Something to Offend Everyone
Generally, I rarely write about politics here. Truth is, I don’t think I’ve written a single essay about politics since about 1980. (Well, maybe one.) I was twenty years old then and full of myself, proud and unaware of how good I had it being born white, male and middle class. So while this little tome won’t be about specific political candidates or their proposed policies (well, maybe a little), I feel compelled to make a few observations about how abysmally bad our choices for POTUS seem to be this election year. More importantly, I want to address the people who are to blame for it. More on this later.
For the moment, let’s talk about policies. Here’s what I think I know.
One guy running wants to build a wall. He’s a deal maker and I suspect that’s as much a straw man as anything else. But it’s hard to give him the benefit of the doubt given he is willing to allege just about anything about his political opponents. He campaigns on style over substance. He wants to make other people pay for the wall he would build and I wonder how he plans to do that. And I also wonder what unintended consequences such an attempt might have? I wonder about the consequences of his bombast on the world stage. Pointing fingers and poking people in the eye may be good for a campaign, but I’m not sure it’s good for governing. I’m also leery of anyone who doesn’t immediately dismiss the Klan when he has an opportunity. How is that even possible? I don’t think he’s a racist; not really. But at best, it shows how poor his “heat of the moment” skills are.
There is one candidate whose policies I think I actually understand. I think he’s probably genuine in his beliefs; but beliefs lead to actions and I fear he believes too many things are free. He seems to see certain types of people and corporations as the manifestation of evil. He’s actually managed some restraint as he campaigns and has deftly avoided, for the most part, attacking his only opponent on personal grounds. I find this is refreshing. But nothing is free and at some point just taking something from one person to give to another seems only to perpetuate dependency, entitlement, and the probability of even more class envy. Sure, there are people who genuinely need help. And I think we should try to give it. But there are no panaceas. Take a look at Europe. We’ve been trying to build the Great Society since Johnson was president. As Doctor Phil would ask, “How’s that workin’ for you?”
There’s also a guy from Texas. He’s really smart, no doubt. He went to great schools and from what I can tell, worked really hard there. I suspect he’s genuine in his beliefs too. He’s part of the crowd that invokes the name of “the founders,” and I think he believes in a kind of Manifest Destiny or Divine Providence that troubles me. I admire him standing on his principles and fighting for what he believes is right in the Senate. I’m just not sure he realizes we are a nation of varied beliefs. I think he understands the American Dream in some ways, especially given his heritage. But I wonder if he realizes that our form of government, republican democracy, was founded to protect the rights of the minority, protecting them from the potential tyranny of the majority, rather than to foist his beliefs on all of us. I wonder if he recognizes that “the founders” were flawed men whose world views were influenced by the times in which they lived. Our times are far more complex and while the founders did create something remarkable in giving birth to our nation, I’m not prepared to grant them deference as demi-gods.
There is also a candidate who would be our first woman President. I think she is probably very bright. I’m not always sure about her motives and I don’t really understand much of what she is for or against. I’m sure she would like to see our nation’s healthcare system become something close to single payer than we have now. I think she understands the world is complex and that what you say publicly and how you say it matters. But she’s part of a political class of which I have grown weary. There are those like her on the other side of the political aisle. I’m not wild about them either. Worse, she may have made some grave errors in judgment about how to protect our bravest serving abroad; and in how she’s handled herself with regard to a particular email server. Truth is, I don’t know. Best case, it just feels icky. I know she’s for women. I am too. My mom is a woman. My daughter is a woman. They should be treated with respect, recognized for their contributions to society, and paid fairly. But I wonder about how this candidate has treated other woman sometimes too.
So what’s a boy to do? Not vote? That’s not an option. Hold my nose and vote for the least offensive candidate? I’ll black out if I pinch that hard. Move to Canada? Too cold. I’m still sorting it all out. But I have a few more thoughts, now that I’ve made managed to make everyone angry.
As a nation, I fear we are getting what we deserve, that we are all to blame for slate of Presidential candidates from which we may choose this year. I fear that we’ve forgotten that we are all Americans. Black and White. Rich and Poor. Male and Female. All of us. Together. Gay and Straight. Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Some of us are good. Some of us are bad. And if those of us who are good allow the current slate of candidates to divide us further, to appeal to our inner two-year-old, then shame on us. It’s time to demand candidates who deal with substantive matters of policy rather than treat the process as if it were some bad reality television show. We’ve got to stop accusing one another all the time. It has to become possible to have legitimate differences of opinion and still treat one another with respect—and act with a little humility for a change. All of us. It’s not too late.