Politics has always had an ugly side. Although we often feel like we are living through the worst of it, it has clearly been really awful at other times also. CNN had a great piece during the Trump-Clinton election showing some of the awful things candidates said about each other. The current climate includes some of this, and plenty of name calling (our President excels in this artform), but what bothers me the most isn’t the attacks between those individuals, but the blanket demonization of people who vote a certain way or another. Both sides get blame for this, but circumstances seem to be having an impact on republicans (at this moment) more than democrats. I’m not saying that things couldn’t be reversed, and democrats would be the ones to talk about here, but right now, in current politics, the republicans are worthy of some attention. Specifically, I’m talking about what’s happening in Alabama and the continued support of the GOP candidate for Senate. For the party leaders, and many of their voters, democrats are so awful, and so evil, and so wrong for the country, that they would prefer to side with Moore, in spite of all the dirt that’s been unearthed about him, than let a democrat win the seat.
The day is here. President-Elect Trump will become President Trump, and President Obama’s time in office will end. I honestly do not know which makes me more sad. The Obama administration has not been perfect, but they’ve done a pretty great job with lots of things. Perhaps one of their biggest failures was not being able to garner the recognition for many of the things they did. The rise of the right-leaning blogs, and websites like World Net Daily and Breitbart didn’t make that task any easier, but irrespective of the reasons, it was undoubtedly a problem.
The Obama administration oversaw some amazing things, many of them cultural, and it seems clear that the election of Trump was a push back against that. So, as much as I am sad to see Obama leave office, I am equally sad that voters pushed back against all he has accomplished. But, as much as this day is about that push back, for me it’s a whole lot of nostalgia for a president who I deeply adored, perhaps more than I will adore any other president in my lifetime.
Elections like this, and like the election in 2000, when the popular vote winner is not the same as the electoral vote winner, make people stop and think about the system we have. I have had quite a few discussions about this over the past month, and I am moved by the arguments in favor of the electoral college. Some say it’s antiquated, and that it was a system designed to give more power to states with high slave populations, but without giving slaves the right to vote. True or not, I accept the premise of why the electoral college is important today: it gives a voice to the small states, and helps make sure they are heard. This has been spun as a benefit to republicans, but the evidence supporting that isn’t very strong.
I spend a fair amount of time on FaceBook, and I keep a pretty diverse group of friends, so I get to hear lots of different perspectives. I have quite a few friends who are just not happy with the election. They don’t like the choices, and they think the whole thing is messed up. When people say they have to vote for the lesser of two evils, I have a tendency to feel like this says more about the nomination from the party that person is more likely to vote for, than it says about both candidates (read more here), but there are nevertheless plenty of people who just despise both choices, especially this year. When I think about the people who aren’t happy, some of them dislike the candidates as people (Hillary is a crook, Trump is a pig, etc), but I’ve been friends, at least on FaceBook, with others for long enough that I get the sense they will never be happy, with any candidate, unless that candidate fits their hopes/dreams/values/desires perfectly. It makes me wonder if we’re expecting a bit too much…maybe spoiled by modern society.
My Facebook feed is full of people who are dissatisfied with the election options. Meme after meme pokes fun at the candidates and the options the voters have this presidential election cycle. “I don’t think America should elect any president in 2016. We need to be single for a few years and find ourselves,” is one that I find amusing.
I find this one is a bit more offensive, but I get the point.
Here’s my problem with all of this: It doesn’t matter what anybody thinks of BOTH candidates. What matters the most is what each person thinks of one of them. That is ALL that matters.
I’m not a historian, and I don’t know one well enough to ask, but it seems like the illegitimate president is a modern trend. Even if we’ve had one or two before, my guess is that we haven’t had three, could be four, in a row. What do I mean by an illegitimate president? A president who a large swath of Americans reject as the legitimate president because of one thing or another. Clinton, failed to get a majority of the vote. Bush, had a presidency that was decided by a Supreme Court case (which, in my non-legal expert opinion, was decided against the ideology of every single Justice on the bench). Obama’s citizenship, or fraudulent citizenship, made him illegitimate, and now, the election is rigged, so if Clinton wins, her presidency will have the illegitimate label also. Let’s look at each of these in a rational manner.
