Just Stay Home

If it is a Clinton-Trump contest, voters should just stay home on Election Day.  Of course, people have a civic duty to take part in the political process.  It has driven many out to wait on long lines in inclement weather.  But voters also have a duty to let the political process, the major parties, know that if it, they, insist on putting the B-team (C?) on the ballot, the public has a right to just walk away from the insult. Such a lack of respect deserves the response.

Turnout or lack of it is important.  It may be as much a civic duty as voting, a kind of passive resistance to incompetence.  If such a choice evokes the lowest turnout in American history, as it should, it will speak a brutal truth to both the candidates and the process that put them in place.  No doubt, the winner will spin the matter, calling it a mandate, as Bill DeBlasio did his pitiful victory in the New York mayoralty race not too long ago.  But then, even the media could not mistake the disgust voiced by a tiny turnout.  It may be the only way to demand substance next time.

To be sure, presidential campaigns, primaries certainly, are always more about rhetoric than substance.  ‘Twas ever thus.  But with these two candidates, there is a complete absence of substance.  With one, there is plenty of concrete proposal making, but all is off the top of his head.  In his manner and tone, he announces that nothing is thought through, no effort was made to see if one bold statement would in practice thwart the application of the previous bold statement.  With the other candidate there is nothing but a carefully vetted mélange of words that when considered afterwards are no more edifying or satisfying then the message on a Hallmark Mother’s Day card.

We can all understand the anger shared by Trump supporters.  Who is not sick of hearing how guilty, pitiful, oppressive, or downtrodden he or she is?  Who is not mightily sick and tired of mealy-mouthed non-statements and the stupid wordiness of the politically correct?  But protest votes become dangerous when they put anger in control of a political party, much more so when they threaten to put it in charge of a nation.  There comes a time to set back aside and consider what the man on the platform is saying.

He would build a high wall along the Mexican border, but then, on second thought, not too high.  What, the hell, is that about?   Be decisive, Donny.  Make it 80 feet high.  It hardly matters since you plan to make the Mexicans pay for it.  Of course, there is no detail on exactly how you would do that.  Perhaps one of your hotels has a record of the Mexican government’s credit card and you will run it, hoping that the the folks in Mexico City will miss the charge when the statement arrives.  Maybe you will send a couple of your Atlantic City associates to chat with the Mexican president in his office.  No doubt you will think of something.

You would also build a tariff wall around the United States, presumably to protect American jobs.  Those tariffs have different rates depending on which harangue one references.  You have used 20 percent more then once.  Do you realize that 20 percent is exactly the rate Smoot-Hawley used for the 1930 tariffs that caused the Great Depression.  Obviously, you do not.  Nor have you considered what the duties will do to the cost of living when they cut off access to cheap imports or what will happen to employment in many domestic industries when they lose access to cheaper imported inputs or how this country’s exports will suffer when other countries retaliate with tariffs of their own.

Then, there is Hillary Clinton.  What has she told us?  She has pointed out that she is a woman.  Though all can see that, she nonetheless seems to doubt the persuasive power of her appearance, for she never tires of reminding the public of the fact.  Her references to her chromosomes always come with the assertion that it is time for the country to have a woman president.  On that point, she may indeed have a point.  But if it is time for a woman to be president, it is not time for just any woman to be president, especially one who has combined a remarkable number of titles and credentials on her resume with remarkably few bullet points to put in the section customarily entitled, “accomplishments.”

True, there are some points to put in that spot.  As a young woman, she leveraged class and family connections to get into the right schools.  Later she used marital connections to get into the right circles as a substitute for actual ability.  As first lady, she did make a name for herself with an effort to socialize medicine.  It did not work out, but that was because of the “vast right wing conspiracy” that seems always to have dogged her, especially when faced with failure.  In the 1992 campaign, she famously distanced herself from country singer Tammy Wynette who sang “Stand By Your Man,” but later in that decade, she did just that, again against the ever-present “vast right wing conspiracy.”  As New York’s junior senator she was well liked in the Senate, though it is hard to identify anything she did for New York of the nation.  As Secretary of State, she logged countless miles, but Benghazi notwithstanding, one has to ask where are the treaties, the wars avoided, the diplomatic coups that one associates with an Acheson or a Kissinger?  But she is a woman.

Now in this campaign, she has followed true to her past.  On trade, for instance, Hillary would not shut it down, as Trump would, but she would not free it either.  She would do both.  So, too, with military interventions abroad, she both favors them and stands against them.  On re-invigorating the economy, she has a plan to make a plan that will help, but protect, and not change anything that any potential constituency might want to keep.  And so her positions continue, a series of yeses, followed by no’s, followed by maybes, but it will be great.  Did you notice she is a woman?

The nation, foolish as it has been, deserves better than this.  At least most of the nation does.  People in this country — men, women, trans, yellow, white, black, red, and brown, immigrant and native born, northern, southern, eastern, and western —work hard to try to live decent lives.  Some need help, some are okay, all deserve intelligent leadership and candidates that at least some of the time demonstrate it.  What they do not need is the nonsense they are getting and what is a crass desire on the part of particularly these two candidates to aggrandize themselves without regard to these decent millions.

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