For nearly nine months I’ve been blogless. Why? Because I’ve watched the 2016 presidential campaign unfold in utter disbelief, which has rendered me nearly speechless. Imagine that: me – speechless! I would have preferred to stay out of the political discussion at this level, but now it has so intruded upon our daily lives and the future of our country that I can no longer avoid wading into the swamp. Where this discussion will take me I’m not entirely sure.
Every four years I struggle to maintain my sanity through each presidential election. I still consider Bush’s reelection in 2004 the darkest day in American history since 9/11. The elections of 2008 and 2012 were both nail-biters, even though the sensible outcome should have been a no-brainer. Vice President Palin? President “I’ll say anything to get elected” Romney? Yikes! In 2012 I was afraid to watch the election night returns here in California. I didn’t turn on the TV until 10 p.m. Pacific time. Fortunately for me, within minutes they called Ohio for Obama, and it was largely over. That saved me a lot of stress.
But the 2016 election breaks all records for my sanity. On the one hand, I witnessed the unprecedented possibility of a candidate whose progressive politics and integrity are beyond question. On the other, we had an array of clowns and an interminable campaign that rarely if ever rose out of the gutter. I actually felt some satisfaction in Donald Trump’s disruption of the Republican Party. Trump has shown, I guess, that the Republican general electorate doesn’t really give a damn about “conservative principles.” Republicans have been setting themselves up for something like this for years, and now they have to deal with it. Problem is, the rest of the country does, too.
At times I almost pulled for Trump in the primaries, ever so thankful as he finished off Scott Walker, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz one by one. Good riddance to them all. Cruz, the last man standing, was the perfect foil for Trump – a classic politician who was even harder to like than Trump himself. Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Rand Paul actually looked like the best of the lot, which goes to show how dismal the Republican promise has become since the days of Eisenhower.
But that still leaves Trump, an unqualified, unpredictable, egotistical buffoon whose character and conduct symbolize everything that is wrong with America. That a man who says whatever pops into his head and blows it out his ear enjoys such broad support – who are these people? – speaks volumes about what kind of shape our country is in.
Bernie Sanders, in all likelihood, will not win the Democratic nomination. I do, however, believe that he will continue to fight for his policies and continue the “political revolution” our country so sorely needs. I am impressed beyond words by his integrity, by his stamina as a 74-year old on the campaign trail, and by his ability to awaken and inspire young voters. To those young voters, I say, don’t be discouraged. You must stay engaged. It’s your future that Washington, the billionaires, and all those old white guys have largely made a mess of.
Make no mistake. The Hillary Clinton hate machine has been fine-tuned for decades by the Republican Party. Trump will happily be its megaphone. All the old dirty laundry will be aired once again, and new dirty laundry will be either discovered or made up. Of course Trump has plenty of dirty laundry, too, so unless Democrats are stupid, that, too will be aired between now and November. After the California primary, the rest of the campaign will devolve into relentless character assassination, while the real issues get lost in all the noise. Just what we need right now, when America is on the brink of self-destruction. In any case, the choice in November will be between the candidate of “same old not enough” and the candidate of “roll the dice and close your eyes.”
As for Trump himself, he promises to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate agreement the day he assumes office. If this happens, it’s game over for the agreement, inadequate as it already is, and probably game over for the planet as well. He says the wall he will build and have Mexico pay for will stop the flow of drugs into the U.S., as if poor Latin American women and children are bringing the drugs in with them, when in reality they cross the border with little more than the clothes on their backs. And don’t you love his glorious plan to resume waterboarding – and then some? Side note: If he doesn’t mean this stuff, he shouldn’t say it; if he does mean it, holy crap! One of my greater fears is that, with his big mouth, he will blunder us into some unimaginable new international crisis.
The phenomenon I abhor most in this country is the stubborn belief by many, across decades, in American exceptionalism, the idea that, obviously, America is superior to the rest of the world – morally, economically, and militarily. This is the big lie. Our income inequality is the greatest, our military the most bloated, our infrastructure crumbling, our healthcare the most expensive and least encompassing of our population, our education reserved only for those able to afford it, our prisons the fullest. Only in this sense are we exceptional. “American exceptionalism” blinds us to the reality that many other nations have functioning governments and institutions far superior to ours.
Benjamin Franklin told someone after the Constitutional convention long ago that what the founders had given us was “a republic, if you can keep it.” Well, we’re in grave danger now of not keeping it. We’ve been squandering it for decades, and the divisiveness and mean-spiritedness of our population is rendering us incapable of functioning as a democracy. Hence my belief that (1) a Trump victory in November is entirely possible and (2) the end of the Republic may well be closer than anyone thinks.