Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Hillary’s convention speech II; and more Trumpery

July 30, 2016

imagesWell, Hillary did use some of the draft I wrote for her (see previous post). But mainly she insisted on giving the Standard Model Democratic Speech – covering every policy, every voter niche, stroking every interest group.

It was a speech for the ‘90s.

images-1Not only is Hillary running as a Democrat, she’s running as a Bernie Sanders Democrat (though Bernie always called himself not a Democrat but a socialist). Yet if Clinton is running as a Sanders Democrat, you wouldn’t know it from listening to the Bernie-or-busters. While her stances are practically a carbon copy of his, they still talk as though it’s a saint versus a Satan. As Sarah Silverman told them, they’re being ridiculous. Of course, their candidate always was.

UnknownHillary (like Andrew Cuomo) seems to think orating means talking loud. As though that shows your speech is really important and you really really mean it. Hillary often sounds as shrill as a harpy. And often looks like smiling is painful for her. Trump spent his entire speech scowling darkly, as though he could spit bullets. Why did Hillary try to imitate that?

Meantime, Trump has endorsed – encouraged – the idea of an enemy nation engaging in espionage against us and interfering in U.S. politics. This is the man who says only he can protect us.

But he also says he won’t necessarily protect other nations against an attack by that enemy, notwithstanding our treaty obligations to do so.

images-2And when asked about America’s opposition to Russia’s grab of Crimea, Trump said, “We’ll be looking at that.” Which is Trump-speak for “I don’t know what the frick to say, but that doesn’t stop me from saying something stupid.” His answer has been interpreted as bowing to the Crimea crime. But I doubt he meant that – rather, his answer revealed he knows nothing about Crimea, doesn’t know where it is, or why it’s an issue.

When a man thinks he knows everything, he thinks he needn’t bother himself actually knowing anything.

(I’m voting for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate.)

Hillary’s convention speech – draft

July 28, 2016

To: HRC

From: FSR

Re: Tonight’s speech

You didn’t use my last speech draft – but I’ll bet you now wish you had. So here’s what I think you should say tonight:

imagesMy fellow Democrats – my fellow Americans –

First, a salute to my honorable opponent, Bernie Sanders, and all his supporters whose great enthusiasm has been inspirational, and good for our democracy.

OK, enough of that.

Now, I want to tell you what this speech will not be about. I could go on and on about all sorts of programs, day care, pre-K, health care, family leave, minimum wage, trade, college debt, tax credits for this and that . . . Those kinds of policy things are important, and in the campaign to come, we’ll be talking about them. But tonight I want to talk about the bigger picture – the country we love, where it stands, and where it’s going.

images-1However, the Republicans, at their convention, spent a lot of time talking about me, saying some pretty horrible things. Well, let me tell you something. I am an imperfect person. I am human. Like most people, I have made mistakes. I try to learn from them and do better. But at least I never created a phony so-called “university” whose real aim was to cheat people out of their hard-earned savings. At least I never abused the bankruptcy laws over and over to cause financial ruin for investors who believed in me. I never refused, over and over, to pay contractors and others who worked for me, causing them too financial ruin. I never insisted I saw people in New Jersey celebrating 9/11. I never expressed admiration for bad guys like Putin and Saddam Hussein.

How can anyone with self-respect even consider voting for such a creep?

OK, enough of that.

Now, the horrible things Mr. Trump says about me — I can take it. But what I cannot take is the horrible things he’s said about the country I love so dearly. And that’s what this campaign is about – not about me, not about Mr. Trump, but about this wonderful nation and its future.

He made it sound like the country is in terrible shape, going to the dogs, falling to pieces, and if we don’t make him president, we’ll have nothing left. He actually said this.

Well, look. We do have problems. We do have challenges. Heaven knows that’s true. Some of the things the Republicans talked about – a few, at least – really are problems. We do need to make some changes, and do better. Business as usual cannot continue. That’s why I’m running for president.

UnknownBut telling us America is totally on the skids is just ridiculous. And here’s why: it’s why America is indeed such a wonderful nation. Because it’s a nation full of wonderful people: optimistic, positive-thinking people, people with can-do spirit, brimming with energy and ideas. A nation of good people, generous people. Who have always risen to our challenges, always met them, and always made the nation even better than ever.

And we are better than ever. Is everything better today? Of course not. Life never works that way. But more things are better than are worse. Crime and violence, for example, are way down. Our standard of living today is the highest that human beings have ever experienced anywhere on Earth. Nobody on Earth has more freedom than we do – freedom to do what we like, live how we like, say what we like. Today’s America is the most open society the world has ever known. In all these ways we continue to make progress.

With such a great nation of wonderful people, must we really elect a slimeball like Donald Trump in order to tackle our problems? His speech was an insult to America, and an insult to intelligence.

It placed great emphasis on violence and terrorism. Nobody should be blasé about those things. But ask yourself: when was the last time you personally actually experienced violence, by a stranger? Is that the biggest problem confronting you in your life? I don’t think so. Yes, radical Islamist terrorism is a problem we have to deal with, forcefully and comprehensively. But for God’s sake, get a grip. This is not our biggest problem and not something we can’t handle.

Unknown-1We’ve handled a lot worse. In 1814, Washington was occupied by enemy troops who burned down the White House! We had a civil war in which 600,000 Americans were killed! And a Great Depression where a quarter of our people were unemployed! Not to mention a world war or two! And you know what? Not only did we get through all that, we came out an even better, greater nation than ever.

So now two nut-jobs in San Bernardino kill fourteen people, and Donald Trump says America is going down? Seriously? Compared to all the past things I mentioned?

America dealt with them. America will deal with radical Islamic terrorism. Calmly, rationally, but energetically.

That is the America I love so dearly, and the America of which I am so proud to be a citizen. Unknown-2Why do you think so many people, all over the world, are so powerfully motivated to get to this country? Surely if America were really the dark, doomed nation that Donald Trump portrayed, people would not be struggling so hard to get here. They know what a wonderful country this is – with a wonderful future. How sad if some Americans can’t see what they see.

They see an America that is great. I do too. Not an America that somehow needs to be made “great again.”

God bless America.

The Angry Party national convention

July 19, 2016

imagesThis is my 14th GOP convention. Past ones often reminded me why I’m a Republican. Last night made me wonder if I still am.

The repression toward the “Never Trump” delegates is frightening; echoing what’s happening in Turkey right now. All semblance that this is an exercise in democracy is gone. At past conventions, the names of losing candidates were placed in nomination, and cheered. That won’t happen in Istanbul, er, I mean Cleveland. With the party more divided than ever, it’s overcompensating by making itself a monolith of enforced Trump obeisance. This display of authoritarianism is a scary foretaste of what a Trump presidency would be.

The convention’s emotional tone is also frightening: all anger, resentment, and fear. UnknownThe pain of the Benghazi victim’s mother is understandable, but was perverted into a sorry spectacle of vicious accusations and insults. General Michael Flynn’s eyes looked like blowtorches that would burn through steel.

America has problems; overall, I disapprove of Obama’s record; I loathe Hillary. images-1But the convention’s over-the-top rhetoric not only didn’t reinforce my Republicanism, I found myself reacting as though I might have been a left-wing Democrat. My head is spinning.

These Republicans have whipped themselves into such a frenzy of Hillary-hatred that all objectivity is lost – especially toward their own, ahem, flawed candidate. Whose faults of character, honesty, ethics, sense, and all other qualities desirable in a president, are mountains that make hers look like molehills. Not to mention his spitting on principles long dear to Republicans. Again the comparison to Turks whose hero-worship of Erdogan blinds them to his being a monster leading them to perdition.

Unknown-1Walter Isaacson’s book on Steve Jobs spoke of his “reality distortion field.” The GOP is in one too. I was gobsmacked by Giuliani mocking Obama’s 2004 speech about there being no white nor black America, but one country. As if Trump is the emollient figure to heal all our divisions. What planet are these people living on?

