sufficient.
Addressing just one of these, I could suggest that the Electors do something even more remarkable, and that is to nullify their vote entirely. Give it to no one. This would likely force a new election. We would have to do the whole thing over.
I do not believe we have ever had a nominee winning the Electoral vote with such a gap in the popular vote before, As the ballots continue to be counted, it is clear that among those who actually went to the polls, Hillary Clinton is the winner. It would be ethical and legal for the College, on December 19th, to change their votes to reflect this reality. Will that happen? I rather doubt it. I do not believe there is sufficient moral fiber extant to take that kind of a position and it may well be that most of them, aligned with Party the way they seem to be, want this.
Which means the elephant is loose in the china shop. This is going to hurt and hurt a lot.
So what are our options?
It has been suggested we abolish the Electoral College. It is, however, in the Constitution, so getting rid of it requires a constitutional convention, which means opening the whole thing up to revision. I personally don’t trust that we have on hand the wisdom to do that. We see all the time other countries that continually rewrite their constitutions and it rarely ever comes out well. We might pass a new amendment to nullify it, the way we did with Prohibition, and that would avoid putting the whole thing on the surgeon’s table, but that would also require an enormous consensus across the country, something we’ve been lacking of late. I don’t think that would work, either.
So here’s a thought. There is no reason to have the Electoral vote announced at the same time as we’re doing the popular vote tally. As we are now painfully aware, on that day, the votes just aren’t all in. Expecting this big complicated mechanism to do all this fairly and honestly in one day may be too much. Had we not locked in those ballots on the day and waited for the balance of the vote count, we would not have a fait accompli the undoing of which could cause a violent ruction. Since it is the case that they meet for the final vote on December 19th, we should simply wait till then for any kind of announcement.
There was a time I hated the idea of term limits, but I’m coming around to the notion. The real damage of this election is in the fact that through negligence and apathy we returned a vast number of incumbents who are set on undoing so much that mitigates the reality that we have been on a course of public pillage which has cost us jobs, savings, security for millions of people who simply do not have the resources to hire the kind of legal help to protect themselves. Supposedly, that has been the task of our government. But how can the government do that without some sense of what its constituents want? We do not vote in sufficient numbers, regularly enough, to place representation in Washington that reflects the reality of our lives. For whatever reason, Americans have traditionally disliked politics and whenever an excuse presents refuse to participate, even at the most basic level of exercising the franchise.
With that in mind, two things we could change that might make it easier. First, make election day a national holiday. That would be simple enough. Secondly, do what Bernie Sanders suggests, make registration automatic, a birthright. When you turn 18, you’re registered to vote.
Of course I can see obstacles. Certain parties have always tried to tie the right to vote to property. The resistance to things like Motor Voter registration demonstrates that. But dammit, that would settle it. At the time of your majority, you would also receive a federal ID, good for all manner of thing. If you can’t get to the place to do so, then we should have mobile registration units that will come to you to secure that ID. I think voter ID laws as they stand are there simply to bar people from voting. We saw this in Wisconsin in a pronounced way. So simply make it law that at 18 you are automatically registered to vote and at the same time you receive your federal ID. In fact, it could be done as part of the whole senior high school process, folded in with yearbook photographs. Done. Turning someone with such an ID away from a polling place would then be a violation of federal law.
Another issue is this whole nonsense about third parties. Here’s a reality. Third parties have never gained traction in this country. There are many reasons for this. Firstly, because it was never intended that there be parties as such, but secondly because we do not create coalition governments as are done in many places where having three, four, even five parties is normal and the winning party must create a government from proportional parts of all parties. Here, with the winner-takes-call method we have, third parties do little more than muddy already murky waters.
But a more trenchant reason is that the two parties we do have take in and absorb viable third party concepts and people. One or the other morphs into what becomes effectively a new party. Which is one reason talking about what either party was like half a century ago is absurd. There may be some continuity but rarely consistency.
Given that, what I would suggest right now is for Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, and Barack Obama to form a coalition to essentially invade one or the other party and begin to transform it in accordance with whatever program they devise between themselves. We cannot ignore Stein or Johnson or at least not what they represent, they made substantial showings in this election. But they will never, at this rate, achieve the kind of authority to challenge either major party, certainly not soon enough to do much good. But by forming a nexus of change within one or the other, they could remake one of the two major parties. Rather than let it happen as it does by accident, it should be done consciously and directly. These four represent the chief aspects of what might make a responsive party. Together, they could be amazing.
Finally, given that we are likely stuck with the situation at hand for the next four years, two more ground level suggestions. The first, the people in congress are supposed to represent all of us. Whether you voted for them or not, by law they are still our representatives—our employees, basically. Treat them that way. Don’t leave the conversation because they’re not your guy. Flood their offices with your input. Tell them what you want. All the time. Burn their ears. They must represent you, that’s how it is supposed to work. Act toward them as if you had put them there. You can still work to unseat them and put someone more to your liking in their place, but while they are there make them do their job.
Secondly, since it would seem civics is rarely taught in school anymore, maybe we should start local classes in it to acquaint people with how all this is supposed to work. Bring the kids. It has become obvious that too many Americans don’t understand the first thing about the way the government works—or could work if people did their part, which they can’t do if they don’t know how.
We are possibly about to lose a great deal. We have a government in place that won by a minority of voters. That is not majority rule it is minority veto. It may be that such things must happen before we act. Secession, a Great Depression, the Cold War. If true, it does not reflect well of us. The tools are there but we have to turn the dials.
Lastly, there are many people in this last election who were turned away from the polls. Voter suppression is very real. But many more just opted out. They were discouraged, perhaps, by their choices, but that’s simply not good enough. You play the hand you’re dealt or you end up barred from the game. Stop waiting to be inspired. Inspiration is not reason, it is not logic, it is not a substitute for dealing with reality. It’s not sexy, but when you vote, the fact is you’re hiring an employee to do a job. The only factors that matter are “Is he/she qualified” and “Do they support the things I support?” Everything else is a bonus and that merits reelection. If they fail in their job, your fire them at the next election. But being swept off your feet by bold rhetoric and substanceless campaign slogans and baseless judgments of “personality” is a sure way to be disappointed—even badly betrayed. But significantly, keep that in mind—at the end of the day, the president is an employee. He—or she—works for you. Handing over your conscience because they dazzle you with promises of brilliance not based on ability or sympathy is irresponsible.
The number will make sense presently.
