Decent Republicans, don’t be afraid of the George H. W. Bush of the Democratic party.
When George H. W. Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton in 1992, my father defended Bush as “the most qualified President we’ve ever had.” Bush had been a naval aviator, a congressman, ambassador to the UN, chairman of the RNC, envoy to China, director of the CIA, Vice President for eight years, President for four years. Yet, he lost an election to a governor from Arkansas?
This became settled law to my dad as he spent years repeating the canard that Ross Perot cost George H. W. Bush the election. Only recently was I able to get my dad to accept, partially, that had Perot not been in the running, Bush might have lost by a greater percentage — either because Perot voters would have supported Clinton or would have simply stayed home. Bush didn’t excite anyone. He didn’t put butts in seats.
In retrospect — and especially in today’s political climate — it is hard to imagine Bush père as “unlikable.” He’s become the nation’s grandad — affable, logical, wise. But at the time, even as a teenager, I realized, the man didn’t connect with voters. Republican executive leadership had stagnated by 1992. Except for the brief four-year vacation during which the kids stayed with the nation’s friendly uncle, Jimmy Carter, Republicans had been at the helm since 1969. The country seemed to want a Reagan victory lap in ’88 and the Democrats didn’t put up much of a fight. But then, it was time for new management.
Now, in the extended hangover that is 2016, there isn’t much of a call for a victory lap. Clinton can’t surf on the wave of “are you better off than you were four years ago?” like Bush could. Neither is she a cipher who can step into the shoes of her predecessor. The public already has an opinion on her. As a result, we have two major party candidates about whom 25% of the electorate has unfavorable opinions. The difference is one represents her party and the other doesn’t.
The Republican party has chosen as its candidate for President a man
- who doesn’t support conservative moral values (see: last week’s comments about grabbing women by their genitals, his comments about his own daughter’s body, his attack on a woman who gained a little weight, his insults about a fellow Republican’s wife);
- who doesn’t support conservative religious values (see: belief he doesn’t need to seek forgiveness, his boasts about affairs with married women, his mispronunciation of “2 Corinthians”);
- who is not fiscally conservative (see: his proposed wall with Mexico might cost $25 billion, his loss of about $4 billion in terrible casino deals, his default on the loan he took to launch his airline, his proposed $200 billion dragnet to catch unauthorized immigrants);
- who does not favor a smaller government presence (see: his desire to interfere in free markets, impose tariffs to punish U.S. companies that move factories offshore, and create pork projects in the name of infrastructure);
- who consistently demonstrates his petty temperament and mental unpreparedness (see: his Twitter fights with celebrities, ignorance of the news, claims that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in assassination of Kennedy, lack of preparation for debates);
- who insults our veterans (on McCain: “I like people who weren’t captured”; on Capt. Humayun Khan: “if I were president at that time, he would be alive today”; on veterans suffering with PTSD: “…a lot of people can’t handle it”);
- who thinks Assad(!) is doing a great job;
- who suggests he’ll fire top generals of the armed services because they have become “embarrassing to our country” and that he knows more about threats to our country than those generals;
- and who thinks there may be as many as twelve articles in the Constitution.
Donald Trump is fundamentally not a Republican. Not in the way that I know Republicans to be. Not in the way my family members are Republicans. The platform on which the GOP has stood for decades is one of conservative moral values, fiscal responsibility, respect for the men and women of our armed forces, and constitutional limits of government. Trump possesses none of those characteristics.
Yet, millions of decent Republicans will vote for him simply because they hate the Democratic candidate so much. This is the only argument anyone makes for voting Trump: but Hillary is a crook/liar/career politician. No one can make a positive case for Trump, only a negative one for Clinton.
I’m not writing this to try to convince you to vote for Hillary. I’m simply saying that if you do support the traditional Republican platform, you shouldn’t worry about Hillary Clinton so much. Hillary Clinton is the Democrats’ George H. W. Bush.
Hillary Clinton has spent most of her life in public service. In addition to her volunteer positions prior to Bill’s election, as First Lady, she was the head of the Task Force on National Health Reform. She was a two-term senator from New York. She served as Secretary of State for Barrack Obama’s first term. I mention none of these to argue her efficacy in those roles, only her experience.
She is qualified — in the same way that George H. W. Bush was— to be President of the United States. And like George H. W. Bush, she doesn’t excite people. If Republicans had run Mitt Romney against her this year (as unexciting as he was), you’d have crushed her. But you didn’t. You choose a man whose primary professional accomplishment is not losing all the money he inherited.
If anything, Donald Trump has made Hillary more likable. His myopic rage and constant denigration of women has humanized a woman who has generally been seen as kind of cold. She was always more of a policy wonk than a personality-driven politician. Just like George H. W. Bush.
But take Donald Trump out of the picture, like in four years, after her first term, and she’s vulnerable. Just like George H. W. Bush was. She can’t put butts in the seats. She couldn’t even excite her own party as much as a 75 year old independent who ran against her.
On the other hand, the consequences of a Trump presidency are dire…for your community. They are dire for a constituency that thinks of itself as a party of family, tradition, and honesty. While our republic can likely withstand a Trump presidency (as long as he doesn’t launch a nuke), your party cannot. The cracks are already apparent. Imagine his verbal attacks on former supporters, lack of preparation and focus, general ignorance of how the government functions — on a global scale. If he’s willing to say the things he says about Paul Ryan, Ted Cruz, and John McCain (just today Trump called McCain, “foul-mouthed”) — members of his own party — what will he say about foreign leaders who displease him?
(You don’t really have to imagine Trump getting into a Twitter battle with a head of state. He already has.)
Once Trump is elected, you’ve ceded any right to claim a moral high ground, possibly, forever. This detestable man won’t change his personality once elected, just as he never changed it when he won the nomination, just as he’s never truly apologized for his offenses, just as they’re the same offenses he’s been committing for forty years or more. He is the consummate bullshit artist and con man — a mixture of the traits that psychologists call the “dark triad”: sociopathy, narcissism, and Machiavellianism. His apologies ring hollow because they are. This is not a temporary situation during which his normal behavior is suspended. This is his normal behavior.
So my plea is this: stop trying to rationalize your values with a vote for a candidate who is so far outside the realm of decency. If you want to preserve civil political discourse and respectable values in your community, lay down your arms this year. Go to the polls, vote down the ballot, and leave the top of the ticket blank. Or write in someone worthy.
Stop falling for the Black and White Fallacy.
The False Dilemma — or Black and White Fallacy — is the logical error that occurs when you perceive that you have only two choices. This fallacy omits multiple choices that may exist or, even, the choice not to choose. The propagation of the False Dilemma during presidential elections has become a political con game. Many people with establishment interests will try to convince you that the presidential election is a binary choice. Not voting for one equals a vote for the other, they all parrot. That’s the siren song of the False Dilemma.
The presidential election is plainly not binary because there will be more than two names on your ballot. While it is likely true that one of the two major party candidates will win this year, you don’t have to contribute to one or the other. You don’t have to give your vote to a man or woman who doesn’t represent your values.
I won’t even try to convince anyone that in twenty years, we’ll think of Hillary Clinton as the nation’s grandma. But I can guarantee you that your children and grandchildren won’t think well of Mr. Trump whether he’s elected or not. Nationalist demagogues never go down well in history.