Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Perhaps The Most Important Election Ever

Perhaps The Most Important Election Ever

Regular readers of "Oh, By The Way" know that I mostly post about art or music or I might offer a few book or film reviews. As I say in my blog description to the right, I am dedicated to posting the positive, the fascinating, the beautiful, the interesting, the moving, and the inspiring and uplifting. But I also note that I will sometimes post cultural as well as personal observations. I have on occasion reflected upon politics but only when the situation seemed to require it. And we now find ourselves at one of those times.

If you live in the United States, or follow the news at all, you are surely aware that next week we face perhaps the most important political election of all time. This election has ramifications not only for the next four years but for perhaps the next 20 or 30 years. Who occupies the White House this coming January will shape the course and texture of our lives which will in turn effect the rest of the world.

There has been a lot of talk in the United States during this rancorous election cycle about anger, how “the people” are angry, and how so many citizens think the country is moving in the wrong direction. But what such a blank statistic never addresses is why people are angry and in which direction they perceive the country to be moving toward. And the answer depends upon which “side” you ask.

Folks with possibly a more liberal bent might say that they don’t like how corporations have taken over, they don’t like how profit motive seems to be the sole factor in nearly every decision in civic life, how the middle and lower classes have been decimated, and how there seems to be an ugly, right-wing, racist, sexist, xenophobic, isolationist (possibly veering toward fascist) strain blooming like mold in our society. Folks with the opposing view—and we don’t have to look far or stretch our imaginations to get this point of view—think that people from other countries and religions are trying to “take over,” that some conspiracy is trying to take away their guns and ban weapons all together, and that liberal trade deals and more liberal conspiracies have taken away their jobs.

Of course the candidates for the two major parties represent these differing viewpoints. But when we look at the two candidates, we see not only two differing opinions, two differing perspectives, but two differing psyches and approaches to life itself.

Although records show that he was always someone who lied, cheated, coerced, bullied, and threatened, Donald Trump the political candidate was born from the reality television show mind set and milieu that has infected the United States for a few decades now. His followers who are angry at vague shadows and boogey men follow him because of, well, some would call it “charisma” but in the reality television show world, he is the fly in the ointment, the chili pepper in someone’s eye, which makes for good ratings. His rhetoric is that of a fifteen year old threatening to beat you up after school, and his followers respond to that much more so than a reasoned discussion of issues or a thoughtful economic plan. They prefer gossip and innuendo. When old-school Republicans say they can’t understand how their party was taken over and how someone like Trump got to be the official nominee for president of a world power, they show a shocking lack of understanding. Do they honestly lack any capacity for self-examination, to be able to see consequences for their own actions?

Starting with Reagan in the 80s, when the Evangelical right were being courted and invited into the party, Republicans have played and pandered to a base that gets lower and lower each year. Without any ideas or leadership to solve the issues facing the country, they instead stoked the fires of paranoia, xenophobia, and conspiracy theories in order to cast the worst light on their liberal opponents. They threw temper tantrums and threatened to shut down the government if they did not get their way. Without any regard for compromise, ex-Speaker of the House John Boehner once emerged from a negotiation meeting with President Obama and proclaimed his bitter disappointment that the Republicans only got 90% of they were asking for. Indeed, the entire Republican party decided, from Obama’s first inauguration onward, they would do everything in their power to stop, thwart, delay, or destroy any action coming from the new administration (this has been thoroughly documented), and they did. Think of what we would have if the GOP hadn’t been there to squash and twist the Affordable Care Act: we would have a single payer health care system that would function the way it was intended without being a limping hybrid. Think of where we would be without the GOP licking the boots of the relatively small gun club of the NRA: we would have a necessary assault weapons ban and magazine limits, and increased background checks on all private sales. The Republicans backed the supposed grass-roots Tea Party movement, encouraging people with little education (over the last 15 years or so, the Republicans have managed to twist the idea of higher education into something that is only for "uppity, liberal elites who think they are better than everyone else") and no grasp of how their country functions to become even angrier.

As this horrid, toxic tale played out, it was easy to see that they were building a Frankenstein and that the monster would come back for them. And this is exactly what happened: here we have the carcass of the Tea Party backing Trump the monster and the destruction of the Republican party which is now simply a gathering of treasonous obstructionists trying to out-pious each other with how “Christian” they are.