It’s Friday. I’ve spent the last few days trying to process what happened Tuesday. It is not going well. I’m angry, frightened, and more than a little disgusted by the fact that we allowed Donald Trump to be elected president. I’m a cynic most days, an optimist forced by reality to concede that the world is perhaps more malign than not. But I’m also, marginally, an intellectual. By that I mean someone who deals with that reality by trying to understand it and make it cogent. By looking at things through the lens of causality, knowing that events are products, usually of combinations of factors no one person can see. So when the inexplicable happens, I do my best to analyze it and find the underlying drivers. This is how I am able to walk out my door every morning and conduct my life.
It is clear from everyone’s reactions that no one expected this, least of all Trump. I think he was planning his next reality show, Real Losers of Presidential Races. For that reason among many others, I do not believe he is even remotely prepared for the unsortable mess he is about to be required to deal with. As for the country, well, we’ve been playing with this idea that a “businessman” might be a good president. We’re about to find out.
What concerns me even more is the vast ocean of Red that now controls the country. If Trump’s election was some kind of protest against establishment Washington, it failed, because most of the incumbents kept their seats. So clearly there was only one office this vote was aimed at. I’ve been saying to anyone interested in my opinion that possibly the more important part of this election was Congress. Well, clearly no one listens to me.
Why am I so pessimistic about this election? Because the ideology in control of this majority is contrary to everything I thought we were trying to build. I can’t think of one thing these people want to do that will be good for anyone but the rich. And actually I don’t think it will be very good for them in the long run, either.
Trump has sided with congressional Republicans in a desire to repeal what they persistently misname Obamacare. There are people who have been hurt by this law, yes. But there are many, many others who for the first time in their lives had access to meaningful healthcare. Those millions will lose that unless what the Republican Party intends to do is simply expand MediCare to cover them. That is not in their playbook. They are committed to a policy that you should pay for your life yourself, that it is not the government’s job to make your life easier or better, even if the condition of your life is a consequence of government policy in the first place. So the ACA gets repealed, insurance companies start voiding existing policies which are not profitable, healthcare costs resume their precipitous rise, and in a few years people start dying from treatable and often preventable illnesses that they might have avoided had they had the resources. The pharmaceutical industry will once again gouge people, their profits will once more soar to ridiculous heights, and the poor will go begging.
Trump wants to “do something” about immigration. What he and apparently the majority of GOP congressional members mean by that involves mass deportations, stricter rules for visas, green cards, guest worker permits, etc, and punitive restraints against countries which have a problem with drug cartels running roughshod over them and making life hell for people trying to make a living, which is why they’re coming here in the first place. We do not recognize “life under threat from a drug dealer” to be a legitimate form of persecution, so the drug war, which we fund, puts all these countries and their citizens in a bind which we refuse to take responsibility for. Medium-sized businesses here that presently rely on guest workers (which is a good portion of the agricultural industry not owned by Archer Daniels Midland and the like) will find themselves stripped of a labor force they to date have had a difficult if not impossible time replacing with Americans who can’t afford to live on seasonal work at low wages. Other examples abound. This will also mean deporting children and young people born here but never naturalized who have never known any other country. In essence if not status they are Americans, but no matter. Their “documents” are not in order.
Trump wants to produce jobs, “big league.” Obama will be leaving office after presiding over seven years of the largest private sector jobs growth since the end of the Vietnam War (which is very relevant, that date), but Trump and the GOP act as if nothing has changed since 2008. If you are one of those still underemployed or out of work, maybe Obama’s record makes no difference to you. But it should. The usual method of pumping up jobs numbers, employed by both parties but much indulged in recent times by the very Republican administrations who vowed to shrink the size of the government, has been to increase federal jobs and supply grants to states for state jobs. These are not stable jobs because they depend on funding tools that are also unreliable given the recent push to cut spending and cut taxes. Obama has reduced the deficit, which will rise if President Trump opts to pump money into infrastructure programs in order to produce those jobs. If he intends to stick to the GOP pledge to cut taxes even further, that means he will have to borrow the money, which will increase the debt again. We don’t have much wiggle room there after the catastrophic policies of the Bush years. We’re going to be bouncing up against 100% of GDP and then, Katy-bar-the-door if we have another recession because there will simply be no relief. Trump has a track record of borrowing and defaulting. He cannot default on this kind of debt, so the question will be,. what then?
But I can get behind a push to invest in infrastructure. We need it badly. What I cannot get behind is the continued refusal to address the extraction of capital out of our economy by way of a tax cut program that sees even more money sucked into the coffers of Big Business and out of the country. You can’t increase spending AND cut taxes forever. Eventually you reach the point where the mule dies. (Old joke, the farmer who tries to train his mule to work on less and less food over time, until one day the mule keels over dead and he doesn’t understand why.)
I will say this again. I know people don’t like taxes, but it’s largely reflexive. They fail repeatedly to understand whose taxes are supposed to go up. Coupled with the fact that to make up for what states are not getting from the federal government anymore, local taxes have to rise, the blame is universal. People want services, but they don’t want to pay for them. As services deteriorate due to lack of funds, they complain when a tax increase is sought which is intended to bring those services back up to par. It’s a vicious circle of misapprehension.
Taxes are one of the surest tools to fix capital in a community.
Be that as it may, let us go on.
Why did people vote for Trump? We don’t have to dig far to understand that by his own words he is a misogynist, a racist, someone who sees no problem contradicting himself, a liar, what we used to call a demagogue. The projections for the election gave him a very low chance of winning. What happened?
A combination of things. People wanted someone not a Washington “insider.” Whatever that means. No, I know what it’s intended to mean, but then why did they send all their incumbents back? But Trump is not an insider, so there is that.
A certain segment of the population has been chafing under what they derisively term Political Correctness for decades. It’s like having your table manners constantly corrected. Why can’t I haver as baseball team named after Native Americans? Why does that make me “culturally insensitive?” It’s just baseball. And why do I have to adjust a lifetime of rote understanding to accommodate a biological male using the girls’ bathroom at my daughter’s high school? And why are you still making me feel bad about slavery 150 years after it ended? And why can’t I whistle at a pretty woman on the street?
Why do I have to change everything I’ve always taken for granted because someone I don’t know has gotten their feelings hurt?
Of course it’s more complicated than that, but for many it amounts to that level of anger. They want to be who they are and not be criticized for it.
