More than one person has referred to this presidential election cycle as a roller-coaster ride. The more apt metaphor is sifting through the chaff for the grains of truth. The focus on both major-party candidates from their opponents and their supporters has been on two items: lies and morals. Unfortunately, the candidates who could have taken the high road on both counts were either forced out of the campaign by party machinations, lacked much appeal in the primaries, or represent third parties that people still dismiss under the "wasted vote" myth. One possible high roader, Bernie Sanders, made the mistake of overstating his case rather than sticking to the facts that were substantive enough to get him where he was going had he not been blocked. The result of all this has brought a new shallowness to politics along with an escalation of the partisan war that began with Newt Gingrich twenty years ago.
The consequences are enormous. Most unnoticed has been the extent to which anyone not interested in either major-party candidate has been completely turned off to the election and to politics generally. A huge portion of the populace already was apathetic due to the lack of responsiveness to constituents that federal representatives have long been developing and the shameless refusal of political leaders in both houses of Congress to put forward legislation and act on presidential nominations.
The Occupy movement brought with it an opportunity for people seeking progress to spark some enthusiasm among this segment of potential voters. Due to its ridiculous in-fighting, failure to produce a common agenda, and hesitancy to engage the 99 percent it claimed to represent, the potential faded and is now nonexistent.
The Sanders campaign brought yet another opportunity. That was spoiled on the overwhelming focus on Sanders the candidate versus Sanders the leader of a political revolution. Had he endorsed the creation of a separate organization working with his campaign to promote the political revolution he claimed to lead, we would still have a large, engaged group of citizens working to that end. Instead, he endorsed his rival and destroyed any hope of progressive politics having any meaningful chance in the near term.
And what of those grains of truth? Donald Trump is the most brazenly open ego to have run for president since Ronald Reagan. Unlike Reagan, he lacks the "aw, shucks" false charm that Reagan developed as a radio announcer and actor from the Midwest. Donald Trump has New York City stereotype written all over him. Yet, he plays just as well to the old Yellow Dog southerners that shifted to the GOP in the 1970s because he is so direct and plain spoken about the things they most fear. Trump took the measure of the GOP base years ago when he derided it. He used that knowledge to squash his rivals.
Pundits and analysts of all stripes from day one of Trump's candidacy have missed the fact that it does not matter if Trump believes what he says or tells the truth about anything. However, their perspective is that of well-educated people who accept scientific evidence over belief. Trump is not and never has been seeking votes from well-educated people who accept scientific evidence over belief. It was obvious fourteen months ago that he was playing to a specific crowd, the crowd that gets hottest about who the GOP nominee is going to be. People who were turned off by and dismissive of his rhetoric never got it and still don't get it.
Trump did what the GOP bureaucracy never wanted: a candidate chosen by the GOP base. It worked for Reagan because he was able to convince enough people after the convention that he really wasn't as extreme as he claimed in the primary. However, he also was helped in the general elections by the GOP base being so much stronger. He had, after all, brought it to its height in 1984. The proportion of the population in some southern states that is old Yellow Dog has declined in Virginia, North Carolina, and even Texas over the last two-plus decades. Similarly, better educated, less bigoted citizens have risen in Utah and Nevada. Latino populations are beginning to make a difference in Nevada and Arizona vis-a-vis the existing Western individualism crowd, as they already have in New Mexico and Colorado.
As for Hillary Clinton, it baffles the mind that more people do not see just how much she mirrors Richard Nixon's campaign tactics and attitudes toward public office. I wrote about it in January, when it already was clear. The two reasons may be that most people discussing the election have forgotten or never learned about Nixon's dirty tricks and her testimony before the Benghazi Committee. The first is easy to understand. Absent at least one class on American politics, no one under the age of fifty-five (my age) was old enough to have lived through Watergate and almost no one is around who remembers or has read about his shenanigans in 1950 running for the US Senate. They do not know about the Checkers Speech in which he successfully debunked claims that he was being enriched by donors by noting his wife Patricia wore a good Republican cloth coat, not furs, and then admitting they got their dog Checkers from a donor.
I mentioned the correlation between Nixon's speech and Clinton's testimony nine months ago. Good old George Will finally caught on this week. She handled the committee extremely well, but really as well as one would expect someone who has been in public life for so long and has faced so many inquiries into her behavior. The fact is that Benghazi and many other things the GOP has tried to tag her with going back to 1992 have lacked evidence or plausibility. One does wonder why she is the only politician in the USA today who has seen three people involved with her activities die suddenly, unexpectedly, and in odd circumstances. However, that remains innuendo and is a pitiful hammer to use. There are more serious problems that do not lack evidence.
Not one person has grasped that she told Anderson Cooper in March that she traded her Iraq War vote for George W. Bush providing funding for lower Manhattan after 9/11. Traded a vote for war that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths for money she should have been able to negotiate from the administration based on it being the duty of the government to put its money where its patriotic mouth was. In addition, the private email server was a huge lapse in judgment that ought to have been better investigated from the start. It is preposterous to believe it could not have been used for discussions of classified material; no one is that retentive to be so careful as to avoid mixing that information with routine business. Now we know that Colin Powell knew she was going to blame him as a way of getting around it.
Speaking of the retired general, Powell also pointed out something that should be evident even to people who have supported her. Clinton is cursed with the hubris that tells her she is better than everyone else, the rules do not apply, and she is destined to make history as the first female president of the USA. Close associates pointed this out when she said she didn't have to reveal the contents of the speeches she made to Wall Street in exchange for huge amounts of personal income to her. It was obvious in the way she handled healthcare reform in her husband's first term. It was quite clear in the way she attacked Barack Obama in 2008. It remains easily seen in her handling of the FBI reopening its investigation of the private email server. Would it not be influencing the election by withholding the information? Aren't her supporters at all concerned if a government agency fails to publicize what it is doing?
The truth is that neither candidate is fit for the Oval Office. As some have mentioned, perhaps this election will turn the wheel to revolution. The facts indicate that it is indeed rigged and Wall Street will do anything to make sure Hillary Clinton is elected.