The “angry people” are angry for a reason, I recognize that. But they and their lack of education and understanding have been taken advantage of by Machiavellian members of the Republican party and the ego of Donald trump. They think that their jobs have been “taken away” by the big bad Democrats along with a government that is at best lazy and at worst diabolical, because they have been told this is what happened. But they don’t understand their jobs are gone for a long list of different reasons, chief among them the fact that their jobs were outsourced by companies and CEOs just like Trump. Why? Well, do we have to even ask? For the profit motive of course, for the love of the bottom line, for increased growth each and every single quarter, for the shareholders to become wealthier and wealthier. These companies would put your grandmother through a meat grinder if it could make them an extra nickel each year. Of course they outsourced jobs—the “Captains of Industry” received bigger golden parachutes because of it.

And another reason no one in this angry camp seems to be able to grasp is that their jobs are also gone because of technology, automation, and progress. Robots perform many of those jobs now. When they claim that Trump will bring their jobs back, they don’t understand that most of their jobs are NEVER coming back. Sadly, those jobs no longer exist.

But the truly frightening aspect of these angry people is their sheer hatred of the United States government itself. The Republicans, the Tea Party carcass, the Trump supporters, and the “Don’t Tread On Me” crowd want and would work toward the actual destruction of the government. How could you trust your car keys to someone whose own admitted goal is to crash and burn your car? They claim “government is broken” but completely ignore the fact that they are the ones who broke it. Republicans have had control of two-thirds of the government for the past six years. If it is so broken, why didn’t they take steps to fix it? No, their obstructionism was more important. Their goal toward dismantling the institutions put in place to protect and make our lives better was more important.

Hillary Clinton has been demonized for so long now, it is de rigeur. For those of us old enough to recall President Bill Clinton’s administration, we can remember the Republican party like a pack of rabid dogs foaming at the mouth, dogging both Bill and Hillary, trying to catch them in some kind of nefarious act. But time and time again, there was no there there. The manufactured scandals include Whitewater, Travelgate, high-paid speeches, Benghazi, ad nauseam. Even her recent supposed "basket of deplorables" scandal was not a scandal. I happen to agree with her: if someone holds deplorable, hateful ideas and willfully and maliciously behaves towards others in a deplorable manner, then perhaps, just perhaps, that person is deplorable.

But what is really at the bottom of this Hillary-phobia is old fashioned sexism and misogyny. I remember when she became First Lady and started using her maiden name in addition to her married name, there was a huge backlash with charges of her being a “radical feminist.” Of course that is a small, petty thing, but the attitude toward Clinton is full of small, petty things: death by a thousand paper cuts. Critics attack her pant suits, make-up, and hair. Aside from Trump’s comb over, when has anyone attacked a past Presidential nominee’s neck tie or sideburns as evidence of untrustworthiness or evidence that he is unfit to hold the office of President? Critics also like to attack her for her voice…both tone and inflection. For that reason, these critics equate her with a sharp school marm (and, by extension, there have been more than a few accusations leveled at her that she is a lesbian). When has anyone attacked a past Presidential nominee for sounding too tough or, to go to the opposite pole for a man, too friendly and calm? The expectations for women, not only in public office but in life in general, are unduly skewed. But the vitriol aimed at Hillary both in the past and now smacks of grudges, vendettas, and personal feelings.

Has she made mistakes? Of course, everyone has. But to overreact and equate errors and missteps with dire life- or soul-destroying actions is to be disingenuous, combative, and willfully ignorant. Most of her errors and missteps stem from her wariness of the media, the public eye, and of scrutiny. And is it any wonder, when one contemplates the insane level of scrutiny she has had to endure? She comes by this honestly. Just look at her life and record to see that she is not corrupt, is not a war mongerer, and does not hate the environment. She clearly understands the nuances of the issues facing us as a nation (not simply “bringing jobs back” but navigating a complicated, grey-toned world that allowed jobs to migrate or be destroyed in the first place) as well as issues of global significance. This is proven by her record, by her own beliefs, and by her years as a lawyer, First Lady, United States Senator, and Secretary of State to the United States.

Starting many, many years ago when they were young idealists, she and Bill dedicated their lives to societal change, to fairness, to progress. They are Humanists who have strived to make things better, not worse. And they have in large part succeeded.

The difference between the two candidates could not have been made more stark during all three of the debates. Trump petulantly interrupted Hillary's observations about him with his childish retort, "Wrong." His answer to any policy question or any query into what he might actually DO as President was to deflect and claim Hillary is responsible for every bad thing for the last 30 years. As usual, a Republican didn't have any ideas or an actual plan--he could only say how bad his opponent is. Hillary by contrast spoke with deep knowledge from her actual experience in government about policy specifics on matters of consequence such as income equality, foreign policy, the economy, and the environment.