My wife has enormous influence on me. I listen to whatever she says, and am often convinced to change my view, at least slightly, because of something she said. On the twentieth anniversary of our marriage (today, August 3rd, 2016), it is, therefore, appropriate to write a brief note about a recent change in my thinking about the 2016 elections.
This change is a good one; good in the sense that it lets me live my life feeling less disgust for other people. That makes me happy, because feeling disgust for anything is not pleasant in any way. So what changed? My view of Trump voters.
A lot is said about republicans and what they do and do not believe. We can consider how many republicans do and do not agree with certain things, but in the end, the party has a platform, and the platform is on record now. I think it’s worth taking a look…and doing a little fisking (actually pseudofisking, there’s no way I’m covering every single phrase in the damn thing, it’s just too long and a lot of it doesn’t warrant comment anyway). Here goes!
When I talk to people who support a candidate like Donald Trump, they seem almost completely driven by this crippling fear that the world is on fire, that the United States is falling apart, and that Washington is either helping this happen, or not effectively doing anything about it. I have to say that if I believed all of that was true, I could imagine the appeal of a candidate like Donald Trump. The problem is this: almost none of the fears that these people have are rooted in reality. Let’s take a bit to look at some things that might frighten us.
I love a good price fixe tasting menu. At a good restaurant, I don’t need many choices. I want to know what the chef thinks is his/her best, and I want to eat it. It helps that I love food, and am not in any way a picky eater, so these kinds of menus make me happy. For others, these menus are a nightmare. Sometimes they have an appetizer that sounds good, but nothing on the main courses, and other times there’s a good sounding main course, but the appetizers all sound awful. For many, this is a perfect metaphor for politicians.
Although the menu metaphor is all mine, I can’t take credit for this morning’s realization, it comes entirely from my lovely wife. For a long time, I have known many people who considered themselves fiscally conservative and socially liberal. Last spring, the conservative Cato Institute released a report arguing that this type of thinking was on the rise. This sentiment is found in Gallup polling also, with people more likely to say that they are liberal on social issues than fiscal issues, and more likely to self-identify as conservative on fiscal issues than on social issues. For many people, this left them having to pick one or the other, because most candidates didn’t offer that combination they sought. Candidates were either liberal (fiscally and socially) or conservative (fiscally and socially), and people were left feeling like no candidate represented them very well. Living in a state like New York, this seems to be the majority of GOP voters that I know personally. Those who think that gay marriage is probably fine, civil rights are important, death penalty is not a good idea, and they might even be pro-choice (at least to some degree), but they want lower taxes and less spending on things they deem wasteful, and have a philosophical aversion to government taking from them to give to others against their will. For them, they’ve voted republican and swallowed the bitter pill of social conservativism* (see note on my usage) in order to get the desired fiscal conservativism. There are other voters who might benefit from a fiscal liberal, but they vote conservative, likely because they are aligned with the social issues, and were willing to accept the fiscal conservativism, or even found ways to rationalize it (it’s just fair, keep government off all our backs, I might be a millionaire one day, etc). Having spent some time at Catholic schools, I have friends that fit this mold too. Some who consider themselves consistently pro-life, which, for them means being anti-abortion, but also anti-death penalty, pro-social welfare programs, pro-immigration. For many of these voters, they voted republican because of the abortion issue, but longed for a candidate who would be more aligned with them on the social issues that they believe fit better with their Catholic values. In all of these cases, for a long time, we’ve had conflicted voters who needed to sacrifice one thing to get the other, and had to pick which was more important. Then, for many of them, along came Trump.