How Were These Two the Final Candidates for the Job?

(Still Wondering a Year Later)

As the curtain closes on a tumultuous 2017 and the dumpster fire that has been Trump’s inaugural year as president, I find myself rehashing the same question from a year ago:

How were these two the final candidates for the job?

At least she actually wanted the job…

With Trump standing at a 32% approval rating at year end, (the lowest ever for a first-year president), Americans across the political spectrum are feeling the pain.

Soon the 2017 “year-in-review” compilations will come out, with some even attempting to chronologize the antics of Trump’s freshman year. If it’s even possible to capture every single ridiculous detail, it will either be the most deeply depressing or tragically humorous thing you’ve read this year, depending on your mood (and how much they spiked the eggnog).

While I don’t hide the fact that I think Trump is the worst, I also don’t pretend I was content with the alternative.

My only first-hand experience with Hilary Clinton was years ago, shortly before her first attempt at president in 2008. I saw her live in-person at the Dave Letterman show while on a trip to New York City to visit my brother, who happened to get tickets when Senator Clinton happened to be the special guest.

If you’ve ever experienced a “live studio audience” filming, the show starts with assistants greeting and energizing the crowd so it sounds like everything is super interesting and hilarious for people watching at home. That day the show started fine with the laughing and clapping, but then Clinton entered for the interview segment. Immediately, all the energy the team had worked so hard to build up was sucked out of the room, like oxygen out of a passenger plane with the doors blown off at 30,000 feet. I suddenly found myself losing the struggle to stay conscious, as my eyes glazed over and my head begin to dip. I looked over to my brother for support, but it was too late; we had already lost him. It was like someone had switched the power off in the room. This is not good when you’re talking about important things and trying to get people excited about your candidacy. It took a marijuana-hazed slow country ballad by Willie Nelson to jolt us awake. It was really bad.

I remember clearly thinking to myself: “That person should probably never run for president.” That was 2007. In 2016, this same person was the last hope standing between America and a Trump presidency. The rest is history.

Of course, there are much more substantive reasons to vote, or not vote, for a candidate. And while I wouldn’t blame Clinton for Trump’s presidential victory, it was clear she was not the one to try to bring the defense to Trumps unprecedented offense. So, we all take the blame for not having a better choice that more voters could get excited enough about to go out and vote. That’s how important elections are won.

So, returning to my original question, but in a much bigger sense and not at all rhetorically: How is it possible that in a country this big and with so many potentially great options, we ended up with this?

The answer probably is: it’s not that simple. It’s not like every single one of the 44 presidents before Trump have been completely awesome, and we’d be naïve to pretend otherwise. But with number 45, something is different. It appears the game of politics, which has been vicious and unscrupulous throughout our country’s history, has finally managed to completely undermine itself. The result is Trump, and I fear we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

But maybe therein lies the one possible silver lining of the Trump presidency. Maybe this forces Americans to finally come together on something and agree that we will go no lower; that this must be our bottoming out. Then we begin to change whatever it is we need to change so that the most capable and qualified among us will again feel inspired to lead. Great men and women from the public and private sector who are willing to make sacrifices for the good of the country that has been so good to them. People who are honest and transparent and fair and thoughtful. People who know how to listen and are able put emotion aside and use judgment and reason. People who don’t pretend to know everything, but know how to figure things out. People with a demonstrated pattern of exercising self-control and conducting themselves honorably and respectfully both publicly and privately. People with values and principles, whose past dealings professionally and personally reflect those values and principles, and who have supporters and detractors for all the right reasons. People who deal exclusively in the truth, and that have their personal affairs in order to the degree that they cannot be unduly influenced or compromised by anyone. People willing to lead selflessly and by example and ask no more than they have been willing to give. People who are respected at home and abroad for the right reasons, who inspire us to be better and can bring out the best in us as a nation.

There is no doubt whether these people exist; we just need them to feel the call to public service and we need to support them when they do.

The urgency to find the right people grows every day as we near the next election cycle. We do not want to find ourselves in the same situation three years from now.

In the meantime, for lack of better options, allow me to propose a political team that is exponentially wiser and more mature than our current president, and more dynamic and energetic than his defeated rival.

I present to you my choice for the 2020 presidential team:

Future presidential candidate Pedro Sanchez and running mate Napoleon Dynamite

Here’s to surviving 2018 and one year closer to 2020.


Check out my website and follow me on social media for more at www.lincolnsmith.org

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