Wednesday, September 14, 2016


One candidate will be declared the winner in  this year's presidential election, but for the nation, its citizens, our international community, and even for the person receiving the most votes, there will be no real winners. It is turning out to be an election like no other, two candidates whose popularity ratings show that they are much more unpopular with the voting public than they are popular, whose perceived or demonstrated flaws are so great that both candidates' campaigns are focused on negative attacks on their opponent, not on presenting in a positive, realistic light what their own administration could accomplish for the nation. Their campaigns are further fracturing the country's political system, one that already has been so seriously divided during the past decade of gridlock in Wash. DC. that paramount concerns and issues have been left unattended, only growing worse, by a polarized, paralyzed, ineffectual Congress and an Administration stymied in its attempts to institute needed policy changes. In this context, its not surprising that voter dissatisfaction and outrage has become extreme, producing a highly volatile, contentious, unpredictable election.

 Its no longer just Republicans versus Democrats deadlocking on issues, growing further and further apart, finding it impossible to negotiate and reach compromise resolutions. The governmental stalemate has produced a powerful anti-establishment movement, one with strong factions at both the right and left extremes of our nation's political continuum.  Both extremes seek major changes in our nation's current political structure, which the present establishment has significant power and money to resist, but not necessarily the capacity to sway ultimate voter preference. These divides have determined the choice of candidates in ways that are adding to the contrast, and the conflict, between the candidates. Its a no holds barred, down and dirty battle royale, the election giving full expression to the viciousness in this fight between the establishment and anti-establishment. And like most all-out fights between those far apart on issues, no one really wins, only casualties result.

The Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, is a solid product and representative of the establishment. She has all the requisite experience  (wife of ex-president, senator, secretary of state) to suggest she is exceptionally well-prepared, although her productivity and achievements in those roles have not been particularly exceptional. She has seemingly been groomed to be the Democrats candidate in this election, becoming the one considered to be their presumptive nominee years ago. This led to the party establishment virtually freezing out other rivals for the nomination, making their efforts to compete exceedingly difficult, much to the dismay and irritation of their most anti-establishment contender, Bernie Sanders, who was able to mount a vigorous and impressive challenge to her nomination in spite of the obstacles he faced. A sizable portion of the Democratic voter base, perhaps 40%, would opt for a more progressive, less establishment-oriented candidate than Hillary Clinton, which only adds to perceived flaws related to likability, trustworthiness, and less-than-appealing campaign style in reducing her favorability.  Her main strengths -- impressive stand on many domestic issues, strong commitment on civil and human rights,  and the fact that she could become our first female president -- give her a reliable voting base among women and minority groups. Most Bernie voters will vote for Hillary, but without much enthusiasm or energy in her campaign. She will attract some establishment Republican votes, especially from foreign policy neocons who want to see the US involved in overseas affairs in a predictable way.  She will loose some progressive Democratic voters to both of the third party candidates, as her orientation is too aligned to the existing establishment for those feeling a strong need for more rapid change and progress in dealing with manifest problems. In short, she is a decent candidate, but not a strong one for winning votes and confronting current demands and realities.

The Republican candidate, Donald Trump, absolutely astonished the party's establishment, and all the media's political prophets, by upsetting the more preferred candidates in party primaries.  His often outrageous, outlandish attacks on the other candidates, and on the party establishment, have clearly appealed to the increasingly right-wing, anti-establishment voting base within the party. The party's strategy in Congress of attempting to block everything the Obama Administration was putting forward to deal with the nation's key problems had seemingly produced such a strong anti-government, anti-establishment mood within the nation that Republican voters were taking it out on their own party establishment, leaving it disoriented, and with leadership facing  the unenviable choice of either not supporting their voters choice or struggling to make acceptable a candidate they find much less than appealing.  Trump is, of course, a real wild card, high risk candidate, totally inexperienced in government.  If he were to lead the nation the same way he has campaigned, he would be an unmitigated disaster.  He appeals to a number of fringe groups that the Republican Party welcomed into their midst to become a true "big tent" party, Tea Party members; fundamentalist voters who are anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-choice; southern white voters, some with racist inclinations.  Less educated voters who fall for his arrogance, promises, and relentless ego are among those in his base.  He also appeals, of course, to voters terrified by foreigners and by the threat of terrorism from abroad.  Some voters who have legitimate personal grievances through being adversely effected by the excesses of our nation's political and economic establishment, which has deep roots in both of our political parties, are also drawn to him.  Its the more traditional Republican that is repelled by Trump, the well-educated, white-collar middle and upper economic class voter who often supports the candidate who will favor their own economic interests. Also confused are the foreign policy, defense-minded neocons within the party who are bewildered by his unpredictable statements regarding foreign affairs.  An unusual, even bizarre, candidate, in a strange political year, making for a very rare election.

