A Sort of Despotism

In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville visited the United States for nine months ostensibly to examine our prison system, but in fact to examine the American political system. He later wrote Democracy In America, a most remarkable book that very few read any more (sad to say). In a chapter of that book titled “What Sort of Despotism Democratic Nations Have to Fear” he provided us with an analysis that is as timely today as it was when he wrote it, proving once again that the classics are always relevant:

“I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observer is an innumerable multitude of men all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is a stranger to the fate of the rest, — his children and private friends constitute for him the whole of mankind; as for the rest of his fellow-citizens, he is close to them but he sees them not; — he touches them, but he feels them not; he exists but in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country

“Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes it upon itself alone to secure their gratifications, and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. . . . it seeks to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that people should rejoice, provided that they think of nothing but rejoicing. . . . it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of their happiness, it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principle concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and sub-divides their inheritances — what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

“Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range, and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for those things: it has predisposed men to endure them, and oftentimes to look on them as benefits.

“. . . The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided: men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.

“By this system [of electing those that govern them] the people shake off their state of dependency just long enough to select their master, and then relapse into it again. . . . .  this rare and brief exercise of their free choice, however important it may be, will not prevent them from gradually losing the faculties of thinking, feeling, and acting for themselves and thus gradually falling below the level of humanity.

“. . . It is, indeed, difficult to conceive how men who have entirely given up the habit of self-government should succeed in making a proper choice of those by whom they are to be governed: and no one will ever believe that a liberal, wise, and energetic government can spring form the suffrages of a subservient people.

For those of us today who feel strongly that we are enslaved by a government not of our choosing and who can only wait and hope that when we next exercise our free choice of new representatives there will be profound change, these words ring true in our ears. But de Tocqueville was spot on in noting the illusion of freedom we live with, convinced that our freedom consists in having twenty-seven varieties of cereal to choose from in the grocery store when, in fact, it consists in the ability to make informed choices based on knowledge of which of those cereals will make us sick. And we are not born with that knowledge, it comes from an education carefully designed and from the example of others around us who seem to know and to base their choices on that knowledge.

Our present system of government is being sorely tested. It remains to be seen if enough people are intelligent enough and determined enough to take back their government from those who would possess it and continue to “stupefy” the citizens. It remains to be seen, that is to say, whether enough of our citizens refuse to be ” a flock of timid and industrious animals of which the government is the shepherd.”

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Impeachment?

I predicted quite some time ago that impeachment of this president would not be long in coming. After all, he alienates everyone he works with and is determined to ignore Constitutional restraints as he does things his way — even if his way leads down a blind alley. There are simply too many powerful men and women in Washington whose egos are as big as Trump’s to allow him to have his way! Apparently the movement to impeach is growing as a recent article in Huffington Post reports. I quote a part of that article here in order to give my post some credibility:

Trump has been trying to govern by impulse, on whim, for personal retribution, for profit, by decree ― as if he had been elected dictator. It doesn’t work, and the wheels are coming off the bus. After a week!

Impeachment is gaining ground because it is the only way to get him out, and because Republicans are already deserting this president in droves, and because the man is psychologically incapable of checking whether something is legal before he does it.

Impeachment is gaining ground because it’s so horribly clear that Trump is unfit for office. The grownups around Trump, even the most slavishly loyal ones, spend half their time trying to rein him in, but it can’t be done.

They spend the other half fielding frantic calls from Republican chieftains, business elites and foreign leaders. Trump did what? Poor Reince Priebus has finally attained the pinnacle of power, and it can’t be fun.

It is one thing to live in your own reality when you are a candidate and it’s just words. You can fool enough of the people enough of the time maybe even to get elected. But when you try to govern that way, there is a reality to reality—and reality pushes back.

One by one, Trump has decreed impulsive orders, un-vetted by legal, policy, or political staff, much less by serious planning. Almost immediately he is forced to walk them back by a combination of political and legal pressure—and by reality.

I also noted some time ago that Trump is an impulsive man and thought at the time that his impulsiveness would get him into big trouble. He is clearly incapable of seeing the broad canvas or imagining the consequences of his actions — or caring what is legal or moral. He simply has a notion and then acts — usually tweeting about it as he does it. And then he waits for the glory to descend on him, people giving him the applause he thinks he richly deserves. If no one else will shout how great he is, he shouts it himself. He seeks to impose his sense of reality on the world around him, to force others to see the world as he sees it — with him at the center. He is a spoiled, delusional child who needs constant reassurance that his way is the only way. It was clear from his campaign that this man would be unable to work within the confines of a republican system of checks and balances. He has always seen himself as a dictator — like the men he praises to the skies.

