THE AUDACITY OF 2016

Are Any of The Candidates Prepared to be President?

Oh, 2016, what will history write of us?

Now that the Nominees for President are finished shouting their acceptance speeches, the choice before the American people comes into focus.

I watched some of the speeches from the conventions, and reviewed key moments that earned the most acclaim.

I was particularly struck by the most prominent speaker at either convention — President Obama.

The current President felt it prudent to descend from the Oval Office to vouch for his party’s Nominee, his Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.

And his case was rather unconvincing.

But in his well-received speech, this telling admonition stands out:

it’s been you who’ve fueled my dogged faith in our future, even when the odds are great; even when the road is long. Hope in the face of difficulty; hope in the face of uncertainty; the audacity of hope!

Yes, seven years in the Oval Office, and President Obama wants you to know, America, he’s still got his hope.

The President actually does this rather often. He seems to signal that his greatest frustration is not with his own record as President but with the American people for failing to support his agenda.

You see, the “fundamental transformation” he promised hasn’t arrived, because, America, hope wasn’t enough.

So now he tells us…

I’m glad President Obama still has “the audacity of hope” in a better future. If this election is any indication, the American people haven’t gotten the memo.

He’s keeping the hope; we got the change.

The immense promise of candidate Obama receded into grudging acceptance of the decidedly progressive President Obama. And the country, reeling from his accomplishments and his failures, is still trudging toward the future.

Conservatives have been burned by the “slow, deliberate march of Progress.” And progressives feel burned (Berned?) by the slow, deliberate march of progress. And, to be sure, progressivism is merely an ideological and political challenge to the traditions and orthodoxy of the past. And the conservatives of today are “standing athwart history” by questioning the validity of this challenge to the established standards. And both sides should welcome these challenges. Progressives and nationalists need to provide an answer: if we are to tear down the establishment, we are to replace it with what, exactly? Even the progressives’ least ambitious proposals will do lasting damage to the American system. And everyone has principles and values. Here is a chance to prove which are better, which way works, which principles and values should ultimately prevail. Who gets to become the new establishment?

This is the essence of democracy.

But division is a choice, and in 2016, we are choosing division and agitation instead of listening to one another and trying to unite behind common purpose.

Above all, on January 20, 2017, none of this will matter — the speeches, the campaign ads, the debates — none if it will matter anymore. The true test of Leadership for the next President is not this election but in their response to the challenges and opportunities of the future. The next president will inherit a nation bitterly opposed between competing factions out to dominate one another. It will be the greatest test of our republic: whether or not the next president can truly unite the country around a some sense of common purpose and restore the middle — a middle ground for protecting and defending the Constitution, The People’s rights and privileges, the Separation of Powers between the branches of government, an independent judiciary, and Federalism.

The greatest question of this election will not be answered at a convention, during the debates, or even on November 5th.

So I have some questions for the candidates. And I’m not alone. The undecided voter is no myth, and can you blame us? These questions persist.

Donald Trump: you have dominated my party, defeated my candidates of choice, and replaced a hopeful, optimistic message for conservatism with a nationalist platform of foreboding and resentment. You share exactly none of our values and the organizing principle of your candidacy is “I alone can fix it.”

So, Donald Trump, underneath the bravado and braggadocio, is there a true leader?

If elected, this will be your first political office.

You may know what it is like to make deals with competing businesses executives, but, news flash! the Democrats don’t want your business. You can be President, call yourself CEO or Emperor, and they will still jealously guard their power, their positions on issues, their identity politics, and their ambitions. They will never be inclined to make a deal with you, and neither will the Constitutional conservatives in Congress if you try to push through unconstitutional legislation.

So you need to ask yourself : are you someone who can forge consensus and establish meaningful compromise between opposing forces?

Are you someone that respects The Republic and the power of The People? Will your organizing agenda be The Art of the Deal or The U.S. Constitution? Can you trade “an eye for an eye” for compromise and “might makes right” for the Bill of Rights?

