Disclaimer: Before I get too far, let me just say that I plan on voting for Mrs. Clinton. I think she is the far more qualified candidate. And I am not missing out on the symbolism of electing our first female president. It is, frankly, long overdue. I remember the overwhelming flood of emotions when Mr. Obama was elected in ’08 (and to a lesser degree in’12) and I don’t begrudge anyone the experience of getting swept away by history. So… there… is that enough preamble?
This has been (in Comic Book Guy voice) the worst. election. season. ever.
Let’s start with the Republicans. A year ago they had sixteen contenders that we on the left lovingly referred to as the clown car. It was a fairly absurd mix of characters, but from the start, it was clear that the media was fixated on Donald Trump. He got far more coverage because he was willing to say far more outlandish things in far more outlandish ways. Supporters loved him for “not being afraid the speak his mind” and for “telling it like it is”. Despite the circus, it seemed assured that a more seasoned politician, Rubio, Cruz, or Bush, would be the eventual nominee. If not a more seasoned politician, than at least a more respectable adult like Ben Carson.
Nope. No seasoned politician. No fully functioning adult. The Republicans put up Donald Trump for the highest office in the nation.
Let me take a step back here for a second. My ex and I watched the first two seasons of The Apprentice. We loved it! We used to joke that it wasn’t like those “other” reality TV shows. Trump was half of the appeal of the show because the guy is entertaining. The level of self aggrandizement this man can pull off used to be comical. Also, have you ever seen anyone more obsessed with their own last name? He puts “Trump” on everything because he believes in his name as a brand. And it works! It was also interesting because, whether or not he actually knows much about business management, he knows a ton about marketing and that’s what most of the challenges on the show revolved around. He was full of contradiction. One week he would fire someone for not being enough of a team player, the next week he would proclaim someone the winner for taking the reigns away from their teammates. He would tell the female contestants that “sex sells”, then scold them if they got too slutty. It was a wild circus of a show with one clown at the center: Donald J. Trump.
If I thought that America simply needed better marketing, maybe I would be a supporter of Trump. Though, I doubt that because of his appeals to the worst elements of our society. Trump has built his campaign by courting a segment of the population that has felt alienated by the last eight years of an Obama presidency. So, he has played up the fears of racist, the xenophobia of anti-immigration sentiment, the swirling Islamophobia that has hung over us since at least 9/11 and he’s marshaled those forces to help “Make America Great Again”. “Great” here is clearly coded language for white, Christian, and let’s be honest, male. Trump has run a campaign with a near absence of policy proposal, just loud angry rhetoric. And so far, it has worked, though it should be clear that the middle cannot hold here. I expect Trump to lose “huge” in November. Republicans are jumping ship. No former president or presidential nominee has endorsed him. When he is actually on stage with Mrs. Clinton in a debate, he is going to be fully exposed.
It is appalling to me that the Republican party did not put up a worthy candidate for the presidency. As much as I may have disagreed with Mitt Romney or John McCain, I believed them to be good, competent men who would lead by the courage of the convictions with the nation’s best interest at heart. I do not believe that about Mr. Trump. I think he is a raging narcissist who has used this election to further promote his brand. It feels like the country has ben held hostage by an egomaniac for the last sixteen months. The right wing of the republican party has played Dr. Frankenstein by giving voice to the lowest common denominator of civil discourse and now the monster they have created will rip their party apart. Assuming I’m right. If he’s wrong, he’ll rip the whole country apart. Thanks for that, guys! Mr. Trump’s candidacy seems so absurd to me that the conspiracy theorist inside of me actually entertains the idea that Mrs. Clinton put him up to this.
For her part, Mrs. Clinton seems to have been riding a wave of inevitability that began building momentum the moment she lost the primary in ’08. Mrs. Clinton’s presidency seems predestined. Watching the mechanics of the DNC be revealed over the last week or so, it seems like there was a concerted effort to say “it’s her turn”. The primary gave us a race between Mrs. Clinton, Martin O’Malley (who?), and a plucky, young upstart by the name of Bernie Sanders. I give Bernie props for resilience. That dude just would not go away. But again, let’s be honest, the medium is the message. You can’t package revolution in the body of a white male in his seventies. You can’t have the democratic nominee be someone who wasn’t a Democrat until they decided to run for president. That’s just not how party politics works. Bernie appealed to white liberals. he never made in roads in the black community, despite the efforts of Killer Mike, and the Clintons have a name in the black community. It just wasn’t gonna happen. Despite the enthusiasm surrounding him, Sanders campaign was bound for collapse.
Mrs. Clinton is a seasoned politician. She was smart and effective as first lady, and even more so in the senate. In no way is she unqualified for the position of president. I struggle on a couple of fronts. Big picture, there is the discomfort with having our country go Bush-Clinton-Bush-(brief break for Obama)-Clinton. I fully expected that this election was going to be Jeb vs. Hillary and that we would be doing Bush v. Clinton again. All of this is reminder that the presidency is unattainable except for those who gain access to the elite educational systems that produce world leaders. The system is designed so that Ivy league educated individuals will have greater access to power and of course we want our leaders to be well educated. But unless you are a “self made billionaire” (read “trust fund baby”), you can’t actually break into the system in what is supposed to be a representative democracy.
The second thing that gives me pause feels more like a gut thing and it could be wrong. Obama was a center-left politician. He was a master pragmatist. Where he was able to move us to the left in this country was on optics and rhetoric. Those aren’t bad things, but Mr. Obama largely defended the status quo. I had hoped that we could continue moving in a progressive direction after Mr. Obama and I don’t see that happening. The DNC highlighted what a centrist party this has become. Religion and the military have completely been folded in in ways that I don’t think anyone imagined eight years ago. This year’s convention was about courting republicans who can’t stomach Trump and I think Mrs. Clinton’s presidency will have the same tone. I think we will see eight years of very centrist leadership, and while that is preferable to four years of moving backwards, I’m saddened by the feeling that we may not see sweeping change. Maybe I’m wrong.
Finally, I feel like I’ve been scared into voting for Mrs. Clinton and I hate that. I John 4:18, one of my core verses, states that “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment and whoever fears has not been perfected in love”. Well… I haven’t been perfected in love. I am terrified by the prospect of Donald Trump becoming president and I hate that feeling. I feel like that would be a punishment to the whole world. When I voted in ’08 and ’12, I was voting my hopes and aspirations. This year I am voting to turn the tide of the apocalypse. Not nearly as inspiring. Again, I blame both parties for this, the republicans for putting up a horrible candidate and the democrats for seizing on the horribleness and playing up the angle of fear.
Part of what has been revealed in this process is a disillusionment with the two party system that I haven’t felt before. No, I don’t think that the parties are that much alike, but much of the difference is rhetorical and symbolic. Words and symbols have real power, but when what is needed in this country is massive change, those differences only amount to glacial shifts. I will vote for Mrs. Clinton on Nov. 8th and on Nov. 9th I will begin seeing what I can do to start working with the Green Party on upcoming down ticket elections. I want to get back to voting my hopes and I feel like that party’s platform matches my aspirations. I also feel like it’s too late to have an impact this cycle, so right now I am educating myself.
Voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. Maybe it’s just my personal affection for Mr. Obama, but in the last two presidential elections, I didn’t feel like I was voting for evil. To be clear, I don’t think Mrs. Clinton is personally evil, but I don’t have the enthusiasm for her candidacy that I wish I had. I would love to see the next election have strong Green Party and Libertarian options. I would love to see access to our political process expand and not contract. I would love to see the diversity of American thought represented on the balance.
But for now, I will vote against the end of days…
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