The New Yorker, which has officially endorsed Hillary for president, helpfully points out that, "At last count, more than a hundred and sixty Republican leaders had declared their refusal to support Trump. Fifty national-security officials who served in Republican Administrations have done the same. The Cincinnati Enquirer, the Arizona Republic, the Dallas Morning News, and the Columbus Dispatch—all conservative newspapers, which have endorsed only Republicans for between seventy-six and a hundred and twenty-six years—have endorsed Clinton. USA Today, which has never endorsed a candidate, has declared Trump 'unfit for the presidency' and has also endorsed Clinton."

To make the obvious choice even more obvious, The New Yorker goes on to encapsulate Clinton's vision for her presidency: "What she does offer is a series of thoughtful and energetic proposals that present precisely the kind of remedies that could improve the lives of many working-class and poor Americans of all races. She would simplify the tax code for small businesses and streamline their licensing requirements. She would increase health-care tax credits through the Affordable Care Act, which, in theory, would both expand coverage and reduce the burden on employers. She would also seek to expand access to Medicaid and would extend Medicare to people as young as fifty-five. She would substantially increase funding for community health centers and provide significant federal support for child care. And her college-affordability plan would help students refinance debt, and support states that subsidize tuition. Clinton’s tax plans are also designed to promote broader-based affluence. She would increase the tax rate on short-term capital gains for high earners, with lower rates for longer-term holdings; close the “carried-interest” tax loophole that favors hedge-fund managers; and levy fees on banks with high debt levels. She would impose a four-per-cent surcharge on incomes above five million dollars a year, and adopt a minimum thirty-per-cent tax rate on incomes above a million dollars a year. She supports an “exit tax” and other fiscal adjustments that would discourage so-called corporate inversion—the offshoring of companies to tax havens like Ireland. And she proposes tax incentives for investing in towns that have faced significant losses in manufacturing jobs. To address the compounding effects of trade and technology on displaced workers, she would promote training, and include a tax credit for businesses that take on apprentices. She would allocate $275 billion over five years to infrastructure improvement, focussing on transit and water systems, which should create employment while reducing inefficiencies."

One would have to be headless in order to support Trump or think he has any qualities that would allow him to navigate the highest office in our land. He is used to being the CEO, the big cheese, the corporate real estate mogul whose every word must be obeyed (reflect upon his catch phrase for his cartoon-like show "The Apprentice:" "You're fired!"). But no nation is a company...it is a living organism made up of people. Human beings aren't machines. The societies we live in are not corporations and should not be run like one. CEOs and rich businessmen like Trump are not fit to guide human societies.

Despite Trump's best efforts, this election is not a reality television show where you can change the channel. This is not a reality television “race” where the only thing at stake is who is going to be voted off on the next episode. This is not a “contest” where the only thing at stake is who is going to “win:” is Trump going to “win” the contest or is Clinton going to “win” the contest? No, WE are what is at stake and those who are still somehow bafflingly undecided or those who think that abstaining from voting all together will exempt them from the aftermath don’t understand that WE are the ones who are going to suffer or not. This is not a spectator sport. You are not removed. You are a part of this. And voting for Gary Johnson (who didn’t know what Aleppo is and that it is part of the Syrian war crisis, and who opposes minimum wage and combating climate change, and wants to eliminate the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development) or for Jill Stein (a lover of debunked, tired conspiracy theories and a physician who is shockingly anti-science whose primary idea is to cancel the $1.3 trillion in student debt using quantitative easing, a move that defies the actual realities of economic mechanisms) is simply allowing more of the destruction that the Republicans and Trump have wrought.

So vote. And vote for Hillary Clinton.

It’s not Clinton vs. Trump. WE win or lose.

WE are what is at stake.


Unknown said...

Very well said indeed, Jeff. At this most critical, frightening juncture in American history, it is both dispiriting and deeply frustrating to find that we can only cross our fingers and hope for truth, decency and common sense, all so distressingly absent from the current political landscape, to prevail. I fear for the result; and I fear for the aftermath. Even if HRC is elected, the items on her agenda that you list are likely to be mere wishful thinking when set against such an obstructionist opposition party, as we have already seen with Obama. As you say, we will all pay the price.

Jeff said...

Hi Jenny,

Yes, absolutely, HRC will be a target...AGAIN. So let's keep our fingers crossed that the Congress sees a change of balance to Dems. Maybe then some of these important issues can be truly addressed and hopefully solved.

After I come home from voting next Tuesday, I feel all I will be able to do is sit in a corner biting my nails until it is over. And HRC is Madam President.