Yes, America has real problems, but I actually didn’t hear any of them addressed last night. Instead, I saw a crazed fixation on terrorism. Fact: America’s own gun culture kills a thousand times more of us than terrorism. But of course Republicans are ga-ga for guns.

Meantime, I heard not a word about our dire fiscal outlook, on a path toward widening and ultimately ruinous deficits; about obstacles faced by American businesses, especially the small ones so crucial to our economy; about diminished opportunities for less educated Americans. In fairness, last night’s theme was security; tonight’s will be the economy. But don’t bet on any serious discussion. In fact Trump, the business genius, has laid out plans to make our economic problems much worse, with deficits even bigger (by far) and insane trade policies that will screw U.S. consumers while making the whole world (including us) less prosperous.

Unknown-3Americans have always been fundamentally optimistic, positive-thinking people. That’s one of our great national strengths. And conventional wisdom in politics has always said Americans favor positive, upbeat messages over negative, bitter ones (think Reagan vs. Carter and Mondale). The Trump campaign is betting otherwise. They think this is the year of anger.

Yet is America really in such bad shape? The economy is growing, unemployment is relatively low, median wages are rising, the stock market reaches new highs. The great majority enjoys a living standard better than ever, especially considering all the boons of modern technology. Race relations are hugely better than in most of our history. Crime is way down. (And your chances of being a terrorist victim are something like one in a million.)

images-3Time to march with pitchforks and torches? Hardly. I’m angry about some things myself — but not so blinded by anger as to commit the cosmic blunder of handing the presidency to the vilest creep American politics ever vomited up. (What I’m most angry about is Trump.)

Unknown-2Some say Trumpery is a passing madness, and after he loses (big, I hope), the GOP will take some Xanax and recover its senses. I don’t think so. Trumpy voters won’t repent. There’s no reason why what happened in the 2016 primaries won’t be repeated in 2020. Nearly all elected Republicans have drunk the Kool-Aid. Sadly, Doctor Frank says this illness is fatal.

361224938926_1I’ll conclude by paraphrasing Henry Clay, after another national convention: I am a Republican still – very still. And I will vote for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee.

Evaluating Obama’s presidency

July 13, 2016

UnknownPresident Obama’s approval ratings have risen as his tenure nears an end. That’s a typical pattern. And there may be anticipatory Obama-nostalgia, given his potential successors. And some always considered him the most wonderful president since FDR, or Lincoln, or Jesus.

I give him points for intellect, integrity, eloquence, and demeanor. In such respects he’s actually a model president, so the admiration is understandable. Alas however, he’s failed in three crucial respects.

images-1First, he promised a new post-partisan politics. But it was all talk and no walk. Obama’s intellect here disserved him, by making him arrogantly contemptuous toward lesser mortals with different views. It started even before he took office. There was never an effort to meet the other side half way, or even a tenth. Instead he was all about demonizing them, imagining he need only point out their errors, and they would just capitulate, or be punished by an enlightened electorate.

It doesn’t work like that. Opponents usually have reasons for their stances. And please don’t quote Mitch McConnell about making Obama a one-term president. For a political party, winning the next election is its raison d’etre, entirely legitimate. And while Republicans did refuse cooperation with Obama, that was only after he’d established a modus operandi of disregarding them.

Obama felt he could, having congressional majorities at first. He didn’t change that when the landscape changed. The result was a political climate so poisonous that Trumpery is a natural upshot. There’s blame all around. But it rings hollow for Obama to complain of partisan enmity by people he’s relentlessly sneered at.

Unknown-1Secondly: Obama fans point to the economic crisis he inherited, and how well we’ve done since. Fair enough. Though really the credit belongs far more to the Fed than the White House. But meantime, Obama’s biggest economic legacy lies in the future, and it’s not good. As ever more people are not working but collecting benefits, deficits and debt will explode. We’re skating along for now only because interest on our borrowings is so low. But at some point unsustainable debt levels will spook the markets, interest costs will balloon, and we’ll be busted.

To head this off, Obama appointed the Simpson-Bowles commission, which came up with a balanced deficit reduction plan. So far so good. But then Obama just ignored the whole thing. Now, his wasted eight years make the problem far tougher. That’s his chief economic legacy.

Third: the world situation has undeniably deteriorated on Obama’s watch. Queered by Bush’s bungled Mid-East intervention, Obama fell into the opposite mistake of hands-off. Iraq was making progress when he took office, but then he disengaged, and all hell broke loose. It also did in Syria where again his phobia of involvement made things much worse. How many times have we seen this movie? – where a little action at a critical juncture could head off so much agony later.

imagesHis signature moment was drawing a red line on chemical weapons in Syria, then funking it when the line was crossed. Shredding America’s international credibility, making Uncle Sam a monkey’s uncle.

More generally, the Arab Spring was an epochal moment of opportunity, where U.S. engagement might have helped midwife positive outcomes. We’ve done this before, like in post-WWII Europe, where deep and steadfast American involvement helped hugely – to our benefit. The Middle East cried out for this. Obama feared the consequences of acting; but inaction has consequences too.

imagesIt’s no surprise that a villain like Putin, taking Obama’s measure, would push the envelope. Russia’s Ukraine aggression up-ended a crucial norm of international conduct that had prevailed, pretty much, since WWII. Putin basically got away with it, and won. This is terrible for the global future.

All considered, President Obama has been great on style. Pity about the substance.

Trump’s trade trash talk

July 5, 2016

UnknownIf America is murdered, it will be in the Rustbelt Room, with the trade club. Pounding away with that club is Trump’s only chance of winning.

He exulted in Britain’s Brexit vote as a win for his anti-globalist line. Brits themselves are less celebratory, many already seeing their vote as an own-goal. Americans should not copy their economic suicide.

The Brexit vote spotlights breakdown of the old left-right political divide; now the more salient one is inward-looking versus outward-looking, open versus closed. UnknownThat has great resonance in America too. The Trump phenomenon is divorced from the conventional liberal/conservative dichotomy. The Republican party, long seen as a bastion of right-wing ideologues, has thrown that all overboard in embracing Trump, with his most telling anti-globalist symbol: a wall.

Alas, no important voices are refuting Trump’s trade tirade. Democrats, for most of their history, correctly saw free trade as good for the masses, with protectionism a means for business interests to screw consumers. But then, bent by the special interests of organized labor, they lost the plot. However, they found the snake oil politically saleable.

Unknown-1They never expected to be outflanked on the issue by a GOP candidate. Hillary, having bought the snake oil from the Bernie-ites, to placate them, dare not tell voters it’s poison. She’s reduced to merely mocking Trump’s hypocrisy in having profited from using foreign labor.

But if neither Republicans nor Democrats will expose Trump’s big lie, then I must.

Those good old industrial jobs, where with barely a high school education you could support a middle class family, are history. The main reason is advancing technology. We actually manufacture more than ever, but do it with ever less labor. Today’s economy no longer needs that much low or middle skilled labor.

This – making more with less – creates wealth and is why global living standards have risen dramatically. In the past century, worldwide average real-dollar incomes increased more than five-fold, and billions rose out of poverty.

And the other key factor, leveraging that benefit, is GLOBALIZED FREER TRADE. Freeing up trade enables nations to export more. They get richer, enabling them to import more, which means other nations can export more. Everybody gets richer; a virtuous circle.

imagesThis is the golden egg-laying goose Trump would kill. He assails the NAFTA free trade pact as a terrible deal that cost us jobs. In fact, the alleged U.S. job loss is very debatable . But NAFTA did cause huge job gains in Mexico, which became much more prosperous. Isn’t that something to our benefit? A richer Mexico buys more goods from us, increasing our exports, which creates U.S. jobs.

Anti-trade demagogues don’t mention that. Nor the real elephant in the room: that free trade, and importing cheaper goods from China and other countries, while admittedly entailing some job losses in the short run, saves U.S. consumers literally trillions of dollars. And when we spend those added trillions, that demand for other goods and services requires U.S. businesses to hire more workers to supply it. So in the big picture free trade really adds jobs.

What we need is not more barriers to trade, commerce, and enterprise, but fewer. People losing jobs to globalization won’t be helped by walling off America, but rather if they had more job prospects in a more open, dynamic economy. Ours has become sclerotic. We need to dismantle protections of all kinds enjoyed by special interests, restrictive practices, and roadblocks to open competition.

Slobovian widget

Slobovian widget

Here’s what anti-free-trade protectionists like Trump are really saying: that if Slobovia wants to sell us widgets cheaper than we can make them ourselves, we should refuse. Will that benefit us? Or Slobovia? It will benefit U.S. widget-makers at the expense of everyone else.

So Trump wants to impose tariffs – that is, import taxes – on Chinese goods, to keep them out. He doesn’t tell you this means you’ll pay more for much of what you buy. It won’t be a tax on China. It will be a tax on you. To protect business profits.

This is what some call populism.

Will Hillary play the double women’s card?

July 1, 2016

UnknownThe leftosphere is all aflutter imagining its darling, Elizabeth Warren, may be Hillary’s VP. After all, they say, nobody ever objected to two men on a ticket.

As if Hillary needs to shore up the feminist vote. If she’s not already getting it, against Donald Trump, it’s game over anyway. But while America is ready for a woman president, a female duo would be too in-your-face, too gendery. We’d elect a Thelma, but not a Thelma and Louise.images

We also hear the usual ticket balancing/pandering scenarios. An Hispanic, like one of those cute Castro brothers (no, not Fidel and Raul). Or an African-American like Deval Patrick or Cory Booker. But again, if Hillary hasn’t already got those demographics locked up, it’s hopeless anyhow.

Conventional wisdom meanwhile says she needs to play to the party’s base, all those lefties gaga for Bernie. Hence the Warren flutter. But this is one election where conventional wisdom has proven unwise. It won’t hinge on which party energizes its base more. Allegiances are scrambled. And for every Bernie-ite Hillary gets by pandering leftward,* she stands to lose a sane Republican repulsed by Trump, who might have voted for a palatable alternative.

images-1If Hillary loses, it will be for one reason only: trustworthiness. Yes, it’s brazen chutzpah for mega-crook Trump to be all “crooked Hillary,” but it has enough truth to make the issue a wash, at least in many voters’ minds. If they saw her as just halfway reasonably honest, she’d be crushing him.

At the end of the day in 2008 America elected a black man over a war hero because Obama was viewed as more capable, the safer choice. That is Hillary’s trump card against Trump, the one she should play for all it’s worth. She should play it in her veep pick. No politics-as-usual ticket-balancing ethnic pander. Instead a serious man (yes, man) of gravitas, who voters can see as president, to heighten the contrast against the GOP clown car.

Unknown-1And if she wants to attract bummed-out Republicans, why not go outside the box and take a Republican, like Robert Gates? Let the lefties shriek. It would be a game-changer, altering the view of Hillary as a congenitally divisive politician.

Alas, Hillary has never shown much thinking outside the box. Nor ever heeded my wise counsel.

* Most of whom are in states like NY, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, which Hillary shouldn’t have to worry about.

How Trump got rich*

June 22, 2016

imagesWhat some never seem to grasp about capitalism, market economics, free enterprise, is that profits come, mostly, not by exploitation or at people’s expense but by making them better off.

Steve Jobs epitomized this. Not a nice person; but he got rich by providing great products, that we buy because they confer more value than the money paid. He didn’t extract wealth, he created it, not just for himself but for us all.

UnknownDonald Trump is a different animal. A predator, not a creator. His billions were made mainly at others’ expense. His casinos, hotels and resorts were basically schemes to get money from investors, which he siphoned off. The businesses were not well run or profitable, partly because Trump looted them, by paying himself exorbitant salaries, consulting fees, rent for use of his helicopter, etc. Thus he walked away with the money and investors lost their shirts. (Now he’s pulling the same scam to make money on his presidential campaign, routing contributors’ cash to himself and his family’s businesses.)

