Outside the Mainstream

I have been having a back-and-forth with a friend on Facebook who simply cannot bring himself to even consider voting for Hillary Clinton. He seems determined to vote for a Third Party candidate, probably the Green Party’s Jill Stein. In any event, as I have been thinking about the reasons for and against such a decision, I have checked on Dr. Stein’s credentials and they are rock solid. In fact, her program is almost identical to the one I would choose if I were in a position to do so. She shines like a jewel in the mud that is today’s politics.

However, I will not vote for her for reasons given in a previous post, but also because I realize that (a) the president of this country has very little real Constitutional power to effect change, and (b) someone so far outside the mainstream who would have to work with a large group of seasoned politicians, each with his or her own agenda, would be even less effective than was Barack Obama — and that says a lot.

To take the first point, the Constitution was written by men at a time when they were struggling to free themselves from the grip of one of the most powerful monarchies on earth. They distrusted power and above all else they distrusted the so-called “right of birth.” They didn’t like aristocrats. So when it came time to write the section of the Constitution that dealt with the Senate — which was the closest thing they could come up with to the House of Lords without being housed by Lords — they stumbled and sputtered and wound up with the notion that those with wealth would be the best guarantee of a safeguard to ward off the machinations of the President and the House of Representatives, the latter of whom would be made up of the “vulgar” (as they liked to say) who would only keep their seats for a year or so and would then be back off to their farms. They gave the Senate immense power and they gave the president almost none. They worried more that the president would abuse his power than that the Senators would abuse theirs. Henry Adams saw this as a terrible mistake about a hundred years later and hoped that President Grant would modify an old document that was in need of correction, that he would untie the hands of the president.

Well, that didn’t happen and as things now are we have a president who, while he or she may have a certain amount of de facto power based on the prestige of their position, must still work with a Congress made up of professional politicians (the founders never saw that coming!) who know their power and blindly exercise it. They have proved it recently in refusing to act to confirm (or deny) the president’s Supreme Court nominee. And the president, as we have seen, cannot effect profound change, such as meaningful gun control, without the blessing of the Congress.

So a political novice, relatively speaking, no matter how well qualified and well-intentioned she may be, cannot possibly hope to effect change in such a system stacked as it is against her. The argument that  we need to change the system, that “if everyone thinks a vote for Stein is a throwaway vote then it will become a self-fulfilling prophesy” is weak. It is tritely true but in the real world it is irrelevant, because radical changes in the system are extremely improbable and predictions by a handful of people cannot alter the votes of enough people to affect the outcome of this election in any significant way. We may not like it, but that’s the way things are at present. And until that changes a vote for Stein, or any third party candidate, is in fact a throw-away vote. As attractive as Jill Stein is, I honestly do not think she can win and if I were wrong and she did somehow win, she would be largely ineffective.

We could argue until the proverbial cows come home as to whether a vote for Stein is a vote for Trump, but that argument gets us nowhere; we must make tough decisions in the here and now in the world as it is — and not the world as we might like it to be. And this is why I would vote for Clinton, despite any reservations I might have, because she can win and she knows how to deal with professional politicians. She can make the most of an office that would hinder the novice.

From reading about Hillary, however, I have come to have fewer doubts and I do think she will make an excellent president. She is certainly not “evil” and therefore not the lesser of two evils. She espouses many worthy ideals (including a Constitutional amendment to rid us of the cursed “Citizens United” decision that gave unlimited power and influence to the corporations); she, is bright, tough, and progressive. And she is so much better than the only other viable alternative that it is really, as they say, a no-brainer.

The Nader Effect

There was considerable controversy surrounding Ralph Nader’s various attempts to become president of the United States. The most controversial election was almost certainly when he ran against George W. Bush and, according to some, ruined Al Gore’s chances of becoming President. In Florida, as we know, Bush defeated Gore by only 537 votes while Ralph Nader was garnering 97,421 votes as an Independent candidate. Many would conclude, despite Nader’s denial, that this cost Gore Florida, a pivotal swing state.

But we are dealing here in what logicians call “counter-to-fact conditionals. We are saying, in effect, what if….? Anyone can play that game and there never really is a winner. Let’s agree that, given all the election “irregularities,” George W. Bush would have won in any event — whether or not Nader had run independently, though I have my doubts.

In the present election there is a very attractive Green Party candidate in Jill Stein. She is very bright and has impressive credentials; she is much more qualified for high office than at least one of the two major candidates currently running. One worries that the votes that go her way might otherwise go to Hillary Clinton and in losing those votes Hillary will lose the presidency to Donald Trump (perish the thought). It is quite possible, given the Nader effect as I would call it. Even if we allow that Bush would have beaten Gore without Nader running, there is always a shadow of a doubt.