The prediction of no winners -- how can one be so sure?  With a Trump victory, its an easy call! Trump's inexperience, and the equivalent inexperience level of the advisors he has chosen to be around him, guarantees that he would readily be shown to be the "empty suit" in the political arena that he is. His ego needs have driven him to seek the presidency, his opportunism has allowed him to capitalize on the strong anti-establishment mood that exists within the Republican Party and the nation, and his showmanship abilities, well developed through business and reality show experience, have led to his success thus far. But there his success will stop, the reality show that he has been staging will become reality in earnest.  He is in no way suited to be successful with the realities and demands of the affairs of state, where it is not just his needs that must be considered, but those of all his constituents as well, extending even as a world leader, to considerations overseas. If he becomes president, a word very infrequently used now, trumpery, is likely to come into common parlance.  It means "showy but worthless", an "attractive article of little use", "trickery, deception, fraudulent nonsense".  To many who are viewing Trump in the political arena, that is a perfect description of the man's behavior and personality. Tragic for the nation if "trumpery" comes to define an administration headed by Donald Trump.

Difficult, also, to be optimistic about an administration headed by Hillary Clinton. The times demand a strong leader, one who has a capacity to inspire the public to support her causes, and unite the political divides through having built coalitions and worked across the aisles of Congress. While Hillary's drive and commitment are commendable, her strength, health, and endurance are questionable.  If elected, she will have a divided party, a very divided, still polarized Congress to work with, and mounting domestic and international problems that will call for exhausting attention. Sanders was right in calling it a "rigged" primary process.  Hillary anticipated coasting to the nomination.  She had to fight for it. It called for full expenditure of her efforts, leaving her already partially depleted before the election campaigning started.  The campaign is already wearing on her, and the presidency is harder than the campaigning. Ask Obama, he knows. Her tendency to equivocate on issues will not serve her well in the White House, or her strident way of responding when attacked or pressing for her goals.  Overseas, her tendency to support military involvement, including regime change, goes against the will of the public, and certainly against the lessons of the past decade and a half. To deal with the nation's domestic problems, a true "uniter" is needed. George W Bush claimed he would be a uniter, he wasn't. Hillary would likely have no more success at being a uniter, with Congress or with the public, than he did. The times call for an exceptional person to come to the forefront of leadership.  Neither candidate meets the description.

For the nation's public, and the world community, to emerge as winners from this election, the coming administration would need to successfully deal with a number of critical issues which unfortunately are not even being seriously discussed in the pre-election campaigning.  Climate change is almost totally avoided, also the proliferation of violence in our communities, the erosion of personal privacy, the increased income disparity with the divide between the very wealthy and the middle and lower classes getting greater and greater.  The economic and sociological adjustments that the rapidly changing world economy is causing within our society are not being addressed, nor is the difficulty in the young and coming generations getting an adequate education to adapt to these changes successfully.  Our military, defense industry, and foreign policy establishments need to make major changes to more effectively deal with rapidly changing world realities, and they are highly resistant to addressing these needed changes.  Major changes are required in our policies concerning the Middle East, as we must find better ways to deal with the conflicts tormenting that region, and extract our nation from its role in adding to the conflicts, and then bearing responsibility.  Neither candidate offers a vision that is reassuring of their capacity to lead the way.  We are left with little optimism for positive change, most likely just more of the same lack of the effective policies and leadership that is needed, or even worse.  There will, therefore, be no reason for anyone to feel like a winner, regardless of which candidate wins, when  the very best that one can do is blindly "hope for the best".