Why? In Politics

I posted recently about the need to continue to ask “the why question? in an effort to exercise the little gray cells. At no time is this more important than when we have to make major decisions in the midst of a media frenzy that overwhelms us with political rhetoric and thinly disguised lies and fictions. Like many others, I continue to ask myself why I should or should not vote for particular candidates and here’s what I have come up with so far — noting that this is tentative and subject to further evidence and argument.

Why Donald Trump? I honestly cannot find many reasons to support this man and this makes the project that much more difficult. I don’t like him or what he stand for, thus I fear that I am guided by gut feelings. But, at the same time, I seek to understand why so many people have fallen in behind this man and I discover a few reasons though they do strike me as rather weak. I doubt that their affection for this man has much to do with reasons. Anyway, many who seem devoted to him are opposed to “big government” which they also regard as corrupt. They see Trump as a step in another direction. There is a certain weight to this reason. It is said that he is anti-establishment, not a politician of the usual stripe. Many find him disarmingly honest and straightforward, though when one looks closely this appears to be a facade behind which hides a failed businessman, a xenophobe and misogynist, a thin-skinned bully, and a megalomaniac who is, as was recently noted, a “serial liar.” Moreover, and more importantly, he is ignorant of international affairs and lacks credibility with our allies, thus weakening the nation’s position vis-á-vis other nations. In a word, it would appear the “reasons” for supporting this man are few in number and very weak.

Why Bernie Sanders? Here the reasons jump out. He appears to be a man of principle and integrity. As well, it appears that he is out of the mainstream of politics, having served in the Senate as an Independent and refusing to accept any of the PAC money allowed to politicians who run for president. The fact that he lacks the support of the Democratic Party and that the media ignore him are factors in his favor, strange to say. He is bright and very up on current issues; he obviously cares about the nation and realizes that the real battle is not between Republicans and Democrats but between the corporations that are taking over this country and the people who are supposed to rule. On the other hand, he appears to be naive, an idealist who has many good ideas but very little hope of realizing many of them if elected and forced to work with a Congress like the present one that has sworn to refuse to cooperate with any Democrat of any stripe whatever. His idealism is delightful, but idealists can become cynical when they realize how few of their ideals can be realized. Unless he has a more cooperative Congress, he would almost certainly be a lame-duck for four years.

Why Hillary Clinton? Here we have an interesting problem. This woman is a seasoned politician though this is not a good thing these days when so many folks are convinced that all politicians are corrupt. There are clear signs that she is not above corruption: she has her hand deep into the pockets of the corporations and has shown a disturbing willingness to compromise her principles. But she is a progressive Democrat with a good mind and she might be able to work with an otherwise intransigent Congress. She knows where the skeletons are buried and if she doesn’t her husband does. Together they have shown they have consummate political savvy, and while this is a curse as well as a blessing, it would serve her well as Leader of the Free World (as some would have it). And given the shenanigans of the Democratic party and its system of nominating those chosen by the “superdelegates” Clinton is almost certain to be the nominee.

On balance it would appear that anyone who might approach this election with an open mind — which, admittedly is a very difficult thing to do when we are surrounded by lies and half-truths and are asked to go with our gut rather than with our minds — Clinton appears to be the least problematic of the three, the one most likely to accomplish a few things while president which under her leadership, unfortunately, will continue in the direction of an oligarchy — as many, including myself, believe our system already is.

When the dust finally settles and we are provided with two candidates for president (who might be none of the above!) I side with the the leader of the Scottish National Party, Alex Salmond, who worked closely with Donald Trump on the development of one of Trump’s golf courses. He recently said America has a choice between insanity and sanity. If Trump emerges as the Republican nominee I do believe the Scot is basically correct.



3 thoughts on “Why? In Politics

  1. Well-said, Hugh. It perhaps becomes a decision made by process of elimination. And yet that doesn’t mean it cannot be good for the country.

    There is, I think, a key word in your description of Clinton — it’s that she is “savvy.” Our country needs that more right now than it does an anti-establishment candidate or that ever-elusive, pure-character candidate (when is that ever really possible? Jimmy Carter was one of the closest in recent history, an incredibly good man, yet not a good president. No one is absolutely without taint, without a record we can find fault with, unless we want to elect a 2-year-old, which the Constitution says we can’t.)

    If we look at the premise underlying some of the opposition to Clinton in a more positive light — that she’s too much of a career politician, too well-connected and close to corrupting influences, too capable of leveraging her connections for political favors — we can find examples in our past where those kinds of presidents have been the ones we’ve needed at the times they have been president. FDR, Lincoln (who matured so swiftly as a politician while in office), Reagan, LBJ in his first few years when he drew upon that great reservoir of connection and power he’d amassed as Senate majority leader to get the Great Society legislation passed …

    We too often look for the symbolic in our presidential candidates, maybe because of our ideas of Washington (who was, in the end, a good man and a pretty good politician) and the Camelot image of Kennedy (definitely more symbol than substance there). But we need to remember that the president, while representing us on the world stage — so, no, no, no Trump — also must be a top-tier politician, able to not only work with Congress, but to connive and cajole and swap favors with Congress to get Congress to do things, and to get the American people’s support. That takes savvy, takes someone who knows how the political system — at its best and its worst — works. Who isn’t afraid to come down from the theoretical and sanctified positions Sanders sometimes takes, and actually works very hard at the sausage-making aspects of governing. It’s ugly to think about sometimes, but that is the reality how politics works, even at local levels. It doesn’t work by decree or stonewalling, but by give and take, game-playing. Fortunately, Clinton — unlike Romney in 2012 or Trump now — is willing to play those political games for good causes, such as health care and incomes and women’s rights.

    Right now, with so much at a standstill or perceived to be at a standstill (Obama did get some important things done, but often not with congressional participation), I’d say we need the politician who knows how to make the system work for results. Like her or not, and there’s much to question in her, Clinton seems best suited for that job.

    • Yuck. I realize I basically just said that some degree of cronyism — and perhaps corruption — is acceptable as long as it gets the job done.

      But I guess that’s true. It’s always been an inherent part of our political process, even if some of the founders had loftier intent. And even the most passionate reformers (Theodore Roosevelt, civil rights leaders) have never been able to fully overhaul it. So it is the system we have, and given that, if someone can use its processes, even if they are flawed, for the common good, then it has to be acceptable.

      Sanders is naive and a self-declared socialist who would face such immediate gridlock, as you said, Hugh, that the corrupting forces would soon be out of his control and wreaking who knows what damage. We already know that Trump will use whatever power he has to serve his own needs.

      Is there such a thing as s decent-hearted Machiavellian?

      • I don’t think so. But there is a savvy politician apparently with integrity waiting in the wings: Elizabeth Warren. I would support her in a second! But you are right: Hillary is the best available at the moment!

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