Unfortunately, this includes a host of less trivial-sounding factors, like reflexive distrust of anyone who doesn’t look like them, talk like them, think like them, or go to church like them. These are not harmless traits, as we have seen. Racism, nativism, intolerance, protectionism, all aided and abetted by a thick strain of anti-intellectualism which manages to include antagonism toward expertise, toward science, toward any kind of reasoning that calls into question who they are.
Added to that, we have people who have adopted a political view akin to religious dogma. Hillary is a criminal. No matter that she has been investigated, questioned, and cleared on every charge for decades. FOX news or Rush Limbaugh told them. This is holy. They will not be dissuaded because if they have this wrong then everything they believe, everything they are, is wrong, and then what? It took them years to acquire the veneer of informed opinion, they have neither the time or the capacity to undo all that armchair work.
Then there are people who truly believe the federal government is nothing but evil, just by virtue of existing, and they may feel that this is a good chance to see it crippled. The instances of militia groups declaring armed uprisings should Hillary win are examples.
Some people are so enamored of money that anyone with more than seven figures to their name is automatically worthy of respect if not outright admiration.
Finally, there are those who simply cannot get past the idea of a woman in charge. For them, it wouldn’t have mattered who it was. I doubt Michelle Bachman or Sarah Palin would have gotten their vote.
It may also be that, Americans being traditionally contrarian, a sizeable number of voters resented being told that Hillary was a shoe-in. We still retain a perverse affection for the underdog—I say perverse because we don’t seem very consistent on who that may be. When some CEO raking in hundreds of millions of dollars on bonuses complains about the cruel regulations placed on his company can successfully pose as a persecuted underdog, we may have a problem with understanding what that word actually is intended to describe. Be that as it may, I wouldn’t doubt that a significant fraction of those who voted for Trump did so out of a misplaced sense of fairness.
Which brings me to the number. 47. That would be 47%. According to some polls, that is the percentage of people who did not vote. Ninety million, more or less. I suspect the odds are good that the overwhelming majority of them would probably have voted against Trump. Since this has been the case in the past, I’m going to assume it to be true. Hillary did win the popular vote.
Oh, certainly a lot of them stayed home because they didn’t get to vote for Bernie Sanders. “I didn’t get my candidate so I’m not going to vote at all!” I have zero respect for this. For many reasons, but just look at what you have done to the rest of us if that’s your reasoning. Because if so, you not only left us with Trump, you were also instrumental in all those GOP incumbents going back to Congress. You have damaged us with your petty snit. “If I can’t have chocolate ice cream, I don’t want any!”
But there are many others who saw the projections and decided they didn’t need to go vote because Hillary was a shoe-in. Despite the fact that she told you not to rely on those polls. But even if that were the case and she was a shoe-in and she had won, the fact that you also didn’t vote to oust the Republican majority would have meant four years of the kind of grinding gridlock Obama has been through. This was irresponsible.
47% of you decided to have no say in the future of your country and by your absence you have left us with what may turn out to be the most devastating administration since—
I won’t say. You have no sense of history. You don’t understand the concept of voting strategically. I can only conclude that you are either selfish or lazy. Either way, you will learn the price of abstaining. As will we all.
I’m not criticizing people who voted third party. They voted. They acted responsibly.
So thank you for your nonparticipation. The subsequent state of the country can be laid in large part at your feet. You have, by your absence, shot us all in the face.
This is, in my experience, a liberal problem. I remember back in the Sixties, when the country was in comparable disarray, how the Left began to hate liberals. It seemed to many that the Left was a monolith, and subsequently all of them were painted with the same brush and labeled Liberal. Liberal bashing has been a hallmark of the Republican Right since Reagan took office, but really the GOP should be grateful to liberals, because they are so uninvolved. There are likely many reasons for this, but the big one I have noticed is that liberals don’t seem to have any staying power. They attack a cause, work to solve the problems, often overcome obstacles and put reforms in place. Things change. And then a curious thing happens. They go home. They leave the field.
In a way, this is understandable and very American. For them, politics is a grimy, necessary chore that must be attended to in order to have the time, the space, and the freedom to do all the other things in life worth doing. We should be able to solve the damn problem and be done with it. Finished. Now there are Other Things. They assume the fix is done and we can go about our lives.
The Right has been like that as long as there was a status quo few people complained about. But that hasn’t been the case since the Korean War. So the Right does what it does. For many of them, this is religion. They fight, they stay, they don’t go home. So when the liberal left decides it has won and does go home, the conservatives are still there, working to undo everything they don’t like. That has been happening since 1980, consistently, and it is time liberals learned this lesson. You can’t assume problems stays fixed.
Whatever the base cause, the fact remains that, at least for me, everything I like about this country is under attack by people who, for a variety of reasons, don’t like what progress has brought them. In my opinion, they have bought the argument that it is not rich people taking everything not nailed down that is hurting them but all the people who have benefited from the totality of a civil rights movement that has not yet finished its work.
I still believe we can make a pretty good world. But we have to collectively get over the idea that unrestrained acquisition is the only valid metric of success.
But you people who stayed home and left us with this mess? Read between the lines.
With only a couple weeks now till the election, I’ve decided to make it plain (if i I haven’t already) that I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton.
I have a number of reasons for doing so, some of which are not quantifiable, but if I may I’d like to state a few of them.
First off, she is opposed, disrespected, and outright hated by all the right people. Her list of detractors is a grocery list of those I would like to see ousted from their own positions in government. This includes people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, Representative Issa, and just about every firebreathing Tea Party moron who has been miring the workings of my government in the muck of intransigence like a child refusing to eat their vegetables for far too long. Given their records, if Hillary Clinton bothers them, then I’m voting for her. This extends to the entire Republican establishment which made it their number one priority eight years ago to simply block and impede everything President Obama tried to do, for no good reason. Try as I might I can find no justification for this other than petulance. If you aren’t willing to play the game you do not get to set the rules.
This has cost us as a nation.
Secondly, while I have been lukewarm about her for years, this past year I have come to respect her. She’s tough, smart, and by virtue of the relentless vetting she has undergone at the hands of a congressional majority determined to ruin her has apparently been demonstrated to be not only less corrupt than one might wish to believe but also one of the more honest candidates we’ve had. As to her criminality, the fact—the galling fact to many of those in my first category—is that if she were guilty of something we would know it by now and she would be under indictment. They have tried. They have spent multiple tens of millions, wasted months of public time, scoured, probed, intimidated, and otherwise made a nuisance of themselves in service of destroying—
Apparently (and thirdly) a woman they fear. A woman. I know there is another woman running for office, but in the course of this last year I have come to feel that Jill Stein is not capable of managing the office. Her understanding, for one thing, of international finance and even basic economics seems lacking. While she opposes many things I also oppose I do not see her as someone who could do a damn thing about any of it, not just because both parties would be disinclined to work with her but because she doesn’t show to me the requisite comprehension of the complexities of the problems. She’s not being attacked much by the major parties because she is not a viable contender, but if she were then they would be going after her for the simple fact that, like Hillary, she is a woman. (Which means they would not bother discussing the issues, it would all be personal attack.)