In any event after only a week on the job it is becoming increasingly clear that he will be removed in the not too distant future. I suspect the Republican powers in Washington will approach him and offer him the opportunity to resign — as was done with Richard Nixon. Given Trump’s ego he will probably refuse and impeachment will proceed. It will be ugly and there will be a hue and cry from Trump’s mindless minions who will be convinced (as they have been throughout) that this man can walk on water.

My main concern, which I share with a couple of my favorite bloggers, is the damage he will do in the meantime. But I try to find solace in the thought that the damage will be less than it would be if he were to remain in office for the full term.

Euphoria

 

We live in the declining years of what is still the biggest economy in the world, where a looter elite has fastened itself upon the decaying carcass of the empire. It is intent on speedily and relentlessly extracting the maximum wealth from that carcass, impoverishing our former working middle class.” E. Callenbach, 2012

The Republicans at the moment are experiencing euphoria. They act like it: positively giddy with power. After all, they now control the House and the Senate and have a president they think they can control (!). Accordingly, they are trying to manipulate the situation in order to have Trump’s incompetent cabinet recommendations approved as quickly as possible. They also plan to jettison the Affordable Care Act — despite the fact that they have nothing whatever to replace what they derisively call “Obamacare.” In addition, of course, they plan to scuttle the E.P.A. and any other regulating agencies that stand in the way of what they regard as “progress.” And all before the electorate catches its collective breath.

Predictably, many of these actions will take more time than planned, but, however long it takes, it is virtually certain that there will be some dreadful mistakes because of the political games that are being played and the haste with which these men and women want to take advantage of their advantage, as it were. These professional politicians are astute enough — or their advisors are — to know that they will not have Trump long in the White House. He won’t be able to work with them nor they with him. He has already insisted that he will not divest his businesses. At some point they will want to remove him, one way or the other, because they see Mike Pence as someone they can work with — he’s one of them, after all, equally nutty but not some brazen, outspoken, loose cannon who is bound to get them and their country into a mess if he remains in office for very long.

The whole scenario leaves us breathless. One worries that, based on history, actions taken in haste are usually regretted at leisure. (Think: Iraq.) Once the dust has settled and the economy is in serious trouble and the planet under even more relentless attack, there will be a good deal of hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth. Many who supported this car full of clowns will have regrets and those who supported a con-artist will begin to grasp the fact that they have been duped.

Once Trump’s nominees are approved, and most, if not all, will be (predictably) the Republicans will look to Trump to return the favor — after all this is high stakes politics: you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours — and Trump will wonder what the hell they are talking about. After all, this is a man who is not used to returning the favor; he is used to having others do him favors. His is a business world where money talks and, since he has a great deal of money, people listen. He is used to being heard and having people bend to his will — from all reports. When the professional politicians he will be surrounded by in Washington come to him to demand that he now help them get what they want since they delivered to him the cluster of incompetent people he wanted to surround himself with, he will balk. Surely. And, I predict, this will be the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. This is when (if it doesn’t happen before) the Congress will take measures to remove Trump from office, either by resignation or impeachment.

The rest of us, of course, will be left holding the bag, as it were. We should at that point — though judging form past experience we will not — replace the entire elected body with another group that might approximate a reliable coterie of men and women who will actually represent the will of the voters and not the corporations. This is one feature of the British Parliament system the founders did not choose to incorporate into our Constitution, sadly: the ability of the government to dissolve itself due to inability to work together and initiate new elections to make possible the replacement of one set of clowns with another. The only way the voters can do this in our system is to wait for the elections to roll around, and the founders were convinced this is how it would work; but we have shown ourselves unable to do this in the past as we keep re-electing the same group of clowns. Until they step on our toes.

 

On Voting

I voted this morning as I am sure my readers have done. Now it’s up to the gods of chance to see whether we have elected the right person to run this country for the next four years. It is customary during the days leading up to the vote to urge everyone to “get out and vote.” This has become a commonplace and it is one of the embarrassments this country must admit to that many who are qualified to do so do not vote. But the real issue is not voting itself. The real issue is to cast an informed vote, though we hesitate to talk about that. It is not the vote per se that matters, it is the time and trouble that people should take before they decide to cast their very important vote — in any election.

