The longer I spend talking to people about the upcoming presidential elections, the more I’m convinced that Mencken was right: The American people know what they want, and deserve to get it — good and hard.
This has got to be the most passion I’ve ever seen over an election. The trouble is, the passion at hand is largely hate. I’ve read the most horrible things about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, but that’s not all that surprising given that each is one of the most detested politicians in modern history. I’ve even seen Jill Stein and Gary Johnson denigrated in several stories, which is more press than third-party candidates normally see in an entire election cycle.
The thing that really irks me about all this isn’t the ire, the insults, the horrible lies that are being told about the candidates. It’s the inanity. I mean, I expect mudslinging, but some of the things being said here are just plain dumb. What’s worse is, people are buying it — YOU are buying it!
So, since I’ve got no readership to speak of (hence nothing to lose), I think it’s time to stand up for common sense for a moment. After all, nobody else seems to.
While the Green Party’s candidate has failed to make the ballot in several of the fifty states, she is nonetheless quite likely to draw a moderate percentage of the popular vote. In response to her surging popularity during the Democratic Party’s convention, several prominent editors wrote scathing stories about her unfitness for candidacy.
The accusations are all fairly similar: that she’s anti-vaccine, embraces pseudoscience, and doesn’t understand her own proposals, confusing tax methods with government bailouts. In addition, she’s accused of pandering to the neopopulist movement in a bid to woo disaffected Bernie Sanders supporters away from the Democratic Party this election, pledging support for positions that she doesn’t really believe in.
It didn’t take long for me to find the truth about some of these things. She’s not a raving anti-vaxxer, for example; instead, she goes out of her way to explain what she sees as problems in the present system and present some reasonable objections and suggestions for improvement. One of her main points is that the FDA’s decisions are often influenced or actually made by corporate shills and lobbyists — disturbing if true, and the way she states it her point seems quite plausible.
I’m not going to go into all the details of every charge levied against her, but it’s worth spending time on two more points.
First, I’m convinced she doesn’t understand economics. I’m also convinced that most professors holding doctorates in economics don’t understand economics terribly well, since they’re legendary for disagreeing on almost everything. Certainly, very few politicians have any expertise in the subject. Confusing the present tax code with a plan to give money to corporations in exchange for them fleecing the public? I’m not entirely sure that’s not actually happening, to be honest.
Second, I’m convinced she is pandering to the neoprogressives. Any self-respecting politician to the left of Rush Limbaugh is also pandering to them. There’s a vast bloc of votes available, Bernie followers who disapprove of their party’s choice, and it would be the acme of incompetence to fail to pursue them.
I’m not a supporter of Jill Stein or her policies, and I wouldn’t vote Green given the choice, but as far as I can tell she’s not the raving madwoman she’s made out to be and she’s no more unprincipled than any other politician.
I’m not going into a lot of detail here, partly because I happen to like Johnson but mainly because people aren’t accusing him of much that’s worth talking about. I like his running mate Bill Weld even more than I like Johnson. They’re decent people, and they seem to be running a positive campaign on the issues rather than on personalities.
Which is probably a good thing. Johnson’s a nice guy, but he lacks stage presence. He’s not terribly charismatic, and is often overshadowed on stage by his running mate. And, not to put too fine a point on it, he’s a bit of a goof. All of which is fine by me; we’ve had decades of charismatic people in the office, and I’m anxious to try competence for a change.
It’s been argued that Johnson and Weld aren’t true Libertarians. It’s difficult to dispute this; much like Stein, they tend to embrace populist views on hot-button issues, and in many cases this leads them away from the Libertarian core platform. Still, as I’ve said, I’d find it hard to condemn any politician for doing that.
The one serious charge against Johnson is that, as a businessman in the area of marijuana medical sales and research, he’s got a conflict of interest with his position on legalization. This is, of course, rank foolishness; he was briefly CEO of a corporation which aimed to develop such a market, but his beliefs predated his hiring, and of course as a full-time candidate he’s no longer on the payroll. (They’ve got a senator instead.)
My main beef with the man, however, is that he can’t tell a lie. For a politician, that’s a serious handicap. One of his maxims is, “If you don’t lie, you don’t have to remember anything.” And he repeats this, almost as though honesty and integrity were useful traits in politics.
So very many horrible things have been said about this person since she entered the public sphere that it’s impossible to address them all. She’s commonly supposed to be complicit in financial wrongdoing, real estate and commodities fraud, coverups, and even murder for political ends. She’s also frequently accused of unethically stacking the deck in the Democratic Primary this year.
I’d like to take a moment to point out that most of the things she’s accused of are farfetched even for internet paranoiacs. For example: Yes, a large number of people she knows and has worked with are dead, several under suspicious circumstances. On the other hand, politicians tend to know many times the number of people that the average schmuck on the street is acquainted with; plus, she’s sixty-eight. A substantial percentage of the people she’s met in her lifetime are dead. It’s not surprising; it’s not even suspicious.