Have you even read the Constitution?

Understand, too, that you have mocked the disabled, denigrated a war hero, disparaged women and minorities — our fellow Americans! And you’re asking for their votes!?

Just this last weekend, you couldn’t bring yourself to respect a gold star parent that lost his child fighting for our country. Presidents have to demur themselves when confronted by a grieving parent. You couldn’t even muster that — a part of the job, as comedian John Oliver observed, that it didn’t even seem possible to foul.

Many of us might have been inclined to unite behind your candidacy as the only means of preventing the progressives from winning, but there is no love lost between the principled conservatives and the populist “conservatives” that have sneered in our direction and responded to our legitimate queries with conspiracy and insults. And, Donald, you are the worst offender. You have said you don’t need us, but Donald, we know better.

I understand why some of your campaign appealed to Republican primary voters. After all, six years ago I joined the TEA Party — a movement of like-minded grassroots activists to protest against progressive policies, erase the national deficit, and grow the private sector through better tax and regulatory treatment. I even understand the imperative to secure the country’s southern border and control immigration flows so that none of us finds ourselves in the wrong place at the wrong time like poor Kathryn Steinle. Border security is a matter of national security and the communities closest to the border, many of them predominantly Hispanic, are most negatively affected by the unmitigated trafficking of drugs and people across this unsecured frontier.

I get it: “secure the southern border” so easily becomes “build a wall” — and we know which line gets more applause.

This is why, for politics or principle, we find ourselves on the same side. But I am not convinced, Mr. Trump and supporters, that negotiating more protectionist trade agreements and reorienting foreign alliances amounts to a foreign policy of putting American interests first. We remain unconvinced that bold campaign promises — “believe me” — add up to a real agenda to “make America great again” and no one is entitled to our vote.

You’ve said you want to be the “voice”, the “champion”, of dispossessed working-class Americans, but a President has to be the voice of all Americans, a voice that speaks to the very heart of the country with a message of calming resolve. You, on the other hand, seem to think the only way to be heard is to shout the loudest.

So we know what history will write of the candidate, Donald Trump.

What we need to know is what will history write of a President Donald Trump?

Will historians write “he made America ‘great again’ by examples of proven Leadership” or that “he simply shouted the State of the Union over a Congress of mutual contempt?”

And Mrs. Clinton:

That was quite the lineup for Night Four of the Democratic National Convention. The parents of a Muslim soldier killed in action, an immigrant Medal of Honor recipient, Gen. John Allen on a stage accompanied by retired military professionals — if I didn’t know any better, I would have mistaken it for a Republican National Convention, from the eighties. And I know that was by design.

I turned 26 years old that afternoon. You’ve been in the public eye for the entirety of those years and the only accomplishment to speak of is from that night — when you finally claimed your party’s nomination.

I hope it was all worth it. You’re the first woman to be Nominated for President by a major party. You’ve crashed through that glass ceiling and are the closest any woman has come to occupying the Oval Office.

It’s a start, but don’t think it forgives the many years of ruthless ambition.

You’ve been First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State, and have absolutely nothing to show for any of it. You’ve never lead bipartisan compromise. You’ve never been a political leader. The one time you had to take responsibility, Benghazi, you feigned it one day and then returned to lying to American people and to the families of diplomatic servants killed on your watch! As President, to paraphrase Harry Truman, the buck stops with you.

We have no idea what you promised so many superdelegates to take an insurmountable lead before the S.S. Sanders had even left port. No one knows what the Democratic primary season would be like if they hadn’t boarded the Good Ship Hillary. Our best guess is that could be the subject of some the “missing” emails on a server that you had forensically demolished. Forgive us for being highly suspicious.

While manipulation and pandering can win an election, they are no substitute for Leadership in elected office.

So, Hillary Clinton, are you a real leader?

Is there truly a President that can speak for the nation rather than a voice encouraging further division?

