Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Lesser of Two Evils?

Time to fess up, I voted for Ralph Nader in the 2000 presidential election. Like many people today, back then I didn't like either candidate presented by the two major parties, so rather than not voting, something I have never done and would never do, I decided to cast my vote for a candidate I knew would not win.

I took a lot of heat for that decision, especially after an extremely close election that was decided by recounting the votes of selected precincts in Florida. Remember the infamous hanging chads? "Dubya won because of people like you" I was told by many liberal friends, acquaintances and family members who were appalled that I simply "wasted my vote." "Your vote..." (assuming it would have been for Al Gore) "...could have made a difference as the election was so close." they told me. Actually that's not true thanks to the electoral college, (a separate topic for another post). Gore won the state in which I live so no, my vote would not have made a difference. Had I lived in Florida it would have been another story.

Regardless, as far as I was concerned, my vote wasn't wasted. I sincerely felt, having been turned off by what I felt were misdeeds and the overall cynicism of Bill Clinton and his administration (including Al Gore), and no particular love for George W. Bush, that it didn't really matter if Bush or Gore became president. Both candidates in my view were equally bad. Come election day in the year 2000, I did not want to support a candidate whom I felt did not deserve my vote. With perfect twenty-twenty hindsight, had I known then what I know now, I would have voted for Al Gore as I truly believe that given the circumstances, he would have made a better president than George W. Bush. However given what I knew at the time, I stand by my decision.

Sixteen years hence we are in the midst of a presidential election unprecedented in the annals of American politics, where both candidates suffer from unpopularity ratings well over fifty percent. Consequently many voters feel as I did in 2000, that neither Hillary Clinton, nor Donald Trump deserves their vote. Some voters will either choose not to vote, or be looking as I did for a third party candidate with no chance of winning. Others taking a more pragmatic view, will vote for one or the other major party candidates based on that candidate being "the lesser of two evils."

For what it's worth, I am doing none of the above this year, I am resolutely supporting the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. Granted Mrs. Clinton is not without her drawbacks. She has a track record of wheeling and dealing with questionable characters and has had her share of scandals over her years in public life. She has not always been 100 percent on the up and up with the American public, has acted carelessly at times and foolishly at others. In short she is not the perfect candidate. However I must say that in all the presidential elections in which I have been eligible to vote, starting with the 1980 election, I have never once encountered the perfect candidate, one who has never been involved in an indiscretion, made a bad decision or fucked up in one way or other in the course of his or her career. I dare say, such a candidate has not existed in my lifetime, nor in the history of this nation.

That said, I know of no politician who has been examined, probed, scrutinized, sized up and down, x-rayed, investigated, castigated and eviscerated more than Mrs Clinton. Actions in her past that would have been overlooked or glossed over for other politicians have been brought center stage with this candidate. On a daily basis she is labeled a compulsive liar, a thief and even a murderer by her opposition. The fact that she survives that, let alone endeavors to persevere knowing it's only going to get worse, is a testament to her conviction, her tenacity, her courage and her chutzpah.

We can judge Donald Trump up and down by what has been written and said about him, about his shortcomings as a businessman and as a human being. But all it takes to turn against him is simply to listen to what he has to say. We've all heard the litany of mean spirited, racist, misogynist rants spewed during the course of this election. In his party's convention in Cleveland, he played on the emotions of fearful Americans, portraying this country as a dystopian Gotham City, fraught with bad guys lurking around every corner. According to Trump, our military is a frightful mess from top to bottom, unable or unwilling to meet the challenges it faces. Trump the demagogue claimed to be "the voice" of disaffected working men and women in this country, particularly ironic given his business history of stiffing working Americans time and again. In his twisted view, by virtue of his "knowing the system" presumably by understanding how to keep politicians in his pocket, only he can fix our problems. Trump has shown little or no knowledge or interest of our constitution, especially concerning how it defines the position he hopes to occupy. He has shown pitiful ignorance of world affairs including which countries are our friends and which most definitely are not. Perhaps most troubling is his epic thin skin which causes him to go ballistic at the slightest offense lobbed his way, not only from the high and mighty, but also the low and meek. This is not what people are saying about him, this is the image he openly presents of himself.

I have always prided myself on being open minded and willing to listen to every candidate no matter the office, to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. For the first time in my life I find a candidate for whom I cannot come up with a single reason to support. That is truly saying something for a dyed-in-the-wool contrarian. The bottom line is this, Donald Trump is not qualified nor capable of the demands of the job of president.

I should know something about being unqualified for the job, I would make a terrible president. With a population of over 300,000,000 Americans, I'd say about 250,000,000 of them would make a better president than me.

But not Donald Trump.

I would make a better president than Donald Trump because unlike him, I realize that I don't have the answers to all the world's problems and also realize that there are lots of people who are smarter than me. I would base the selection of my advisers not upon ideology, party affiliation, or quid pro quo, but on their experience and qualifications for the job in which they are being considered. Above all, I would pledge to LISTEN to what they have to say, all the while understanding that as chief executive, I alone would be responsible for the policy and decisions, both good and bad, that come out of my administration. If I screw up, which I promise would happen a lot, I would pledge not pass the buck.

I would make a better president than Trump because I respect the office as a sacred trust between the American people and the person they hire to be their ultimate public servant. I would endeavor to maintain that trust, understanding that the role of president is above all a responsibility to serve the people, not a mandate to rule over them.