(Years ago Phyllis Schlafly endorsed a woman for president—Michelle Bachman. Demonstrating that she was less interested in the historic meaning of having a woman as president as she was in wrecking the legitimacy of the idea.)
Like Obama, I believe the bulk of the antipathy toward Hillary Clinton is in her failure to be a white male.
Yeah, I do think on a gut level, for many of her detractors, that’s about it. First a black man and now a woman. A woman! Good gosh, what will the world think of us? As far as I’m concerned, it’s about time. She’s qualified. Her lack of the appropriate genitalia should not be a factor. But for some, it is. It will be. If they’re in congress, they must go. We need to get past this nonsense.
Fourthly, given her range of experience, I believe she will be best able to steer this ship that is our country through the reefs of the next several years quite ably. Not, perhaps, spectacularly, but we don’t need that. Spectacular has drawbacks. I’d like to bank on competence. That’s what I’ve liked about Obama. Say what you will, he has not wrecked us. We’re coming out the end of his term better than when he began. No, not for everyone, and for certain not without mistakes, gaffs, and bad calls along the way, but I believe we are in a better position to face the future now than we would have been under either of his opponents. I have no desire to have that derailed by handing over the wheel to a berserker.
Which brings me to Five. She is not Trump. If ever there was a clear distinction between two candidates, this is it. Aside from the meanness he has elicited in his base, he has a pitiful grasp of government, he has been a blatant hypocrite, a consistent liar, and a demagogue. I don’t believe you can call him an ideologue because I can’t discern a cogent ideology, unless it’s narcissism. But above and beyond all that, I do not believe he will Be There. I believe he will get quickly bored and leave it all to his vice president. We’ve seen a bit of what that can lead to (Cheney) and Pence is an ideologue, on par will all those in my first category, and I am weary of them. But Trump will quickly tire of the innate difficulties of managing an office he doesn’t understand. I believe this is why he has failed at so many of his well-touted business ventures. He has no staying power.
Hillary Clinton does have staying power.
Finally (Six) at least publicly she supports many things I support. Her statements on policy are consistent with many of my preferred positions. I need not recount them here, I think. Anyone who has read this blog for any length of time should know. Yes, there are some things that trouble me. But I will still back her rather than risk destroying the country.
That has often been part of the hyperbolic campaign rhetoric of many campaigns, but this is the first time I’ve felt it had some legitimacy. Trump’s assertion that he will virtually eliminate corporate taxes should surprise no one—he will directly benefit—but it will, under present circumstances, put us in such a hole that we might never climb out of it, effectively transforming the United States into the richest third world nation on the planet. The poverty, the collapse of infrastructure, the ruin of any and all safety nets will tear us apart.
I know people don’t like taxes. But for once we have to stop thinking of them as some kind of penalty. Taxation, at its most basic, is the best and surest way to secure capital in the country. That’s why we were able to build the strongest economy in history during a time when the top marginal tax rates were north of 80%. Even the private sector did better because the money was here, not free floating in some vague transnational pool of capital under no nation’s control.
Anyway, there’s my endorsement.
Since I’m in Missouri, I’m also throwing in my support for Jason Kander for senate and Chris Koster for governor. Both of their opponents hold positions antithetical to my own. It’s that simple. I do not agree with either Roy Blunt or Eric Greitens.
Maybe now there will be no more political posts from me till after November 8th. Maybe. We’ll see.
Just a couple of thoughts. We’ve been hearing for months, here and there, how Donald Trump might be a trojan horse placed by the Democrats to discredit the Republican Party. That, presumably, a deal was done between The Donald and Hillary to run the most absurd campaign and make her look like the only viable choice. Not a bad idea for a potboiler political thriller. And the closer to the election we get, some variation of that idea is making more sense.
However. Despite what pessimists might say, the American electoral landscape is not really that controllable. And any such actual plan would long since have been discovered and revealed. You can’t keep something like that secret for this long. Someone will know and will tell. Just because that’s how things roll here.
But it’s not at all unlikely that some kind of a deal was done inside the GOP involving Trump.
Given the roster of candidates taking the field last year, what is perfectly plausible is that Trump was invited—maybe not even formally—to throw his hat in the ring. Be a Republican candidate. It would have been easy to tickle his vanity and get him to do it.
Because he’s a known berserker. We all know The Donald. He could stand up there and say things none of the others could and make them look like rational choices by comparison. Good cop bad cop. When you look at the row of right wing crazy that was running—people dedicated to deregulation, tax breaks for the wealthy, bigger military build-up, gutting healthcare reform, reinforcing corporate personhood, using immigrants as strawman threats against labor, natavism, anti-civil rights, security state wonks, anti-science pro-fundamentalist christian, nothing but a bucket of bad news for working class people—they needed, or thought they would benefit from, having someone who could draw attention away from all that by standing up there and being all the things Trump has been all along. The others would look civil, thoughtful, responsible. We would overlook their basic anti-egalitarianism and anti-intellectualism and, in some cases, their anti-humanitarianism, choose one of them, and clear the field for a fistfight they thought they could win with Hillary. Or Bernie.
It went pear shaped very quickly. They lost control of their candidate.
And the problem was they couldn’t really contradict him without making themselves vulnerable by their records, because Trump has not said a thing policy-wise that they had not all said, only in “nicer” terms. He didn’t contradict one policy plank. All he did was strip away the shiny so we could see the ugly underneath.
And they lost control. Is this possible?
It’s happened before. Back in the late Seventies the GOP courted the fundamentalist christian community, which till then had been traditionally apolitical. They went in, backed a guy named Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority, invited them into the tent to participate, made them promises about returning the country to a christian moral code (as defined by them, of course). It was a very cynical move because they clearly never intended to follow through on those promises. All they wanted was a kind of religious fifth column that would stir up the conservative base and get out the votes. It took longer, but they lost control of them. By the Nineties they had morphed into neocons and eventually gave birth to the Tea Party. That traditionally apolitical group got a taste for power politics and took matters into their own hands and look at the mess we have now. The Republican Party lost control.
