REFUGE FROM THE STORM
Finding solace in the “throw-away” vote
With the 2016 presidential election less than a week away, there are two things of which we can be certain: (1) that Hillary Clinton is gong to win; and (2) that her presidency is going to be an unmitigated disaster.
There is plenty of blame to go around for this fine mess we’ve gotten into, not the least of which lay at the feet of Trump supporters. One of the more gnawing frustrations throughout this campaign has been the periodic realization that, if the Republicans had simply nominated someone — anyone — who wasn’t a total and complete train wreck, the scourge of lies, corruption and paranoia-fueled scandal that are certain to accompany a Clinton presidency could have been avoided.
But those are issues for another day. Today’s task is to decide, in spite of all of these frustrating inevitabilities, which lever to pull come election day.
EVIL WOMAN, HOW YOU DONE ME WRONG
One option is to give in (lean in?) to the inevitable and vote for the winner. Hillary Clinton has a resume that would seem to qualify her for the job. She is a creature of Washington and is thoroughly connected to the nation’s power brokers and money changers making her, her supporters would argue, White House-ready on day one. She even has a bunch of White House furniture ready to pull out of storage to save the taxpayers a couple of bucks!
But the story of Hillary Clinton, like story of her husband, is all about what’s not on the resume. The slipperiness and the shadiness, the casual relationship with truth, the never-ending string of scandals that all involve the same loathsome things: a lust for power, a penchant for secrecy, the belief that she is above the law, and the unshakable sense that she is either uninterested in or incapable of honesty.
And then there is the contempt she holds for underlings and those she feels are beneath her (a sprawling group if there ever was one). The fits of anger, denigrating insults and curse-laden tirades she routinely volleys are staffers, associates and those pressed into her service (including and especially Secret Service agents) are the stuff of legend. If they were isolated storied peddled by political rivals, they could be dismissed as sour grapes. But the number and consistency of stories from sources that have nothing to gain and no political axe to grind create sufficient smoke to safely assume a f***ing inferno (to dust off an old HRC chestnut).
A wise man once said that a person’s true character is revealed in how she treats the people that she doesn’t need to treat well. That is a test that Hillary Clinton has failed repeatedly and thoroughly. And her character, or lack thereof, is revealed as a result.
So the responsible voter is left to cast his ballot for the other major party candidate, right? Well …
UNFIT, UNHINGED, UNSAFE
The Donald Trump that has conducted the 2016 presidential campaign has declared that he holds a host of traditionally Republican beliefs: strong borders, strong defense, fewer regulations, lower taxes, and the unleashing of power of America’s business prowess. The problem is there is little evidence that he actually believes any of it. Much like Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump’s decades in the public eye have been a double-edged sword in his campaign. He has a level of name-recognition that any politician would covet, but the persona that is familiar to large swaths of the voting public for decades bears little relation to the person he says he is now.
He supported the war in Iraq but now claims to have been against it. He has supported politicians of all stripes but now claims that was just business. He is on record as being pro-choice but is now fervently pro-life. The list goes on and on. At the bottom of it all, Donald Trump is a craven opportunist — one of many qualities that served him well as a businessman, but that make him a particularly odious politician.
The one thing he does seem to consistently believe in is the one thing that is most offensive to the conservative mind: an imperial presidency in which the whims and wishes of the executive can be carried out over the nattering of any objection, opposition, (r)epublican check or (d)emocratic balance.
On top of all that, Donald Trump is a sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot.
It may be dismissed as quaint and passe, but there is something to be said for the traditional notion that, politics aside, the President of the United States should be a role model. Donald Trump has proven himself to be a person that no parent should hope for his child to emulate — his private actions expose him as a unwelcome paramour of women and his public statements discredit him as a unqualified paragon of virtue, he is vicious and cruel, harbors admiration for dictators, celebrates war crimes, and relishes in the humiliation of his rivals. To say nothing of the fact that he is auditioning for the role of Leader of the Free World but shows little interest in actually understanding how the affairs of the world work.
STAYING IN CHARACTER
That great American statesman Andrew Shepherd famously said: “the presidency of the United States is entirely about character.” Mr. Shepherd’s status as a fictional leader notwithstanding, his sentiment is correct. When we look back at history, it is abundantly clear that the character of the leaders we elect is far more important than the promises they make about the policies they plan to enact.
The reason is that presidencies are almost always defined by unforeseen circumstances. Presidential campaigns talk in lofty terms about the things they will accomplish and the direction they will take the country, but the core of presidential leadership isn’t action, it’s reaction.
Barack Obama’s presidential campaign was all about ending wars and elevating the status of American leadership abroad. Then the economy collapsed. George W. Bush took office expecting that his administration would focus on domestic issues like education and entitlement reform. Then, on a clear September morning, that all changed.
And that’s just the last two presidents. Examples of unforeseen but unavoidable circumstances are dotted throughout the American presidency; circumstances that forced the occupant of the Oval Office to set aside whatever plans he had when he took the oath and call upon his reserves of good judgement, good information and good counsel to make the decisions that he thought were in the nation’s best interest.
The lesson is: when choosing our leaders we’re better off picking the good person over the good candidate. Using that standard, the major political parties have left Americans in a quandary. Demonstrably, neither the Republican nominee nor the Democratic nominee is a good person.
Governor Gary Johnson is not an ideal candidate. He is goofy and flighty, he has penchant for meandering answers that veer and jerk in all directions, he often seems like he would rather be talking about pretty much anything but politics, and in some of his most high profile moments he has displayed what could be seen as surprisingly low levels of global awareness.
On policy matters, he holds some admirable and encouraging positions (reducing government’s impact in our lives, favoring individual freedom, free markets and civil liberties, reining in government spending, practical tax reforms to build businesses and jobs) and some positions that are potentially harmful or overreaching (retreat from the global stage, abolishing the Fed and the Dept. of Education). But at no time has he given any indication that he is a bad person. Throughout his career in public service and private industry, he has comported himself with honesty, sincerity, and a self-effacing self-awareness that is refreshing and all too rare among national office-seekers.
In an election that has no outstanding candidate, I choose the one whose judgement I trust most. I choose the man who is not afraid to admit what he doesn’t know and who is willing to seek the advice of others in the search for what is right. I choose the candidate who is best equipped to address the unforeseen from the perspective of “what is good for the country” rather than “what is preferred by my constituents (or worse, donors)”.
With a storm of lies, corruption, mendacity and deceit swirling around the American electorate, I take refuge in the knowledge that my vote will be cast for candidate who has character.
He will not win, and for that America will pay a price.
How steep that price will be is unforeseen. That’s what has me worried.