I would be a better president because I would do my utmost to heal the terrible divide in this nation that Donald Trump has been exploiting and exacerbating to his advantage.

It is my personal belief that our constitution, the set of laws that binds this nation together, is a living, breathing document, as was the intent of its creators, not a code that was set into stone over two hundred years ago. However I understand that view is not held by all and as a president who values diversity of opinion, I would encourage a lively debate on the role the constitution plays in 21st century America. I would support, uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States by nominating judges based upon their legal skills and their knowledge of that document, not upon whether or not they share my opinions.

I would make a better president because I believe the way to defeat ISIS and other groups who are intent on destroying us is NOT by making enemies of a quarter of the world's population. Contrary to what he wants us to believe, no, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, the assholes, or whatever you wish to call the terrorist group, does not fear Donald Trump. If anything they welcome his presidency as the hatred he promotes would be a tremendous asset for them to recruit new members and encourage them to come up with ever more cruel and sadistic ways to dispense with people they don't like.

Simply put, I would make a better president than Donald Trump because if I were to put my hat into the ring, I truly believe, however misguided, that I would do so in order to make this country and the world a better place. I do not believe the same can be said of Donald Trump. Since I began writing this post a few days ago, Trump came up with a couple doozies that were so insane and destructive to his campaign, they make one of two things absolutely clear. Either he has no desire to actually be president (as opposed to becoming president), or that he is certifiably crazy. Personally I don't think he's crazy. Trump said something that was very telling during the Republican primaries a few months ago. Expressing amazement at his success, he said that he could stand in the middle of New York's Fifth Avenue, shoot someone, and not lose any supporters. In other words, he's clearly saying that his supporters are so stupid, they'd even vote for him if he killed someone in cold blood. Now maybe I'm just a sensitive guy but I'd have second thoughts about supporting someone who thought I was stupid just for supporting him. The fact that there are still Trump supporters out there perhaps proves he's right.

I would make a terrible president because I lack the experience, the intestinal fortitude, and above all the insane desire to be president. That's the one thing Trump and I have in common. Despite my good intentions, voting in a theoretical election between Donald Trump and me would indeed be a choice between the lesser of two evils.

In my mind, Hillary Clinton is not an evil, far from it. I believe she has the experience, the character, the strength, the moral fiber, the intelligence and the ability to be a fine president. Yet there are many Americans who truly despise her. As I said before, she has left behind a trail of dubious actions that cloud an otherwise distinguished history of public service. Understandably those actions, if one were to take time to study them while not falling prey to the incessant barrage of infantile social media memes, could make some reasonable people wary of her, especially as a candidate for president. But they certainly do not justify the outright hatred we have been seeing. To me the gut-wrenching revulsion some Americans have for Hillary Clinton is based on superficial aspects of her personality; in other words, a lot of people just don't like her. Unlike the Obamas, her husband and Ronald Reagan, she does not have a gift for public speaking. It's not that she has a problem getting her point across, she does that just fine, The problem is she has a pedantic, humorless, preachy approach to public speaking that rubs people the wrong way. When she does try to inject some levity into her speeches, her timing is miserable. I don't think it's intentional, but she tends to talk down to her audience which makes her come off as snooty, disingenuous and unlikable. I must admit to cringing whenever I hear one of her speeches coming over the airwaves. No, it's not her voice which is perfectly fine whenever she is speaking one on one rather than giving a speech. And no, it's not because she is a woman, at least as far as I'm concerned, I feel same way about several male politicians as well.

On the other hand, I do believe her gender plays a huge role in the way she is judged by the public. The most important asset needed to survive the grueling process it takes to become president is ambition. Many people find ambition in a woman, at least an abundance of it, to be unattractive and threatening. Over and over I've heard the word emasculating (obviously out of the mouths of men) used to describe Hillary Clinton. Clearly these people would have a problem with any woman running for president. As for her women critics, again I've heard several times over: "I can't stand Hillary Clinton because she didn't divorce that man." of course referring to her husband's sexual escapades. Beyond her personal life, which to me is none of our business, I would imagine most of the women who castigate Mrs. Clinton for not leaving her husband, believe she did so, so as not to jeopardize her own political aspirations, that is to say, her ambition.

Personally I have no problem with her ambition, I wouldn't vote for her or any other person who didn't have the ambition it took to be president.

Unless Trump pulls out of the election, which seems to be a real possibility, the way it stands at the moment, either he or Hillary Clinton will be our next president. We may wish we had more viable candidates from which to chose, we may decry that the two party system is not fair, lends itself to corruption or is undemocratic, but folks let's face it, it's what we've got at the moment and it's certainly not going to change by November. A vote for a third party candidate is a protest vote, no more, no less, as that candidate no matter who he or she is, cannot possibly win. You might not like it, but that's just the way it is.

Trump as president, using one of his favorite words, would be a disaster. That is becoming clearer and clearer every day. The idea that there would be no difference if he or Hillary Clinton is elected in November is absurd.  Whether you like her personality or not, Hillary Clinton is a strong, viable candidate whom I truly believe has the best interests of the country in her heart and mind.

Perhaps you are looking for change in our political system. That is a reasonable desire. But the kind of change Donald Trump promises would only lead us to ruin as a nation. Given the statements he's made about his supporters, even he believes that. We must do everything we can at the polls to prevent him from becoming president, even if it means having to listen to a few bad speeches over the next four or eight years.

It's a small price to pay.

No comments: