Sunday, November 06, 2016
I was taking my 15 year old nephew home from school the other day. He, out of the blue, asked me what I thought about the upcoming Presidential election. I get this occasionally in the classroom as well. In that latter arena, I try to best to be as non-partisan as possible. I think I do a pretty good job of it, In fact a kid told me about a month or so ago that every time he thinks he has me figured out, I say something that that gives him a second thought. That's my job.
But this was different. Clarke wanted to know what I thought as his uncle. Not as the teacher.
But even though I was unconstrained by the grove of academe I felt that I had to tread lightly. It was a serious question from a smart kid. He deserved a thoughtful response.
I began by telling him that I had been voting for many years. And that I never miss a chance to exercise the franchise. The voting booth is nigh unto a sacred place for me. And I hope he feels the same way when he runs 18.
I told him that I thought I had seen it all during my time in Louisiana and with the antics of Tommy Robinson here. I told him that I thought that W was the worst president in my lifetime and that I didn't think we would make such a mistake again.
But I told him that I had never seen a Presidential candidate like Donald J. Trump. And I pretty much let it go at that. Like I said, Clarke is a smart kid. He can read between the lines.
What I didn't tell him was that, while I certainly didn't vote for either George W. Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney, neither did I question their basic fitness for office, Sarah Palin notwithstanding. I would not have liked it if McCain or Romney had won. But I wouldn't have viewed their election as a potential disaster for our country. All of these people had won elections. All of these people had public records. I may have disagreed with their politics but I would not have questioned their fitness to serve. Except for Sarah Palin. And John McCain's decision to put her on the ticket pretty much cost him the election. The electorate got it right.
Trump is a different deal altogether.
This is a man who is particularly unsuited for public office much less the highest one in the land. He is thin-skinned and xenophobic. He is either an overt racist or does not mind it his candidacy appeals to those that are. He has encouraged the fanciful idea that his opponent should be incarcerated and that the electoral process is rigged against him as he engages in that very process.
All politicians lie as a matter of tactics. Trump does it as a matter of pathology. He has tapped into all that is ugly and divisive in our culture and made it his base. There is mad talk here and there of the possibility of violence in the streets should he mercifully lose the election. He does not particularly discourage this mad talk. He is not transparent about his taxes unlike all other candidates for President other than Richard Nixon. As with Nixon, I suspect there is a reason for this.
In Trump's world there are either "winners" or "losers" which is hardly a nuanced view of reality. Indeed, "Losers" are typically anybody who disagrees with him. He has questioned the impartiality of the judge who is presiding over one of the matter of his phony-baloney Trump University due to the judge's Mexican ancestry. He has mocked the disabled and said ungallant things about women.
And the scary thing is Trump's unhinged approach to campaigning strikes many of his acolytes as "honesty" and represents proof to them that he will bring sweeping change to Washington. As if sweeping change is possible given the checks and balances in the system. Change to what? Not as diverse? Do our own Brexit from engagement with the world? Drop the big one on ISIS? Prosecute Hillary? The con man believes in the con now, my fellow Americans. And why shouldn't he? Even evangelicals support him, despite his historically libertine approach to sexual ethics and no known record of particular interest in religious matters.
The wisdom of Hamilton and Madison has never been more plain. The Electoral College is the firewall against national self-destruction. And it is my fervent hope that it will prove so next Tuesday.
I'm not crazy about Hillary, who is graciously referred to as a "flawed candidate." Trump is flawed. She is despised. And only she could keep giving herself regular roundhouses to herself at the worst possible times. She is overly cautious and defaults into corporate lawyer mode at the drop of a hat. But at the end of the day, I could give two hoots in Hell about her emails. Say what you will about her, she is qualified by experience and temperament for office. Trump is not.
And that is the low bar with which we are confronted in the Presidential election of 2016. This is what we have come to at this juncture in history. And the whole world is watching. Really it is.
I finished my talk with Clarke in this fashion. I told him that it was up to his generation to somehow fix our country's politics.
Because my generation has failed. Here's your proof.
God bless the United States of America. May the firewall hold.