And a lot of sane, responsible, decent Republicans lost elections or just left the field, unwilling to mix it up with the fanatics.
The GOP grew this faction from a bean and it has now lurched into the field flailing against anything that is not consistent with—
Well, that’s part of the problem. The Party apparatus itself knows that if it comes right out and says what the goals really are they could lose and lose bigtime. By actions if not words it has been clear for a long time they want an oligarchy. They don’t trust the average American, who may be too concerned with taking care of his or her family and might vote for things which will remove power from the privileged classes. You can argue if you want, but just follow the money—and the jobs—and the voting records of those who have enabled the decimation of the middle class and the empowerment of the corporate elite.
But now the Party apparatus has a bigger problem—the frightened mob they have nurtured since 1976 has turned into a mindless mass of terror-driven reactionaries, poorly educated, selfish, and aggressively anti-progressive. And they have lost control of that mob.
Which voted for the guy who was never supposed to get the nomination.
Now the rest of us have a problem. Trump is not only uncontrollable by the GOP, his supporters are beginning to sound like those fifth columnists the religious right was supposed to be. Except they aren’t talking about voting conscience—as far as I can tell, they don’t have one—but about taking up arms if Hillary wins.
And some of the GOP stalwarts are doubling down. McCain declaring that the Republicans will block all supreme court nominees made by Clinton is nothing but an attempt to appease that mob who seem to want no government rather than one they can’t understand.
They’re all complaining now that this isn’t what they intended, that they can’t support Trump, they never meant for this—
I’m reminded of the film Judgment At Nuremberg, in which Spencer Tracy plays a justice on the war crimes court, hearing the case of a German jurist, played by Burt Lancaster. At the end, Lancaster tells Tracy “We never meant for it to go so far.” To which Tracy responds, “Sir, it went that far the first time you sentenced an innocent man.” Or something to that effect. One could say to those now-chagrined and embarrassed GOP apparatchits claiming they never intended this: “It went this far the first time you placed party over country.”
We have a few weeks till the election. I don’t think there’s much else to say. We have a choice between progress and destruction. I believe that, no hyperbole intended. The destruction has been coming for a long time. Presidential election aside, we must expunge that mob of deplorables from the halls of power. Maybe Hillary had to apologize for that, but she was right. They are the worst aspects of our nature and—I’ll say it—too stupid to know how stupid they are. But that’s not their fault. They’ve been succored on the milk of ignorance by a cynical party machine that is now about to choke on its own poisons.
Vote. Vote congressional seats. Right now they’re as if not more important than who ends up in the oval office.
Listening to the debates, not between the candidates but among the potential voters, it becomes clear that for many the workings of our government are a thing of deep mystery and frustratingly obscure. Donald hammered on Hillary repeatedly that in 30 plus years in office she had an opportunity to “do something” about certain issues and she did nothing.
She was a senator and then she was secretary of state.
Neither position affords anyone the power to just “do something” about any damn thing they want.
While morality may not be relative, politics is entirely so. The problem is this: you have a hundred people in a room who have been given a problem to solve. There’s perhaps a right way to solve it, there are certainly wrong ways, and then there’s what each individual wants.
How do you simply “do something” in that situation?
Let’s compound it. Each of those hundred people is working with another set of probable conflicts. There is what he or she believes ought to be done, then there is what the people they represent want done, and then there is what she or he feels can be done. Each one brings this bag of writhing conflict to the room and the task is to work with the other ninety-nine, each of whom has the same set of problems, to find a solution to the problem.
This is the fundamental nature of representative democracy.
In a word, it is impossible. It is the human equivalent of asking the centipede how it manages to walk.
Add to this the frustration of the constituency, each individual and group of individuals has a different set of desires. They harangue their representatives to “do something” and get angry when nothing or, worse, the “wrong” thing gets done. Now yet another concern is heaped on top of all the others for the people in that room—keeping their job.
It’s amazing anything happens at all.
And despite what they may tell you, this happens in business, too. All those moving parts have to be coordinated and, often—because they’re attached to people—assuaged. So no, a Ross Perrot, a Mitt Romney, or a Donald Trump cannot magically step into this with their “business experience” and suddenly end the deadlocks and solve the problems. Their “experience” ought to tell them this. For one, they can’t actually fire the people they have to work with in congress.
If Trump’s accusations that Hillary “did nothing” when she had the chance have any resonance with voters it is because, I suspect, too many voters don’t understand the nature of the country in which we live. Hillary tried to explain that she worked on several of those things, but if she can’t get people—many of whom in the last several years have publicly committed themselves to blocking any proposal that comes out of either the Obama White House or the Democratic side of the aisle—to go along with her proposals, just what do people think she could do?
That she has accomplished what she has is a minor miracle.
I received civics in grade school. We had to sit through it. It was boring. It used to be what was called social studies, which later seemed to morph into some kind of social psychology joined to history tracks instead of a study of how government is organized. Probably it is taught in some schools still, but it seems not to be as a matter of course.
It’s why so many people are afraid a sitting president can take guns away from people or remove the Second Amendment. A president can’t do that. Just can’t.
But worse, it’s why so many people seem to not understand why their personal prejudice can’t be made law.
Frustration can be a driving force for a solution, though. It seems that public frustration with the intractability we’ve endured in our politics is reaching a zenith and we may be about to witness an historic turn-over.
Ever since Reagan named government as the biggest problem we have there has been a tumor growing in the belly of our civil systems. He was flat wrong. Perhaps he was speaking in metaphor—he was an actor, after all, psychodrama depends on metaphor—but if so he delivered it with a straight face that appealed to the impatience everyone feels from time to time at the squabble in that room. With the benefit of the doubt, I believe he would be appalled at the consequences of his rhetoric. We built the strongest nation in history through government, for good or ill, so just how much of a problem was it? Depends on where you stand when you ask that question.
Because politics is relative. Compromise is essential.
But I suspect a lot of people don’t actually know what compromise is. You can’t tear down the bridge and then blame the other guy for not crossing the divide.
It might be useful to remember that the work in question is never “done” but is an ongoing, daily struggle. Out of it we find a way. But you can’t circumvent the process just because you think you’re right. If you are, that will become evident over time.
We might want to remember that. Civics. The earlier the better.
My mother said something to me once that has informed much of my political thinking in the years since. Back when Ollie North was being held up as some kind of hero. “No one wants to tell the truth more than I do” North who worked diligently on Reagan’s behalf to deceive Congress and deliver weapons into the hands of people who used them on schools and clinics. It baffled me that people could find his actions not only defensible but somehow heroic and honorable. When I opined that in my opinion he should be court-martialed and shot for treason, they looked at me as if I’d just stepped out of flying saucer and didn’t understand. “He violated his oath as an officer.” He made an oath to defend the Constitution. What he did broke that oath.
A lot of people didn’t understand me. I certainly didn’t understand them. And then my mother pointed out, very simply, “Most people can’t be loyal to an idea, they can only be loyal to a person. Even very smart people.”
Meaning, Ollie was loyal to Reagan and anything else didn’t matter nearly as much. He didn’t have the capacity to see beyond that, to the importance of abstracts—or law.
I’m looking at the Bernie or Bust folks and wondering if some version of that isn’t at work. They have invested in a man and a movement. Interestingly, though the man has moved on—like an intelligent, well-informed human being who understands there is more at stake than his success or failure—many of his followers can’t. It would seem on the face of it that they have been captured by the inverse of my mother’s dictum and have pledged their loyalty to an idea rather than a person, but I don’t think so.
Because Sanders is still championing an idea, one they seem not to get. That the system must be allowed to work and that right now letting it do so in order to achieve the kind of results that will keep the country from further fragment and possibly see its dissolution it is time to act pragmatically and reasonably. That the problems we face today are from the system not working and for a very simple reason—people don’t vote. Sometimes they can’t and that needs to be addressed, but often they just won’t, for any number of reasons. (I remind people all the time that the Tea Party gained control of Congress based only on around 21 to 23% of the eligible voting public, because the people who might have kept them out stayed home.) That his revolution is one to make the system work as it should—not destroy it in order to erect a new one. And with that in mind, in another four years, you’ll all get another shot. Or eight. That’s the way it works. Bernie’s idea is not that the system has failed but that it has been ignored and poorly used—and we let it happen. But endangering that system right now by abetting the election of a walking clusterfuck could do far more harm, possibly permanent damage that might see that opportunity to bring this to the stage again die.
The other side of the coin is the sheer hatred of Hillary Clinton. So it would seem that the obstinate, short-term loyalty being shown is still about a person.
A person who is being abstracted out of reality and turned into a symbol while the walking talking breathing man is in the process of being relegated to the bin of Also Ran and treated like an aging uncle who has apparently lost touch with what’s important.
You want the revolution to work, go home and start electing city council members, state senators, mayors. Start with county commissioners, sheriffs, D.A.s, circuit attorneys, and local judges. We have become addicted to the notion that for something like this to work it must be top down, even as we’ve been complaining that top down (trickledown) policies are anti-democratic and elitist. Bernie started something. It can be brought to fruition through the hard, unglamorous work of electing local representatives and building it from the ground up.
But not if you break the system by facilitating the election of Judge Dredd.
In the meantime, pay attention. History has just been made. I know, I know, you don’t trust Hillary. Has it occurred to you that much of your distrust is a result of lies fed you by the very people you are presumably trying to work against by championing Bernie’s revolution?
That aside, frankly, you don’t have to trust Hillary. She will be, as all presidents are, an employee. A public employee. And you have the power to regulate her job performance through your representative in Congress—if you get out there and elect the ones you wanted. She will still have to work with Congress, you know, and when the system works as it can—and as it should—she can only do what she is allowed to do by virtue of that system.
In the meantime, an Idea has been made real. A woman is a viable candidate for president. This is a symbolic moment and in all honesty Hillary was going to be that candidate because to date she’s the only one who has been able to marshal the necessary forces to make it real. The next one will be easier, but there has to be a first, and Jill Stein was never going to be her.
You’ve got four or eight years to build the foundation for the next candidate, but that won’t happen if you go home in a petulant snit and piss and moan about how you were betrayed and then cast a protest vote that gets Sauron elected. Classic cutting your head off to spite your neck.
So I ask you, what is it you think Hillary might do that would be so bad it would justify the stupidity of assisting Trump into office?
A rhetorical question. It is just possible she’s not the terror you’ve been led to believe she is.
All the rest is politics.
Dear Mr. Greitens,
This morning, at the gym, I got on the treadmill, switched on the tv monitor, plugged in my headphones, just in time to catch one your campaign ads. It prompted me to write, to ask a couple of questions. Clarification seems in order.
Several years ago you founded the Mission Continues as a community activist agency and I was very impressed. I thought, this guy has a lot going, and when rumors began to circulate that you might run for governor, I thought here’s a Republican I could vote for. I know there are Republicans worth my vote, they just seem overwhelmed by those who aren’t. You, I thought at the time, were an exception.
Then I saw your ad.
Not the first one, the one you pulled, on the shooting range. An ill-conceived mistake, taken away. Not a message appropriate to the people served by Mission Continues. No, not that one. The one in which you are looking at the camera, dark background, and earnestly telling us your positions.
I was very disappointed.
You preface your claim to be “Pro-life, pro-gun” but declaring your belief that Obama is the worst president ever. Or at least in your lifetime. Granted that you’re only 42, which means your first opportunity to vote for a president would have been Bill Clinton, so as an active participant you don’t have much to choose from—three presidents. But as someone aspiring to office I would expect you to have a better grasp of history than such a statement shows.
Worst president ever? By what metric?
I hear that from people who hate Obama. I look at them and while I can understand the emotionalism I cannot understand on what basis they make that claim. Granted, most of them are not running for office. They have not seen much of the world. They do not have the experiences you have. Most of them do not have a degree from Oxford nor have had your first-class education from Parkway to UMSL. History is a foreign language to most Americans, but I expect people who aspire to high office to know better.
I have yet to hear one thing that merits such an assessment about Obama.
Now, there are many things you might have said which would not have sparked my reaction. Had you said you think he is a middling or even mediocre president, I might quibble, but fair enough. It’s a complex office, context matters, and mileage varies. I might disagree (I do) but I can respect an assessment like that. It indicates a degree of thought went into it. However, a blanket “worst ever” is nothing but political bombast irrespective of reality.
It is not what I expected from you.
So I repeat: by what metric? Because based on the metrics Republicans usually use to claim success for their own, Obama is a raging success.
Therein lies the problem. If I thought Republicans were critical of the situation that boasts an unemployment rate that disregards those chronically unemployed who simply have fallen off the roles, then I might listen. If I thought Republicans were critical of trade deals that injured American job prospects even though the stock market shows the economy booming, I might listen. We could go on, but you see my point. The fact is, Republicans—at least those in office—are not critical of those things and if under the same circumstances one of them were in the White House with these numbers, they would be hailing that president as the second coming of Lincoln. So it has nothing to do with what Obama has done. By their own metrics, he should be lauded.
But he’s the wrong man for that, isn’t he? For a number of reasons.
That kind of cheap denigration should be beneath you.
I repeat, by what metric? Explain to me what he has done that has been so terrible that you would take the opportunity to craft an ad for your campaign that leads with that cheap shot?
And then I have to ask, compared to who?
Because if we’re going to dig into the box of history, we can come up with several far worse, including but not limited to Obama’s predecessor.
Memories are short. Politicians rely on that. People forget.
But let me move on. Your next claim. “Pro-life, Pro-gun.” Do you have any idea how that sounds to reasonable people? It is oxymoronic, a logical inconsistency. You are pro-life in support of the personal means to take life.
I know that’s not what you meant, not exactly. You’re playing to an audience. People who don’t like abortion and think someone is about to take their guns away, which they need to protect themselves from people hundreds if not thousands of miles away. Because in spite of what we see on television and on Facebook and hear from the pulpits of jingoistic opportunists, crime is on a downturn in this country. Things have gotten better over the last few decades. So feeding the myth that everyone needs their firearm because the crazed bad guys are coming through their doors any minute is just irresponsible nonsense. This is the politics of fear and completely inconsistent with the Greitens of Mission Continues.
As for the pro-life part, that is pure emotionalism wrapped up in a bundle of distracting falsehood. You want to cut back abortions, then you do something to provide women with the means to manage their own fertility. Birth control, sex education, and empowerment. We have the proof that these are things that work. It is not guesswork, not wishful thinking. Make birth control available, provide for comprehensive sex education at an early age, stop shaming people for their private lives, unwanted pregnancy goes down.
Defunding Planned Parenthood is the exact opposite of policies that work.
This is not opinion. We have seen it work. More, we have seen the abysmal, tragic failure of so-called Abstinence Only education.
Nothing in your c.v. to date would have suggested to me that taking a principled stand based on fact and reality would bother you. Was I wrong?
As to the gun stuff. Please. Reasonable measures to keep weapons from easy access to people who clearly should not have them would not, in any sane world, constitute an infringement on anyone’s rights.
But a lot of people are having their rights infringed by the thoughtless support of public policies that see birth control as somehow worse than murder or suicide.
So what happened? Did someone talk to you and explain that if you wanted to be governor you would have to toe the party line? Did someone point out that if you took reasonable stands on these things, the party would not back you? Did someone show you how all this requires money and those who have it don’t like politicians who think for themselves? Was there such a conversation?
Because I am very disappointed. The GOP has been pushing the same set of policies now since Reagan inaugurated the age of fear-based religious-driven right-wing powermongering and we have seen, repeatedly, how they do not work. Every time the GOP gets its hands on enough power and authority, the average person suffers. Wages go down because of the anti-union assaults. Teen pregnancy goes up because money dries up for education and clinics. Jobs vanish because deals are brokered with WalMarts and their ilk. Tax revenues disappear and infrastructure decays.
Oh, sure, these things happen under Democrats, too. But we just see them as bad at their jobs and eventually vote them out. Republicans seem to have embraced this stuff as if it had been handed down on tablets from the mountain.
Even as strategy, this makes no sense. You are appealing to a shrinking demographic. A frightened, shrinking demographic that responds to the charge that our president is the worst ever based on nothing but confirmation bias.
It’s a cheap strategy. I would have thought you above that kind of thing.
I guess not.
Part of me—a large part—sees this as a no-brainer. Who, with any claim to sense or logic, would vote for Donald Trump?
But voting is as much, often more, emotional than rational, so one cannot depend on that for preferred outcomes. A lot of people are emotionally committed to Trump. Their reasons are, from what I have seen and heard, based on nothing tangible about Trump. It is all about their own discontent with things-as-they-are.
The problem is—for all of us—that such assessments are based on what we see. And a lot of what we see is scary. It is extremely difficult to take comfort from logical conclusions based on impersonal data when we are deluged with images of pain, death, and imminent catastrophe. Humans are visually-oriented. We panic. If someone with presumed credibility and/or authority goes “Boo!” there is a small, slippery, worm-like core of our inner Id that vibrates in terror and drives our emotional responses.
Trump has been saying “Boo!” very well and he is aided by the news cycle that thrives on ratings bumps from mass shootings, political insanity, scandal, and predictions of collapse from around the world. Saying to yourself, “Now, calm down, this is not a true picture,” is very difficult in the face of events like the Dallas shootings, predictions of lost jobs, the Munich massacre, the continuing struggle in the Middle East.
Even though what we see is based on reality, the conclusions to be drawn are difficult with the lack of detail and the conflicting arguments over what these things mean.
“Why don’t our leaders do something!”
It does little to mollify that worm to be told “They are, they are, you just don’t see everything that’s going on.”
And of course sometimes they aren’t, at least not what we think they should be doing.
Because it is all those unseen machinations which you know are going on that serve to undermine your faith. Because we have been told for decades now that those “back room” goings-on are to our detriment. Powerful people doing things out of sight of the public for their own ends. Nothing good can come of it.
Well, I am prey to the same misgivings. I won’t lie. When it seems so obvious what The Problem is, the demand to know why nothing seems to be happening to solve it is perfectly reasonable. Patience frays. And you know—you know—deals are being done of which you would not approve. And clearly not all those deals work the way the people who made them intended. That only stands to reason.
So you have to ask, “What were they thinking?”
NAFTA is held up as one of the great deals that backfired. What were they thinking?
Well, I don’t think many of them did it with the intent to undermine the American labor force and cost us jobs. Some did, the CEOs and business industry moguls who stood to profit, I’m sure they were looking at the way their expenditures would evolve in that new environment, but even among them I doubt it was with the kind of cynicism one might find in a Darth Vader. They, like most of us, are as susceptible to myth as you or I. They probably “believed” what losses occurred in one sector would be made up for in another. The great American job creation machinery would fill the gap. As well, the immigration problem drove some of that, and we all know that the major driving force in most of that immigration had to do with the lopsided economies of Mexico and the United States. All those people were coming here because at home they could not find work and what work they could find did not pay enough. NAFTA might have brought the economy of Mexico up to as viable level to provide jobs at home and thus curtail the flow of illegal immigration.