Years ago when Richard Nixon was running against John Kennedy for the presidency my mother, a lifetime Republican, decided to vote for Kennedy because she had watched the debates and thought Nixon “looked like a thug.” Well, as it turned out he was. But Kennedy wasn’t much better as it turned out, either, and his successor Lyndon Johnson turned out to be an even better president than either Nixon or Kennedy — in that he actually got things done. And yet he looked a bit like a thug as well. And he spoke with a thick Texas accent that put me off. But, then, it really matters not what the person looked like, or sounds like, whether he had five o-clock shadow (as Nixon did in the debates) or walks with a hitch in his giddy-up. What matters is whether that person is qualified to get the job done.

Which brings me to the most recent election which was a debacle by any standards one chooses to employ. It was. assuredly, a popularity contest, in the worst sense of that term — I hate Trump; I can’t stand Hillary. And so it went. It was a vote about personalities and character (less of the latter and more of the former) and not about the issues at all. And yet the issues are what will determine whether this country moves ahead or ends up in a mess. The issues are pressing; the personalities of the candidates didn’t matter in the least.

All of which makes me, once again, raise the issue of the failure of our school system, the fact that so many who do actually vote do so for all the wrong reasons. The standards in our schools, at all levels, have dropped and we have busily “dumbed-down” the standards and demand less and less of our young people in the hope that they will stay in school and like their teachers. I have blogged about this many times and I am sure many readers are sick and tired of the mantra, but there’s no getting around the fact that a better informed citizenry would demand that the candidates stand and deliver, that they address the issues and stand ready to defend their positions on the complex issues that face all of us. They would also demand it of the media which likes to turn every event into a circus as long as it guarantees them high ratings.

There are many reason for the unpopularity of both of the candidates. Neither seems to have been liked very much, though Trump’s followers were blind to his faults in their determination to get him elected. But this devotion was just that, blind. And the fact that the man fooled so many people for so long stands as an indictment of all of us because it should never have happened. To be sure, there were subconscious motives at work: Trump struck an ugly chord in a great many people that most of us were totally unaware was there. But we should have been aware if we listened more closely to one another and watched with a critical eye instead of turning away toward our own personal reasons for preferring his opponent. Again, the election should have been about issues and ideas, political choices made in the light of information and awareness of positions taken in the past and promised in the future. But it was not. It was about people and their peculiarities, whether they were cheaters or liars, whether they were the kind of people we might want to invite to dinner. That’s not how it should be. Ever. But until we realize that our educational system is the one (and only) way out of the impasse we are in at present, that is the way it will be from now on.

We must save the planet. Clearly. And we should make every effort possible to restore the middle class and avoid war. But we must also educate our young or we will have a crippled democracy that cannot function as a government of, by and for the people. It will always be about money and power and about the personalities of those who pull the strings that are put in place for them by the monied interests.

The Test

Tomorrow the great American experiment will be tested as it has never been tested before. We will find out if popular democracy is good idea or a mistake of the first order. The test is fairly simple: do the American voters want a woman of proven experience and judgment or a vulgar man who has shown himself to be a bigoted, narcissistic megalomaniac? The latter likes to identify himself with the “common man,” whereas the former likes to present herself as a woman of the world who has the intelligence and experience to run the country — a woman who, while flawed like the rest of us, many regard as the most qualified candidate ever for this job. In a word, will the voters make informed choices or simply turn this race into a popularity contest?

The Founders, in their wisdom, did not trust the common man. They adopted the Roman model of a republic on purpose: representative democracy. They wrote a Constitution that required minimal property requirements of (male) voters who were only allowed to select their representatives to the House for two-year terms while requiring that legislators of the various states elect the Senate and the President.  The electoral college was devised to assure that the important offices would be reserved for those well qualified and the determination of those who were well qualified was reserved for those who presumably had the breadth of judgment to select the best qualified candidates. In a word, intelligence was considered a prerequisite for all the important votes. Jefferson founded the University of Virginia to educate citizens of the young republic.