We know that history is being rewritten now but what will history write if you are the first woman elected President? Think about that: you’ll be remembered for the ages by how you conduct yourself in the White House. Intellectual giants, victors of great wars, leaders of consequence, of dogged determination, all men, and you, Hillary, will be forever remembered as the first woman to be given a chance to join them. How do you want history to remember you? The President that proved a woman can be inestimable leader in a time of great uncertainty, or the capstone to two Democrat Presidents— one her husband of a “third way” politics and the other her progressive predecessor and ideological mentor. Barack Obama might be singing High Hopes for Hillary, but our country has had seven years of “the audacity of hope” and where we stand, where we’re going, we need the certainty of Leadership.

You’ve had 69 years to ponder this moment, so are you finally ready, Hillary? Should America be ready for President Hillary Clinton?

And Gary Johnson:

This is the Libertarian moment: we interrupt this contest between budding authoritarianism and stealth socialism with the brief interlude about Freedom.

I believe in Freedom and free markets. I would describe my economic views as free market fundamentalism, a not quite tongue-in-cheek reference to a near religious belief that people are good, that left to our own free will, we do what’s best for ourselves and in turn enrich others. As the Democrats chant “do the most good”, I still hear: “protect and defend the free market!” I remain unconvinced that nationalizing banks, healthcare, energy, retirement, or whatever else becomes fashionable is truly going to improve lives of most Americans.

But I understand that it’s a hard sell.

The progressives are openly hostile to personal liberty and “the market decides” is no condolence to the displaced worker asking how he’ll feed his youngest and put his oldest through college.

So, Governor Johnson, how are you going to convince the American people to choose the open hand of Freedom over the seductive promise of government?

This is exactly the message that could cut through the domineering politics that pervades both parties so that Freedom can define our republic once more. Economic liberty, personal liberty, the ordered liberty that grants to all citizens the rights and protections of the Rule of Law, personal responsibility, and the pursuit of fulfilment. With a few notable tradeoffs, the pragmatic libertarianism of today speaks to the very heart of the conservative movement.

But it does not beat for thee, not yet.

Are you truly prepared to meet this moment? It is time to move beyond the eclectic mix of freedom lovers that is the Libertarian Party and found a new birth for Freedom from the remains of political parties pulled further to their fringes by populist resentment and reactionary politics.

You alone, Gary Johnson and William Weld, have been granted this opportunity. Seize it! For the love of Freedom and the constitutional republic, seize this mantle of Leadership! And answer the voters’ conscience: America is only made great by the indefatigable reach of Freedom.

Given the choice between them, I would place my faith in Paul Ryan, The Speaker, and his belief that “a greater clarity between us” can lead to “a greater charity among us.” But there are a few certainties in 2017: babies will be born, old folks will die, and someone new will take The Oath of Office. We will have a President. Imbued with a gross overreach of power, the modern presidency is a thankless job on which all of the responsibilities of our republic fall.

We do not know what the future holds. We don’t know if the next crisis will be a miscarriage of justice, an economic crisis, financial collapse, or a breach in the trust of government. Given the candidates, I’d bet on the latter. But when justice needs to be served, when a maniac targets a school or workplace, when an officer of the law is felled by an assassin, the nation will not look to “the republic”. We’ll look to the President then, hoping for a voice that rises above the din by virtue of its content — a sense of purpose and pride, resolve in the face of adversity, the imperative to respond responsibly by bringing together leaders and forge a compromise of lasting consequence.

We haven’t had that President for some time, and it is deeply worrying that the candidates today seem to have learned all the wrong lessons from the Obama years.

Perhaps that is why Obama brought it back to “the audacity of hope” and his keynote speech from twelve years ago; it’s all he’s got left.

Us too.

The only hope for us is that power which rests in our hands now.

We have 99 days to make this most consequential choice and hope we’ve made the right one.

The stakes couldn’t be greater; the razor’s edge couldn’t be sharper; the future is fraught with difficulty and uncertainty; and all we have is hope — the audacity to hope, to vote, in 2016.