Posted July 22, 2016
Presidential election campaign, cont'd.
SCPA Member Opinion*
Making the Right Choice
By Bob Serody
The debate concerning the prospective Democratic and Republican candidates for president in 2016 has been driven primarily by anger and discontent. Both liberal and conservative voters may not realize that they have something in common; their concerns are driven more by emotion rather than logic, which moves them to decide who they are going to vote against, rather than deciding who to vote for. Their common anger results from a feeling that the system is rigged, and that they have been adversely affected by economic stagnation and dissatisfied over a do-nothing congress and frustrated by the president’s inability to lead the nation during these turbulent times.
At times like this, we feel that our system of democracy is beginning to falter, and something new is needed to break the stalemate -- namely, a person who voices our discontent and will replace what doesn’t work with a ‘take charge’ approach. We’ve heard the repeated slogan -- “We will make America great again.”
Of course, our emotions don’t usually help in making a sound decision. There are Democrats and Republicans who believe, faced by the present choice, that they can make a forceful statement by staying home on Election Day, or by voting for a third candidate. Unfortunately, in light of the polls showing a close race between Clinton and Trump, these kinds of protests could have unforeseen and even dire consequences.
It is time to replace anger with logic and examine both the background and platform of the candidates to form a rational decision, if we want to preserve democracy rather than dismantle it with negative voting. Trump has already picked his running mate, so we will start by examining whether Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, is fit to take over the reins of government in a dire emergency.
The Indiana governor, who has managed to irritate nearly all the major factions of the Indiana Republican Party since assuming his current office, checks many boxes for Trump.
First, he has shown experience as a former chairman of the Republican Study Committee who served on the foreign affairs and judiciary committees in the House. Trump obviously needs help in these areas.
After logging a dozen years in Congress, including a stint in Republican leadership, Pence brings political correctness, a prized skill in Washington, where he is practiced at speaking many words without saying much of anything, which is equivalent to saying he won’t irritate either Trump’s supporters or the political establishment.
"He's a staunch conservative," New York Republican Party Chairman Ed Cox said about Pence. House Speaker Paul Ryan, who has repeatedly questioned Trump's campaign, said he "can think of no better choice" than Pence. This is the most important reason for choosing Pence as Trump’s running mate. The Republican establishment feels very uncomfortable with Trump’s chameleon-like shifts in position, his erratic personality, and his tendency to be impulsive with statements that alienate whole blocks of potential voters. Their principal worry is whether the party can control his decisions if he gains the presidency. This is where the vice-presidential nominee comes in. Not only will he serve as an advisor to the president, he is also his successor if anything untoward happens to Trump, including the possibility of impeachment. Let’s therefore examine Pence’s conservative record.
Pence is a major advocate for free-trade deals, which counterbalances Trump’s position that these same deals have accounted for lost jobs and economic frustration weighing on many Americans. Pence has backed the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Central American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, all of which Trump has said he'd like to rewrite or eliminate. Then, there are the social imperatives associated with the Republican Party. Pence is a staunch Christian conservative, who takes the anti-choice position versus women’s rights regarding abortion and would defund Planned Parenthood. Like Trump, he also thinks that climate change is a hoax.
In the Hamptons earlier this month, Trump used the event to poll his well-heeled crowd of about 50 financiers about whom they thought he should pick as a running mate. This may have been the most critical factor in choosing Pence, which was the desire for others to help finance his race to the White House.
Finally, is Pence a good match for Trump’s temperament? The other two finalists -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie -- were better emotional matches for Trump. But their strong personalities may have conflicted with Trump’s need to be in control as president.
Considering all of these reasons for Trump’s choosing Mike Pence, how do they influence the voter in making a rational choice? The party leaders primarily favored Pence for his non-contentious personality, for his orthodoxy, and for his acceptance by the financiers of the Republican Party. Although they feel that this is the person they prefer over Trump, this does not bode well for the white male voters who do not want jobs to continue being shipped overseas. The selection of Pence as Trump’s running mate could signal Trump changing his mind once again by supporting free trade agreements, once he is elected president.
Since Clinton has not yet announced her running mate, we as yet have no additional insight into her intentions, based on whom she would select.