I confess, I am not a populist. While I do not think that ownership of property should be a requirement to vote, I do think that the voters of this republic should know that the number of Senators in Delaware is the same as the number in Texas and that there are nine Supreme Court judges (as a rule). The evidence reveals that many college graduates today do not know these simple facts!  In a word, I think the voters should have had a course in civics and know at least as much as those born elsewhere must demonstrate they know in becoming American citizens. The Founders did not envision a country in which the average Joe or Jean, with virtually no education whatever, should be allowed to decide who is best qualified to run this country.

I do realize that much has changed since 1776. I do also realize that in the spirit of egalitarianism we hesitate any longer to judge any one person better or worse in any sense of those words than anyone else. But the fact is that some people are brighter and better able to make informed judgment than others. Some, at least, have taken the time and trouble to vet the candidates carefully. We have taken the egalitarian ideal to its extreme and the result is that we now have a baboon running for the highest office in the land and he has garnered a blind following that numbers in the thousands. This is not how it was supposed to be.

In any event, in November we shall see if enough people in this country have the intelligence (or is it simply common sense?) not to elect a man demonstrably unqualified for the job and reject a woman demonstrably well qualified. We shall see whether the American experiment is a success or a failure. As Bernie Sanders has noted, this is the most important election in our lifetime — perhaps ever.

The Short Straw

Let’s say we’re at war and young LeRoy is part of a small group of soldiers who have been told to attack and destroy a machine gun 100 yards to our left. The lieutenant cuts a number of pieces of straw into different lengths and we all agree that whoever draws the short straw will have to take the greatest risk and led the group toward the machine gun. If LeRoy draws the short straw he is committed to taking that risk. He cannot say afterwards, “I really didn’t want to play: I had my fingers crossed.”

On the other hand if Fred, a part of our group, is a 43 year old man with terminal cancer and he did not draw the short straw but he decides after the fact that he, rather than the young man who did draw the short straw, should be the one to take the risk. He cannot do this. The “deal” was that the one who draws the short straw will take the risk. Those who participated in the event agreed ahead of time and they are all bound in conscience to live by the results, whether they like it or not. Fred should have spoken up at the outset.

Its appears as though a rather large number of Donald Trump’s followers — some 30% by a number of estimates — have said up front that they will not abide by the decision of the vote in this election if it goes against their man. Now, they can say this if they do not plan to vote, but if they vote they are bound by the results of that vote regardless of whether or not their man wins. That’s just the way the game is played.

Take the case of Bernie Sanders of recent memory. Surely he wanted the Democratic nomination so much he could taste it. And he worked hard to get the nomination bringing thousands of enthusiastic, idealistic young people into the fold only to have it taken away from him — apparently with foul play involved. The party Democrats did NOT want this man to win the nomination. Moreover, the corporations did NOT want the man to win the nomination and, as we know, they have the final say in this game we call “politics.” But despite the foul play and despite Sander’s undeniable desire to be the next president of the United States, he decided to throw himself into Hillary Clinton’s battle with Donald Trump — unreservedly (and despite the bitter taste that must have remained in his mouth).

Sanders was not a staunch Democrat. He was an independent, an outsider. That was part of the problem. But the main difficulty he had in attempting to win the nomination was his knowledge that the contest today is not between Democrats and Republicans; it is between the corporations who make the political decisions and the people who ought to make the political decisions. He took on the corporations and he lost and in doing so he must have been tempted to withdraw, but he did not.

Sanders drew the short straw and despite the fact that the game was rigged, he stood by the results. Despite the fact that he seems to be the one doing it, Clinton’s opponent has already declared the contest “rigged.” None the less  he apparently plans to go through with the contest and even, I gather, to cast his vote. Those thousands who follow him  blindly will doubtless also vote. But, many say they will not abide by the results of the vote if their man doesn’t win. This is an outrage! It’s not simply a question of playing the game, because politics isn’t really a game at all. It’s a matter of honor, a word that is in disuse these days, but one that helps to set humans apart from the animals. Agreeing to “play the game” and then preceding to play it while all the time intending to disavow the results if your man doesn’t win is dishonorable, if not simply dishonest. There ought to be a harsher word, but once upon a time, and still in certain cultures, honor was a prime virtue and bringing dishonor upon oneself or one’s family was a serious offense and one that often resulted in the risking of or even the talking of one’s life.