I don’t think anyone expected the drug war to reach the heights it did.
But even without that, the machine logic of cost-benefit analysis ultimately swept away any “higher purpose” behind NAFTA and it became what it is, a horrible construct that has gutted a lot of American industry. To my mind, the crime was not that it failed but that in the face of that failure it wasn’t scrapped.
That almost never happens, though. Does it? We put these huge and complex things into place and, oh my, they don’t work the way we thought they would. But do we ever go back and say, “Enough, shut it down, this won’t work.” Rarely. Very rarely. Because of their complexity, because of the ancillary deals made to put them in place to begin with, because of the evolving dependencies they create, they become Rube-Goldberg structures impossible to undo without bringing destruction down upon even more people. So they have to be modified, amended, something over here has to change before we change this thing over there, otherwise…
Whether we like it or not—and for the most part we don’t—this is how the world works. It is all a huge, complicated Rube-Goldberg Thing that works inefficiently but is kept in place because otherwise chaos follows.
Trump is telling people he can tear it all down and we can start over—without killing anyone.
Or at least without killing anyone here. On some days he talks blithely about bombing the shit out of people who are not here.
Either way, he is telling people that huge, vast machine can be removed and things will get better.
It is flat out untrue.
Those mechanisms have evolved over time to do one basic thing—prevent chaos.
Granted, chaos happens anyway. Here and there, now and then, in relatively small pockets and doses. Because the mechanism changes—on its own or by intent—and that is one of the consequences.
Ronald Reagan gutted our national healthcare system which provided succor to the mentally ill. The consequence of that single act was to shut down facilities that had been caring for those suffering a variety of mental illnesses. They ended up on the street. We have the homeless problem today as a direct result. People died. He broke a system and probably, naively, expected the slack to be taken up by private institutions, and instead people died. Did he intend that? Certainly not. But he believed in certain myths and falsehoods and acted without regard to realities. He thought he was doing something correct, if not necessarily good.
So when Trump promises to undo, repeal, destroy, etc in order to make the impatient and the poorly-informed and the uncomfortable vote for him, he is lying about it being a good thing. People will die. Chaos will follow.
He’s lying willfully, because he understands “deals.” He knows about unintended consequences and he knows the pernicious tenacity of such constructs. He knows very well that if he does half of what he’s promised you and I will be in a world of hurt.*
Which brings me to Hillary.
I’ve been listening for years as people on the Right—and even in her own party—have vilified her. No doubt, some of the complaints have bases in fact. She is a technocrat. She understands those Rube-Goldberg systems of which I spoke. And for better or worse, she seems to understand that they must be managed. Destroying them leads down rabbit holes from which escape may be problematic at best. So she has spent her career engaged in the unglamorous, often unexamined job of maintaining systems which many regard as horrible. Here and there, from time to time, change can be worked on them, but never quickly, never in sweeping gestures, and rarely in terms that are easily explicable to those determined to not understand.
This is one of the reasons we see president-elects, almost always, change at least the priorities of their promised policies upon taking office. The difference between desire and the achievable, between the ideal and the possible. Sometimes that difference is not so great that the perceived “abandonment” of principle is very obvious. Sometimes it is. But it is, I believe, the responsible acceptance of the realities that creates the discontent for a president who seems to back off from campaign promises. You cannot just displace or destroy what you don’t like—unless you’re willing to see people die. Change has to come slowly.
It is the logic of our interconnectedness.
I believe Hillary Clinton understands this. Probably better than most. During the primary season, comparisons showed consistently that she and Sanders were mere degrees apart in terms of policy. Bernie was, in his own way, promising what Trump is promising—tear it all down and put up something that “works.” Hillary is more cautious.
I’m not going to rehearse her presumed “crimes” here. As I’ve said before, anyone who has moved in the circles she has for as long as she has will have made deals and done things that can easily be construed as criminal, depending on how they’re spun. The fact remains that the Republicans have spent millions and millions to find something that would put her out of the running if not in jail and have flat out failed. Hillary’s reputation as untrustworthy is perfectly understandable, because we go to that simplistic metric at all levels—the guy arrested and jailed, despite the Constitution, is always presumed guilty, otherwise why would he have been arrested and accused? Whether we like it or not, that’s just where we go. Hillary has been accused and accused and accused and found not guilty so many times that now, even if she did do something wrong, likely the accusation would have no greater force than all the false ones. But it has backfired by proving her to be one of the more honest candidates. Of course, those who already don’t like her won’t ever believe that.
Her choice of vice presidential running mate has caused further consternation among those who want to see sweeping reform. The desire was for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. Two thoughts on that. One, I have almost never seen a presidential ticket—at least, not a successful one—with two firebrands on the same ballot. A president doesn’t need a co-president, and frankly I would like to see a return to the days before Cheney in terms of the personality of VPs. Elizabeth Warren or Sanders both would be constant critics and because of their reputations and status it would be impossible for them not be in the limelight. Someone like Kaine is a smart choice.
But the other thing about both of them is their power in the Senate. I want them both there. We need a congressional overhaul and you don’t make positive change by sidelining your best people. I would have been disappointed had Hillary picked either of them. It would not have bode well for the Senate in the long run and would have gained Hillary only short term benefit. As I said, she understands how these systems work and this was a clear demonstration of that savvy.
To all the Bernie fans who claim they won’t vote for her. Don’t shoot the rest of us in the foot. Bernie needs to be in the Senate where he can be both effective critic and strong ally for a president who will be inclined to work with him. Refusal to support Hillary this time around is petulance on par with Trump’s die-hard acolytes. Think long term. The system needs change, but you don’t do that by wrecking it first. I know you don’t like Hillary, but so what? It may well be that she’s your best hope of getting some of what you want—and what we need—done. Saddle her with the same GOP congress, minus either Warren or Sanders, and that likelihood goes down. View Sanders and Warren as the anchors of a new congress, we could see some good stuff happen.
My two bits, adjusted for inflation.
*The Gold Standard for the idea that sweeping change can happen is FDR. And yes, he did a LOT. But consider—the system was already cracked and dysfunctional and nearly broken, globally, when he did that. And then WWII happened. The situation provided the opportunity by itself scrapping huge parts of that apparatus. His job was less changing the mechanism as it was creating new machinery to do the job no longer being done. We do not have that situation now and we had better hoe we don’t see such a situation. 2008 was bad but things still functioned. As bad as it was it was still not historically on par with the Great Depression.