The Clinton Foundation is another target for internet whack-jobs, and, to be fair, she’s probably misused it. Foundation staff assisted her when she was Secretary of State; this, however, was at a time when President Obama had established a hiring freeze in the Executive Branch just before appointing her. So, in a very real sense, she simply cut some red tape in order to perform her essential job effectively — and in a manner not outside the purview of her role in the Foundation. What’s more, her actions have been scrutinized and yet she’s faced no prosecution, this despite a vast number of Republican prosecutors who salivate at the thought of indicting her. If there’s anything that says she hasn’t broken the law, that’s it.
And this is the most telling point: If indeed she is crooked, bent, corrupt — she’s very very good at it. If she accepts or offers bribes, for example, she does so in such a competent manner that no actionable evidence remains. Frankly, given the history of the Presidency, this suggests that she would be excellent at the job.
The main argument against her that has teeth is that of unfairly winning the Democratic nomination over Bernie Sanders. Several suits alleging voter fraud are ongoing, and the recent scandal involving DNC staff emails and chairman Wassermann Schultz all lend credence to this. However, it should be noted that fairness is not now nor ever has been the hallmark of politics in this country. Moreover, as no criminal charges are being filed despite the revelations, it seems evident that, even if she did steal the nomination, she did so according to the rules. This makes her not a criminal but instead an exceptionally skilled player of the political game.
Republicans seem to chase all this, when in truth all they need do in order to appeal to their base is to talk about her positions: She favors restricting gun rights, promotes free access to abortions, and in short is the very model of a “tax and spend liberal Democrat”, albeit with centrist economic and foreign policy. It’s hard to imagine anyone less likely to appeal to Republican sensibilities (and yet she’s gotten endorsements — talk about political skill!)
Oh, where to begin?
If the tale of accusations against Hillary Clinton is long and insane, how much more so that against Trump? The big difference is that there’s not much here that he doesn’t embrace.
Trump is an obnoxious loudmouth. He calls it being open and honest and forthright, but let’s face it: He makes Archie Bunker seem quiet and unassuming, even a bit shy. On the other hand, the worst thing that can be said about this is that he’s an arrogant, opinionated Narcissist, and what politician isn’t? (Aside from Gary Johnson, of course, who gets accused of being a shrinking violet. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.)
He’s been accused of being a racist, a bigot, sexist, an elitist — and with some justification; his public statements tend to encourage such sentiments. And yet there’s a fair amount of evidence supporting the contention that the opposite is in fact true. More to the point, he’s hardly the first to suggest building a big wall on the Mexican border. Former presidents have banned Muslim immigrants, just as he suggested. And, as far as I can tell, his business decisions were mostly motivated by acumen rather than any personal feeling on race or gender one way or the other — which, to be candid, is all anyone can reasonably expect from a businessman. After all, discrimination based on anything that isn’t germane is bad business.
Trump is a showman, a consummate performer. He’s excellent at generating free press, and he’s extremely talented at appealing to public opinion. It’s quite safe to say that very little has gone on in his campaign that wasn’t deliberately orchestrated. As such, probably the worst that can truthfully be said of the man is that he’s willing to say or do almost anything to get a vote — which for a politician, again, is merely saying that he’s competent.
This is not to say that the man isn’t odious, even intolerable. We wouldn’t elect Archie Bunker, Homer Simpson, or Peter Griffin; Donald Trump is smarter than any of these fictional characters, but he’s at least as offensive. But the anti-Trump stories I’ve chased, whether racism in his Florida country club, failing to put his hand over his heart for the national anthem, or giving away Play Doh to flood victims — all of them are fabrications, deliberately aimed at discrediting the man.
Which is too bad in a way, because there’s plenty of legitimate reasons to dislike him, if only his detractors would just stick to his personality.
Look, people: They’re politicians. Do you honestly expect them to be good people? Do you really want people who tell the truth but are never offensive, who play the game by the rules, who never deviate from principle, who never bend on the issues?
Show me such a paragon of virtue and I’ll show you someone who is not merely unelectable but also unable to fulfill the duties of the office of President of the United States.
What we need is someone who’s reasonable, a skilled negotiator who won’t stick on principle but instead will work to get the job done. We need someone who will work to bring all of Congress together on the issues, who will oppose division in Washington while maintaining a solid and intelligent approach to governing.
Honestly, I believe each of the four candidates could manage that. I’ve got my preference (Johnson), and I’ve got my objections to each of them — but let’s face it: Certainly, none is as bad as they’re made out to be.
Hell, Adolf Hitler wasn’t as bad as these folks are made out to be, and he was a paranoid mass-murdering warmongerer.
NOTE: Some of the foregoing was intended to be humor. If you didn’t notice, you’re probably taking internet posts a bit too seriously. Turn off the electronic device and go talk to a real human being — if in fact you know any.