I doubt that there will be much of that, but I fear that those who refuse to play the game are making up their own rules as they go along and are likely to do whatever it takes to disrupt the election and guarantee that the next president stands alone in her attempt to govern this country. This could very well sound the death-knell of our democratic system. We have already lived through eight years of stalemate; the system cannot abide another eight years, or even four. In order for it to work, those who play the game must abide by the rules — whether they like it or not.

Politics As Usual

The Greek philosopher Socrates who lived from 470 until 399 B.C.E. sought to withdraw from the hurly-burly of ordinary political life in what was one of the very first democracies. He insisted that it was impossible to participate in the political life of Athens and at the same time retain one’s integrity. And in his view integrity, living a virtuous life, was of paramount importance: it led him to eventually accept the decision of a corrupt court and drink Hemlock.

 Socrates

Socrates

Politics has always been a bit of a dirty game, but it is a game that is played for high stakes and a great many have discovered how to become very wealthy playing the game, doing what they are told, and collecting their reward from the special interest groups. I have not counted recently in our political system (which is not a democracy, strictly speaking) how many can be readily identified as corrupt. But the number must be rather large. We are now caught up in a bind with “representatives” who only represent special interests and who are determined to bring government to a halt if their candidate does not win the presidency. Partisanship has replaced citizenship in this country and there are very few like Socrates around — or even those who are convinced that they can play the dirty game of politics and still keep their hands clean. I can count those few on the fingers on one hand. But there are a few.

Socrates, it has always seemed to me, was a bit too uncompromising. Surely it is possible for a person to be actively involved in politics and to remain a person of integrity? Or is it? Think of the temptations from the immensely wealthy who have millions of dollars to spread around buying the people who will make the decisions that will favor their particular business. There is no question whatever but that the corporations call the shots, especially since the Supreme Court decision Citizens United that gave the corporations the right to directly influence elections. Is it possible for a politician like Elizabeth Warren, for example, to continue to play the dirty game without getting soiled? That is an interesting question and one which will not be answered for a few years yet. But the siren song of wealth and power is always playing in her ear and she will have to be one tough cookie to remain far enough out of the mud to remain clean.

There are a great many people in this country that are sick and tired of “politics as usual.” They are convinced that it is a dirty game and that everyone who plays it is soiled. Of late, to be sure, it gives the impression of a large group of very well paid men and women who spend time talking and doing nothing. Thus these voters turn to an outsider, one who is outside of politics if not outside of reality itself, and they hope and pray that this man with the funny hair and tiny hands will deliver this country from the muddy world of politics as usual. In the process, they expect, they themselves will be recognized and their hopes and dreams will become a reality, because politics as usual has passed them by and they have been left in the lurch, clutching at straws.

Unfortunately, politics is a dirty game. That is a fact, and anyone who chooses to play must get their hands at least a bit dirty. The problem that faces this country at this juncture is whether we are realistic enough to accept the fact that politics is a dirty game and seek the one candidate who is the cleaner of the two and who promises to play the game in such a way that the country will remain relatively strong and survive as at least a shadow of the republic the founders envisioned. Or will the citizens of this country be so sick of politics as usual that they will blindly choose a man who is completely unqualified to head up this government and play a game whose rules he does to fully understand, a man who is used to making up his own rules on the go?

Socrates was right. But he was also wrong. It is possible for some to play the game and retain their integrity. But it is mighty difficult and there are few who can manage to play it successfully. In the meantime, we must accept reality as it is given to us and accept the candidate who will do the best job for the country and for each of its citizens — the best under the circumstances. It’s time for realism, not pie-in-the-sky-fantasy that ignores the fact that an unqualified president will flounder and fail miserably in the dirty world of politics, a world he is totally unfamiliar with and one that will eat him alive.

The Babysitter

I have been thinking about the subject of my most recent post, the peculiar twists and turns of the collective psyches of Donald Trump’s minions. It is a fascinating subject and like a kid at the circus who can’t tear himself away from the freak show despite the fact that he keeps telling himself to leave and get some cotton candy, I am drawn to the perplexing question: what on earth are these people thinking — the followers of Trump, that is? I have come up with an analogy that has helped me see more clearly.