He meanwhile screws his suppliers and contractors on all his construction too, never paying them the amounts owed, forcing them into costly litigation trying to collect. Over three decades Trump was involved in an astonishing 3500 lawsuits.

Unknown-1And, of course, he also used multiple bankruptcies to shirk debts. When a business goes bankrupt, owners are not personally on the hook; so again, Trump walks away with pockets full, leaving others holding the bag. Many were the victims financially ruined. All perfectly legal, he insists. What a disgrace.

Then there was the mis-named Trump University. Supposedly to teach the real estate game. However (unlike Steve Jobs), Trump’s aim was never to provide value for money, but instead to fraudulently extract it from naïve schnooks. He promised lessons from his “hand-picked” experts. A big fat lie. Trump University was staffed by high-pressure salesmen whose real job was to squeeze ever-escalating sums, reaching $35,000, from suckers for the next set of promised higher level seminars.

Unknown-2Trump claims that students’ course evaluations show they were satisfied customers. The evidence reveals they were browbeaten by instructors into signing dishonestly positive evaluations.

He says the judge in the Trump University fraud trial can’t be fair because he’s Mexican. (Actually, Indiana-born; maybe Trump wants a birth certificate.) How racist can you get? And wasn’t Trump also claiming, “Hispanics love me?” Which is it?

images-1Now this so-called “successful businessman” wants to run America with his same methods. Ignorant fools supporting the slimeball creep might be fathomable. Republican bigwigs doing so betray their party and country.

* Besides inheriting a bundle from his dad.

 

Keep America Great: Gary Johnson for President

June 13, 2016
It tickled me to get this 1964 button to wear, since in '64 I backed Johnson's opponent

It tickled me to get this 1964 button to wear, since in ’64 I backed Johnson’s opponent

Recently an undecided voter, now I’m decided: for Gary Johnson, former New Mexico Governor, the newly nominated Libertarian candidate.

I cannot give Hillary my sacred vote, and hence endorsement. After all her scandals (I haven’t forgotten “Travelgate,” smearing honest civil servants to replace them with her toadies), her latest response on the e-mail stuff is appalling. images5Pity she wouldn’t give “The Speech Hillary Won’t Give,” that I wrote for her. And her recent swerve left is both dishonest and wrong.

Republicans justify rallying behind Trump by casting Hillary as the Devil. But she’s an angel compared to him. I’ve criticized demonizing political foes, but make an exception for Trump. He’s a bad man. Vile. A monster.  Unknown-1With an ego already out of control, giving him the presidency would be disastrous. To thwart the Devil, Republicans would unleash Godzilla. At least Satan has some human characteristics. Thomas Friedman, in a great recent column, rightly says the GOP should declare moral bankruptcy.

But enough negativity. Fortunately there is a third option. Gary Johnson offers a positive vision that I’m proud to support – the vision of America’s founding ideals – personal liberty and responsibility, an economy based not on crony capitalism but free competition, and inclusiveness and openness, to people and to global commerce. imagesThis has made America great. Shutting our borders to people and trade would wreck it.

Johnson’s libertarianism isn’t actually radical; to the contrary, he’s in fact the most centrist candidate, with policies that generally are serious, responsible, and reasonable. I don’t agree with every detail, but it’s a welcome contrast to Hillary’s pandering populism and Trump’s ignorant vileness. Johnson is the thinking person’s candidate. If only people would think enough.Unknown-1

One point I did not discuss in my “undecided” blog post is the Kantian challenge in any moral quandary: what if everyone did the same as you? Well, if everyone voted for Johnson, the outcome would be great. But more realistically, the question is what if a lot of people vote for him?

Conventional wisdom says he’ll take votes from Trump, because libertarianism is closer to traditional Republican principles. But those principles have nothing to do with Trump’s candidacy, so conventional wisdom is out the window. The real divide now is between civic sanity and brainless yahooism. By splitting the sane vote, Johnson could help Trump.

Yet one shouldn’t be swayed by what other voters might do. That’s unpredictable; and the point of voting is not to win, but to register one’s views. Johnson is a great candidate who stands for the right things. And voting for Johnson is being true to myself.