In many ways Jill Stein is for me the most attractive alternative in this race. Ideologically speaking, I am closer to her than I am to either of the other two. But I will vote for Clinton because I don’t want to throw away my vote (Stein can no more win than Sanders could get the Democratic nomination. I just won’t happen.) And I don’t want to see Trump elected and spend the next four years (undergoing therapy) worrying that my vote helped put him into office.

Hillary is not perfect. Disturbingly, she is a favorite of the corporations like so many of her political friends. The appealing thing about Sander’s run was that he knew the real battle is with the giant corporations. Sanders understood that if we are to hope to reestablish this democracy as a government of the people, the corporations must be put in their place. Well, we saw how that went. The monied interests on the left (and the right?) took control of the Democratic machine and saw to it that Hillary Clinton was nominated. Not that socialist, Sanders.

But Sanders — who is also ideologically closer to Jill Stein than he is to Hillary Clinton — endorsed Clinton because he is a political realist and he knows she is the only one in the group (and there are more) who can beat Donald Trump. And beating Donald Trump is and must remain the main objective of any voter with a grain of sense who cares about this country and the values (cloudy though they are at times) that this country stands for. Trump is simply not an acceptable candidate for the highest office in this land. Period. Moreover, Hillary is a gifted and intelligent political animal who would do a commendable job as president. She knows where the skeletons are buried and she knows how to play the power game. Despite her flaws, many of which have been created by the opposition, she is the only reasonable alternative.

Appeal To Fear

One of the typical gambits during an election year (or two) is the appeal to raw emotion. Politicians and those who resort to this tactic do not bother with logic or reason; they know the appeal to pride, hatred, or fear works like a charm. We have come to expect this from the Republicans, especially, but recently the Democrats have discovered that it might work to their advantage as well. I have been receiving daily fear-notices from the Democratic big-wigs shouting about the latest atrocity committed at the Republican Convention and warning me of the dire consequences that are certain to follow if Trump is elected president of these United States. I copied one of the latest, which I suspect you have also received:

Are you watching this?!

Mike Pence just officially accepted his nomination to be Vice President — and predicted a TRAGIC outcome:

PENCE: “I know we will elect Donald Trump to be the 45th president!”

We can’t let that happen! That’s why President Obama reached out for your help earlier.

“This convention should be a wake-up call for all of us.” – President Barack Obama

We CANNOT let Trump and Pence get to the White House.

That’s why a group of all-star Democrats has agreed to match every dollar if we get to $1,OOO,OOO by midnight tomorrow.

MILLION DOLLAR MATCH: PENDING

Suggested Support: $1

We have to hand the Republicans a crushing defeat.

Will you chip in $1 now?

They SAY they only want $1.00, but I strongly suspect they will accept more if I were so inclined. And by the way, the note loses something in the translation: in the original it appeared in bright colors amidst the capital letters. And it is just one of the many I have received in the last few  days. Honestly, people, do these folks really want to lower themselves to the level of their opponents? I would like to think that those who fear Donald can do so perfectly well on their own without bright messages shouting at them from their computers. I dare say there have been dozens of phone calls as well. I simply don’t answer the phone these days unless I know the caller.

It is apparent to anyone who has been following the Convention — even from afar, like myself — that there has been absolutely no attempt whatever to deal with the issues of the day. There has only been name-calling and hate-mongering — along with the usual nonsense designed to get Republicans fearful of Hillary Clinton, even to the point of calling for her death!

We can only hope the Democratic Convention will see that this is a terrible mistake and will address the issues that face us all in these Troubled Times — such things as global warming, the vanishing nature of the Middle Class, the growing numbers of poor and homeless, disproportionate taxes that allow the very rich to escape payment altogether, the atrocity that is Citizens United (which Hillary has pledged to help us rid ourselves of), and the like. Heaven knows there are plenty of issues out there that need to be addressed.

But above all else, the Democrats need to show some sense of unity and coherence while they rally behind the woman who can, in fact, get the job done and do it well, in order to lure the disillusioned followers of Bernie Sanders back into the fold and convince others that a vote for a third party candidate (like Jill Stein) — no matter how attractive she is and how she does indeed represent another way of going forward — is idealistic but hopeless, indeed it amounts to no less than a vote for Donald Trump.

When Bernie endorsed Hillary I suspect he saw the handwriting on the wall: she’s the only one that can beat Trump. But in taking him on, let us hope that the Democrats take the high road and not resort to wild emotional appeals.

Dumping Trump?

As is well known by now the Republican Establishment has no love for the man who appears to be the sure-fire Republican candidate for president in November. Rumors have been flying for months about ways to dump the man at the convention this Summer and find someone who is more popular with the mainstream Republicans and, more to the point, someone who can defeat Hillary Clinton. The polls show increasingly that Trump cannot beat Hillary despite the fact that many Sanders supporters are totally disenchanted by the political system that has bypassed their man and nearly half of them say they will not vote for Hillary. This disenchantment has helped boost the candidacy of Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, who is in disfavor with both the Republicans and Democrats who, she thinks, are too mainstream and unwilling to take the country where it needs to go — away from war and toward a greener future. Many of the Sanders supporters would appear to be likely to switch allegiance to Stein rather than Hillary. Despite these problems on the political left, Trump has problems of his own. The point was made rather succinctly in a recent story about the move to dump Trump which is gaining momentum on the political right:

Members of the GOP Convention Rules committee are planning to consider an amendment to allow delegates a way out of voting for Trump on the first ballot—an effort that in an extreme could be used to deny him the nomination.