Years ago when my wife and I had to leave for a couple of days we decided to leave our two sons, about seven and eight respectively, with one of my tennis players who was a Junior and someone we liked and trusted. Now, we were a bit strict and passed along some of the ground rules to Kathy (we’ll call her that because that’s her name), including the fact that the boys could not have dessert until they ate all the food on their plates. That is, they didn’t have to eat something like, say, broccoli, if they simply couldn’t do so, but they didn’t get desert if they didn’t eat it. Yeah, it was a bribe. But it worked like a charm and allowed the boys to make their own minds up about what they could and couldn’t eat. They usually cleaned their plates.

In any event, after we returned we discovered that Kathy let the boys do whatever they wanted to do, eat what they wanted to eat, stay up way past their bedtime, watch whatever TV shows they wanted to watch, and she played with them like a third child. They had a blast. All restraints were off and this wonderful girl was their best friend. We had a dickens of a time getting them to settle down afterwards, needless to say.

Trump is the babysitter and his minions are the boys — though they have a collective IQ well below that of my two sons even at seven and eight. The babysitter has told them the old rules no longer apply. They are free to do and say whatever they want with no repercussions whatever — as long as they restrain from criticizing the babysitter. That’s Taboo. From what we can gather of the rallies, it is bedlam with shouting obscenities not only allowed but encouraged. They are rallies of hatred and all restraints are off as the minions can scream all those insults that have been repressed for years.

In Dostoevsky’s seminal novel The Brothers Karamazov, Ivan Karamazov has a theory that since God is dead “all is permitted.”  This theory eventually drives him mad, but in the meantime he infects his adoring half-brother with the doctrine who then summarily kills their father. In other words, in Dostoevsky’s view, the absence of moral restraints can lead to murder and madness. This is certainly the view of that author who was, by all accounts, one of the most brilliant thinkers of the 19th century. But, after all, what does a nineteenth century Russian author have to tell us about ourselves in this sophisticated day and age?

Civilization, according to Ortega y Gasset the Spanish intellectual, is the will to live in common. In the minds of Trump’s minions it is all about self and letting it all hang out. Restraint and denial are things of the past. Donald is telling them that “all is permitted.” If this were to become the rule of thumb in our nation the suggestions of the two men I have mentioned would lead us to the conclusion that our civilization is at risk and as a people we may well be headed for murder and madness. When I shy away from this dire conclusion I recall my two sons, whom I love dearly, and the looks on their faces when we told them that the fun was over and things were back to normal. Kids love to play and to have their way. But maturity and growth require self-control and self-denial because the rewards later on are much greater and their absence leads to chaos. Our boys have learned that, but I wonder about Trump’s minions. Are they capable of growing and maturing?

Could This Be It?

For months now I have been trying to figure out why thousands of ordinary folks would blindly follow a candidate such as Donald Trump — given all we know about his innumerable shortcomings and character flaws. I had always thought (hoped?) that my fellow citizens were smarter than that. But I no longer think it’s all about smarts. It is partly that, of course, and a course in civics and a couple of years in seminars discussing difficult books would give these people heightened critical thinking skills. That would certainly help. But, again, I don’t think it’s all about thinking or intelligence.

I have tried to put myself in the minds (such as they are) of those who adore this man. It has been a difficult and frustrating task and has cost me some health problems that I hope will pass after November 8th. But I do think I have begun to get a glimpse of the truth here. Those who follow this man do so out of a sense that he is “one of us.” That is to say, he won’t take our guns away; he doesn’t approve of abortions; he talks like us; he hates Hillary; he wants to take this country back from the smart-asses. The bluster and braggadocio, the scattergun thought-bites, the insults, the hatred, the bigotry, the racism, the man-in-the-street persona this bogus billionaire has managed to pull off seems to have struck a chord deep in the psyches of a great many people.

He’s one of the guys. He “tells it like it is,” he is anti-establishment; he hates they very same things I hate and he tells us he will fix things. Whether he does or not doesn’t really matter, because we know he will, at the very least, stir up the mud. And there is plenty of mud in Washington where the elite bastards who run this country sit on their butts and collect large paychecks for doing absolutely nothing — or at least nothing that benefits me in any way.