Unknown

With the GOP hopelessly broken, Friedman yearns for the emergence of a “New Republican party,” a responsible and principled center-right party. It would actually represent the electorate’s biggest segment. The institutional obstacles are great. But maybe, just maybe, Trump will manage to finally burn down the old house, in an electoral cataclysm, so something new can rise from the ashes. Gary Johnson’s Libertarian party might be its embryo.

 

Is Trump a nascent Hitler?

May 25, 2016

Just recently I opined that Trump probably can’t win. Already I’m less sure. Republicans are drinking the Kool-Aid en masse, trying to sanitize him, or at least sweep under the rug all his repellent points. imagesI’d been thinking, he’s getting killed with blacks, with Hispanics, with women – how could enough white male votes compensate? But it seems I’m becoming the odd man out not just in my political party, but even in my gender group.

Part of it is Hillary’s negatives. I always thought her vulnerable; now she’s being shredded from within her own party. UnknownBernie seems to have drunk his own Kool-Aid, intoxicated with his campaign and adulation. Likewise his supporters, with breathtaking ferocity. It resembles a religion whose believers torture logic to convince themselves of untruths. Here it’s the belief that Bernie still could – should! – win the nomination. This truly puts reality to the torture, inasmuch as Hillary has gotten millions more primary votes than him.

images-1The Daily Show had a great send-up of Bernie-ite shrillness, exaggerating only modestly. It shows how polarized America has become, when most Republicans embrace a vile fraud because they consider Hillary too left-wing, while much of the Democratic party condemns her as not left-wing enough.

At a recent social gathering, someone read from his phone what he deemed a very reasoned appeal to Trump backers, to embrace a totally different narrative. I finally stopped him, saying, “This is preaching to the choir.” Trumpites would reject it as just the kind of thinking they despise. Unknown-1Too many Americans live in echo-chambers of confirmation bias, impervious to facts, let alone arguments, contradicting what they already think. (The phone-reader himself has a great appetite for online screeds mirroring his views. Discordant views, not so much.)

Voter bloody-mindedness isn’t uniquely American. That’s what made Dutch voters recently say no, in a referendum on the Ukraine-EU trade deal – bizarrrely playing into the hands of the pro-Russians who, remember, shot down a Dutch passenger plane. And British voters might opt out of the EU – not for any good reasons so much as sheer bloody-mindedness, to stick it to the political elites.

Hitler comparisons should always be avoided. But regarding Trump, we’re hearing, “They thought at first Hitler was a clown too.” (Alan Chartock, head of the local NPR station, loves this trope.) And Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here, has fresh cachet.* We’re reminded that Hitler was democratically elected. images-2It’s not true. He lost the 1932 presidential vote, and Nazis never got an electoral majority. But once appointed chancellor, Hitler mounted a coup, ditched the constitution, and literally burned down the parliament.

Could Trump do likewise? There’s no comparison between 1933 Germany and 2016 America. Germany was in the throes of the Depression, having also, just nine years before, experienced a total currency collapse. Today’s U.S. economic problems are nothing like that. And Germany’s institutions were far shakier, the age-old monarchy gone, replaced by a weak new government inspiring no loyalty. In contrast, America’s constitution is an icon of veneration, guaranteeing free speech and press, with a strong system of checks-and-balances, rule-of-law, due process rights, and an independent judiciary.

Yet God did not decree we must have all this forever. Its continuation depends upon a citizenry that understands and truly values it. Such a citizenry would not elect a Trump.

That even 45% would even consider it reflects a collapse in norms of civic responsibility and seriousness. Make America great again? Trump voters are shitting on what makes America great.

* I’ve read it; it’s plausible; with some Trumpian parallels.

The agony of an undecided voter

May 18, 2016

UnknownA person of strong views, in half a century of voting I have never before been “undecided.” But this time it’s an agonizing choice.

Not voting is unthinkable. Voting is, for me, a sacrament.