Turning to Donald Trump, there is so much to say that I was interested in finding a good summation of the dangers and advantages (if any) of a Trump presidency. I found that Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker provided all the information one needs to make an intelligent choice between Trump and Clinton.*
He states “What all forms of fascism have in common is the glorification of the nation, and the exaggeration of its humiliations, with violence promised to its enemies, at home and abroad; the worship of power wherever it appears and whoever holds it; contempt for the rule of law and for reason; unashamed employment of repeated lies as a rhetorical strategy; and a promise of vengeance for those who feel themselves disempowered by history.”
In translation, Gopnik states that Donald Trump perfectly fits the traits of a fascist. He has provided abundant evidence concerning his self-glorification, his many reversals in position, his outright lies, the way he selects his enemies and friends, his pronouncements that directly contradict the intentions of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, his insatiable quest for power, his willingness to sacrifice his supporters, his past shady deals, his support of racist policies, and his desire to take revenge on those who don’t agree with his beliefs.
It is possible that some of his supporters admire these traits, but I believe that most of his support probably comes from those who disregard what they don’t want to hear. Power and riches, which Trump has, are a desire that appeals to those who disregard moral values, and mutual responsibility. But those who do understand the true nature of Trump may not understand the consequences of such a person who wields the power of the presidency.
For example, those who believe that our underlying institutions are immunized against major changes that could remove our guaranteed liberties have not studied history. The aforementioned documents are written on paper and can be thrown on the fires of willful destruction by people with Trump’s mentality. I doubt that Trump will receive any votes from members of the Libertarian Party, who understand only too well the risks from this type of individual. History has often shown that when a person like Trump comes to power, normal safeguards collapse. Just look at the changes in the Republican Party since Abraham Lincoln. It completely changed when the Dixiecrats adopted the party of the financial elite in the sixties to protest the Civil Rights policies of the Democratic Party. Today, the Republican Party not only continues to harbor racial and religious elements of discrimination, it has attempted to restrict voting rights among minorities, to promote gun ownership among all citizens for protection against enemies, both foreign and domestic, to eliminate public education through privatization, to reduce taxation on the rich, to eliminate entitlement programs, and to significantly reduce big government with the exception of military defense. It has also supported social inequality against women and gays. With eight years of an African American president, we have seen a further revolt in the Republican Party with the ascension of Tea Party members, and the claim that the president was not born in this country, a position led by Donald Trump. Is it any wonder why Honest Abe would turn over in his grave?
Yet, with all of these attempts to maintain control, the Republican Party has not captured the White House in the eight years since the debacle of the Bush Presidency, which ruined the economy and destabilized the Middle East. The Republican Party is now showing signs of instability, because it has not found its political footing since having separated itself from the party that Lincoln tried to promote, with a strong central government based on industrial growth and racial equality for all its citizens. The Republican Party is now showing signs of a rapid collapse, and Donald Trump has the opportunity of seizing power. The question remaining is in what way Trump will adapt to a supreme position of presidential leadership and power?
Adam Gopnik examines the Democratic Party by mentioning that Hillary Clinton is an ordinary liberal politician. (I am not sure about her liberal tendencies regarding economics.) He states, “She has her faults, easily described, often documented -- though, for the most part, the worst accusations against her have turned out to be fiction.” He also mentions that “no reasonable person, no matter how opposed to her politics, can believe for a second that Clinton’s accession to power would be a threat to the Constitution or the continuation of American democracy.” The comparison with Trump is obvious. Any reasonable person can conclude that Trump’s accession to power would be disastrous. This is a short exposition on Clinton compared with Trump. It doesn’t examine why the Democratic Party has failed for some years to represent the working and middle class, or why Hillary Clinton belongs to a group known as the Limousine Liberals.** However, it is sufficient to point out that the choice between these candidates is clear. The only requirement for making a decision between life and death is an intelligent, informed electorate.
*Adam Gopnik, Being Honest about Trump, The New Yorker, July 14, 2016.
**Beverly Gage Book Review, 'Listen, Liberal' and 'The Limousine Liberal,' NYTimes, April 26, 2016: LISTEN, LIBERAL by Thomas Frank (Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company, 2016); THE LIMOUSINE LIBERAL by Steve Fraser (Basic Books, 2016).
Bob Serody is a member of Space Coast Progressive Alliance.
*ED. NOTE: The views expressed here are solely those of the author. SCPA does not endorse candidates and welcomes commentary on a wide range of issues, including political campaigns, local, regional and national. If interested in contributing commentary, please contact SCPA.
Serody: Making the Right ChoiceWritten by Bob Serody
Posted July 22, 2016