It is this sense of fellow-feeling, that Trump is a blue-collar guy in a $2,000.00 suit, that determines the followers to follow. It matters not where he leads. It matters not that he lies because he is speaking from the heart and attacking those we fear. It matters not what the critics say because they are all establishment types who really don’t understand the man and are out to smear him. This sense that their man is being picked on simply fans the flames of adoration: if the establishment fat-cats criticize him that simply proves his worth to these folks.  It makes him a sympathetic figure. The fact that establishment Republicans are abandoning him is also a good sign, in their view, because it emphasizes the point that this man will not play by their rules. His “locker room comments” simply underline the fact that, in their minds and hearts, he doesn’t hold anything back. He may tell lies, but he is honest about his feelings and that’s what matters.

In a word, the connection between Donald Trump and his mindless minions is not about reason and logic in any way whatever — note the contradictions in their feelings about this man. It’s visceral, all about gut feelings. It is about the connection between this man and those thousands of people in this country who feel left out and ignored, who are insecure, like the Donald, and who are filled with the same confused thoughts their leader is filled with and a deep hatred of the status quo — and of others who differ from them in unimportant ways. It is easy to identify with this man for so many of them because he really is just like them. This helps us to understand why the surveys tell us  his followers are devoted while Hillary’s are lukewarm: she’s very hard to identify with.

Those who are still sitting on the fence, I suspect, feel much the same way but they are also leary about his shortcomings and have doubts that keep them from giving in completely to their gut feelings. They are drawn toward him and repulsed at the same time. And the fact that they find it hard to like much about Hillary Clinton simply makes their struggle that much harder. After all she’s decidedly Establishment (with a capital E) and, moreover, she’s a woman. For many, that’s enough.

It’s hard to say, in the end, which side of the fence they will come down on, because it will depend own how strong is the pull toward someone they feel a connection with and how strong is their sense that this man is, in the end, a total fraud. For these people, too, reason and logic play a small role, if any. It will all come down in the end to how they feel about each of the candidates. That’s not the way it is supposed to be, but I suspect that is the way it is.

I Hate Hillary!

I purposely used the “H” word as I did recently in connection with a comment about Lucy Ricardo because the word seems to be all the rage these days — it or one of its synonyms. But I actually hate neither woman. I don’t know either of them so how could I hate them? And yet, there are thousands of people waiting to vote who claim to hate Hillary — or at least to not be able to stand her — even though they do not know her either. What they “know” is a political caricature that has been created over the years by her political opponents and the air-heads on Fox News.

I suspect she is a very private person, perhaps secretive. But that is OK with me because I’m a bit private myself and I realize that on the international stage when one is privy to information dealing with national security one has to be secretive. But, as I say, I don’t know the woman and I cannot say, therefore, that I hate her or that I love her. I simply don’t know her. Neither does anyone else, for that matter — except for her immediate family and a few close friends.

I have made the point a number of times that how we feel about the two candidates should not enter into our calculations of which one we will vote for. This is not to say that character and personality do not count. They do. My blogging buddy, Sue Ranscht, politely pointed this out to me after I insisted that they do not. Even though we do not know either of these two people, we know enough to allow character flaws and personality glitches to enter into the equation. But this does not reduce our decision of whom to vote for to the level of gut feeling. One would hope.

In the end it is the person’s record of public service, their C.V., that is most important. Which candidate has the better qualifications for the office? And while personality does enter in — just imagine Donald Trump in that office dealing with professional politicians and international dignitaries who have walked the world stage for years while he was firing people on reality TV — it shouldn’t weigh enough to allow us to accept or reject that person.

I recently quoted a woman who is determined to vote for Donald Trump (can you imagine?) who said she cannot stand Hillary and that, apparently is her main reason for voting for Trump. I noted that this involves a leap of immense proportions, one that I cannot even follow. How does one get from “I hate Hillary” to “I am determined to vote for Trump”? This leap ignores several alternatives: (1) one could decide not to vote any all; (2) one could vote for the libertarian candidate; (3) one could vote for the Green Party candidate; (4) one could write in someone like, say, Monica Lewinsky — or anyone else. The leap itself cannot be made logically and can only be accounted for in this woman’s case as a leap based on blind faith. At this point it is up to the psychologists out there to determine why someone would take such a leap of ignorance in a matter of this importance.

In the end, however, what matters is the candidate’s record and there is only one candidate who is fully qualified  for this job and that is Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t matter if you can’t stand the woman, what matters is that she is almost certainly the best qualified person for the presidency since the birth of this nation. If we were to like her that would be icing on the cake. But if we don’t it really doesn’t matter in the end.