In some past elections, where I was not enthused about either major candidate (well, the Republican), I’ve voted Libertarian. It’s wrong to think such a vote is wasted. Elections are not games where the aim is to pick a winner. And one vote won’t change the outcome. Instead, the purpose is to express one’s civic opinion, which has value even if few others share it. Maybe especially so.

images-1Actually there’s no party that totally reflects my own politics: I’m a classical liberal (not to be confused with contemporary U.S. “liberalism”). In a nutshell, it’s laissez faire both in economics and personal life. (It’s the editorial stance of The Economist magazine, one of the world’s most respected journals.)

Gary Johnson

Gary Johnson

America’s Libertarian party does not embody that stance perfectly, but comes close. (Its foreign isolationism is my main sticking point.) Its candidate hasn’t been named yet, but will likely be, again, former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson.* And he seems a great guy, with views close enough to mine that I could gladly support him. (It’s still possible, though unlikely, that another good third party candidate will run.)

And this, if ever, should be the time for such a vote. I’m sure “not enthused about either major candidate.” Both, indeed, are awful. However, one is more so. A lot more.

So we come to the proverbial “lesser of two evils.” For a quarter century I’ve loathed Hillary Clinton. (Sorry, Berners, it’s over.) There’s not room enough here to itemize her indictment. But – to quote P. J. O’Rourke (on the radio show, “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me”) – while Hillary is wrong about everything, she’s wrong within normal parameters. She would not be an existential threat to the America I love. Trump would be. The Economist has explained why: click here.

The Republicans drinking the Kool-Aid and falling into line for the sake of party unity and winning the election are not thinking. They’re treating this like normal politics. It isn’t. Winning isn’t everything. If (God forbid) Trump wins, they’ll regret it even more than if he loses. (See this Michael Gerson column on the GOP ship of fools.)**

I’m pretty sure Trump can’t win (though like so many I was mistaken about his getting the nomination; and a major terrorist episode before the election could spook voters into doing something dumb). However, I want him not just defeated, but crushed, humiliated, annihilated, with all his “winning, winning, winning” talk shoved down his throat. Because I want it proven, finally, that Trumpery is wrong and is not, and never can be, a route to political power in America.

Unknown-2So will I hold my nose and vote for Hillary – piling mine onto, hopefully, a mountain of votes burying Trump? If my top wish in this election is Trump’s repudiation, isn’t it logical to vote for Hillary? And thereby also slap my own party’s face for the mess it’s made?

Still – a vote for a candidate is a positive act, an endorsement. In voting for someone, I feel I take some responsibility for that person in office. And I keep saying that ultimately it’s voters who are responsible for our wretched politics, through their ballot box choices. That’s why a third party vote can be justified. (What a pity so few voters are even aware of Johnson as an excellent alternative choice.) I do not support Hillary’s positions. And if I withhold my vote from her, then later I can criticize her freely, saying, “Don’t blame me, I didn’t vote for her.”

Unknown-3But is that a kind of cop-out, a refusal to exercise responsibility as a citizen? Detaching myself from the battleground and climbing into an ivory tower? Wouldn’t it be the adult thing to face up to the true choice, which is between Trump and Clinton?

And I actually have hopes that Clinton might not be so bad after all. Fortunately I think she’s being (typically) dishonest about all the left-wing rubbish she’s felt compelled to spout, to fend off Bernie, like protectionism. Her foreign policy hand will be a lot stronger and steadier than Obama’s, a welcome change. And dare I imagine she’d have the strength to force Democrats into desperately needed entitlement reform? And might even – unlike Obama – seriously seek detente with a chastened Republican opposition?

So – should I just bite the bullet for Hillary?

Or should I stop overthinking this, and simply vote for policies I actually believe in, and hence for Gary Johnson?

images

I have not made up my mind. Count me “undecided.”

* My daughter in 2012 tortured me by refusing to say who she voted for, letting me suspect it was Obama rather than Romney (my choice). Finally, months later, she blew me away by revealing, “I voted for Johnson.”

** Climbing on board for example is Rick Perry, who once denounced Trump as a “cancer,” but now angles for the VP slot. Democrats would surely run ads featuring Perry’s scathing condemnation.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 3,575 other followers