Under the proposal, delegates could be granted conscientious objector status, thereby freeing them from their pledge to vote as they are bound as the result of primaries and caucuses. The measure, first put forward by Colorado delegate Kendal Unruh, would undo the strict ‘faithless-delegate’ rule enacted at the GOP convention in 2012 and allow a “vote of conscience, whether personal or religious” by delegates.

“Allowable personal reasons shall include the public disclosure of one or more grievous acts of personal conduct by a nominee candidate, including but not limited to, criminally actionable acts, acts of moral turpitude or extreme prejudice, and/or notorious public statements of support for positions that clearly oppose or contradict the policies embodied in the Republican Party’s platform as established at the national convention,” the amendment says.

Interesting concept: political conscientious objection — as if the term “political conscience” weren’t an oxymoron! Those deligates seemingly committed to voting for Donald Trump on the first ballot can switch allegiance on the grounds — solid to be sure — that he has engaged in “acts of moral turpitude or extreme prejudice, and/or notorious statements of support for positions that clearly oppose or contradict the policies, etc. etc.” This assumes, of course, that enough of those delegates understand what moral turpitude is and do honestly object to the way Trump has run his campaign, thus seeing him as a palpably unfit candidate for the highest office in the land. I see it clearly, as do so many others. But whether those who attend the Republican convention this Summer will see this and vote their “conscience” remains to be seen. And this assumes that this tactic will be adopted by the Republican party prior to the convention. If it is not, I dare say, another policy will surface, because the Republican Establishment clearly does not want this man to carry their banner in the Fall.

So, the Democrats need to keep an eye on Jill Stein while the Republicans need to keep their eye on Libertarian candidates such as Gary Johnson and William Weld who will take a few votes away from their chosen candidate, whoever that turns out to be. But one thing seems assured, and that is that Trump’s followers will not go quietly. Even if Trump decides to “go it alone,” as he has threatened, they will surely see a conspiracy and appear to be the types of people who will raise Hell if they think their man has been screwed by the political process –a process they hate with a passion.

It could prove to be a most interesting Summer. Stay tuned!

A Moral Quandary

I was checking out my Facebook the other day and happened to glance at a couple of the ads on the right-hand side of the posts. I saw a brief note about a test that would tell me which candidates for President I was most in agreement with. I thought it would be amusing to find out how close I was to the man I planned to vote for in the election so I clicked on the link and took the test. It consisted of a number of questions in various categories from economics to the environment. A few seconds after completing the test I was told that I was in almost total agreement with….Jill Stein.

Who the Hell is Jill Stein, I wondered? I knew there were other candidates for President besides the Big Two, but I hadn’t really paid much attention. Like so many others in this country my attention has been directed toward the two men who have paid out a nauseating $1 billion apiece to buy the highest office in the land — much of it coming from the hated corporations who are now running this country. I checked Jill Stein’s web page (such as it is) and discovered that she has raised a paltry $300 thousand in her efforts to win the Presidency. Hardly enough to win her a place in the state legislature. But I also learned that she is a remarkable woman. As her web page notes:

Dr. Jill Stein is a mother, physician, longtime teacher of internal medicine, and pioneering environmental-health advocate.

She is the co-author of two widely-praised reports,  In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development, published in 2000, and Environmental Threats to Healthy Aging, published in 2009.  The first of these  has been translated into four languages and is used worldwide. The reports promote green local economies, sustainable agriculture, clean power, and freedom from toxic threats.

It was Dr. Stein’s fierce stand on the environment that placed us close together in our thinking about politics I realized. I have noted, as have others whose blogs I read, that there has been precious little said about the environment by the Big Two during recent months and this has disturbed me a great deal. I regard it as THE most important issue in this election. And yet the two principal players seem to have ignored the issue completely. This places me in a moral quandary.

I was critical of some of my friends back when George W. Bush was running for President because they had determined to vote for Ralph Nader. I felt strongly (as I still do) that this was throwing a precious vote away that would end up landing “W” in the office of President of the United States. I was convinced that this would be a very bad thing, and I was right. So I hesitate to throw my vote away on a Green Party candidate who hasn’t a snowball’s chance of winning the Presidency.  Hence the quandary: it’s a question of throwing away my vote or violating my principles. But then I recall that Dante tells us Hell is a frozen wasteland with relentless winds. A snowball would survive in such an environment, and the environment is the key issue here. So I wonder. What do I do? What would you do? I am eager to get your comments on this difficult issue.