“The Candidate” and the Candidates
I had the opportunity the night before last to re-watch a film I had seen before but not in some time. The film was ‘The Candidate’ starring Robert Redford. Redford plays an idealistic young lawyer in California and the son of a former governor. He is recruited by a Democratic operative to run for the US Senate seat in California against a three term popular Republican. The Democratic operative played by Peter Boyle tells Redford in their first meeting that he is destined to lose but the reason to run is to get the issues he cares about on the table for wider discussion. The film is enjoyable on several levels but I was struck by two issues in the film. Now keep in mind that this film was released back in 1972.
My first take away was just how little we, as a society, have accomplished in forty-five years. The issues central to the Senate race in the movie are the economy, unemployment, race relations, police misconduct, government overreach and abortion. Sound familiar? Perhaps these issues will always be central to any and every election but you would think after all this time, something on one of these fronts would have been settled. These are the same issues that are central to the 2016 Presidential race. It is sad that as much effort as goes into our government, very little is accomplished.
The second impression of the movie is the fact that even though young Bill McKay (Redford) is assured to lose, he becomes intoxicated by the polling and the race for its own excitement and agrees to be “handled” by the political pros for the sake of the contest. There are a couple of conversations alluding to the fact that in the political landscape of modern times (the 1970’s) a candidate must somehow hide who he really is and what he really believes from the voters in order to get elected. It’s not so much that a candidate must reinvent himself but more that he must obfuscate his beliefs in order to please the voters. In some ways it is a very cynical film because it suggests that the public is far more interested in the horse race aspect of the campaign that any substantive issues.
Sadly, I fear the film hit on a truth of politics today. We hear on a daily basis how much Donald Trump wants to talk about the issues but yet he rarely does. He is too busy defending himself about his personal life or attacking those who have criticized him. Hillary Clinton is not much better. Many of her speeches center around what outrageous thing Trump has said or why he should never be elected President. To be fair to both of them, there is some policy thrown into the stump speeches but primarily it is giving the people what they want; attacks and a horse race. I suspect that speaks more about us as a society than the candidates themselves. In terms of hiding who the candidates really are, I think Donald Trump has done a much better job of that. Even though he is believed by very few, Donald Trump will tell you that he is the least racist person you have ever met or the best person ever to champion women’s rights or he will be the best person to protect immigrants, believe him. No specifics, just belief. Talk about shielding your true self from the voters! Hillary, on the other hand is almost an open book. Because of her long history in the public eye, the never ending investigations that reveal nothing and now with her private campaign e-mails floating around in the public sphere, no one can say we don’t know who she is and what she believes. You may not like her personally and you may take issue with some of her policy stances but we have never had a more transparent candidate for President and I, for one, find that refreshing.
Why This Election Is Close
With all that has occurred in this Presidential election season, one has to wonder why the contest is still so close with less than two weeks to go. Many will say that part of the electorate is angry and distrustful of politicians in general and especially so of Hillary Clinton. Party politics figure into the equation as well but these are not the real reasons that such a large number of voters are supporting Donald Trump. I suspect it has more to do with us as Americans than it has to do with Trump as a candidate. If you ask the average Trump voter the basis of his support, it has little to do with Trump’s polices or his personality. In fact, many of his supporters do not respect him personally.
beings on some level, enjoy watching the powerful suffer. Perhaps that is wrong. It is not so much that we enjoy watching suffering, we like to watch destruction from afar. Folks in the fly over states on some level enjoy watching the hurricanes roll into the east coast and secretly revel when Californians deal with earthquakes and mud slides. Donald Trump represents the earthquake that is poised over Washington. They want to watch Washington and the entrenched institutions therein crash and burn under the watchful eye of Donald Trump. They believe that it is time for politics as usual to be made to heel before a fairly elected destroyer. They believe that whatever havoc Trump can wreak in Washington will not really effect them. They could not be more wrong. I doubt they have even thought through what a Trump Presidency might mean to them and to us all.
A person like Donald Trump with absolutely no experience in government could and more than likely would lead us into the worst period in American history. I see race relations strained to the breaking point, worldwide economic collapse and America, a once proud democracy becoming the joke of the world community. Those concepts may seem abstract to most voters but if you don’t think those issues won’t effect you, your children and your grand children, you are sorely mistaken.
Throw The Bums Out
Despite what you might have read or might believe, the Presidential campaign of 2016 is not over. Far from it. Donald Trump’s supporters are a rabid bunch and will turn out en masse on November 8th to vote. Just because “the Donald” continues to shoot himself in the foot, do not think his support has waned. No one who is voting for Trump is doing so because of his personality or his moral correctness. They are voting for Trump as a protest against the establishment. Even Trump believes that if turnout is low, he could still win the Presidency. He proves it every day trotting out new policy proposals and talking about what he wishes to accomplish during his first hundred days in office.
One of his recent policy proposals is supporting term limits. Whenever politicians don’t like establishment politics and especially during “change elections” the issue of term limits seems to come up. I actually used to be a proponent of term limits but have changed my stance on that old chestnut. I will try and put my thoughts in terms even “the Donald” can understand. If you have an employee that started at your company at the lowest level and over a period of 10 or 12 years worked their way up to a position of power and influence in your company, would you fire them just because they had longevity with your organization? Of course not. Like it or not, politics is a career like any other and people with experience and knowledge should not be cast aside because of something as stupid as term limits. Government is not for amateurs. Besides, we already have term limits in this country, they are called elections. If a politician is not doing their job, they should be voted out.
And speaking of legislators who don’t do their jobs, let’s talk about all of those Republican Senators who have refused to do their jobs of advising and consenting on Supreme Court nominees. Every Senator who has blocked hearings on Obama’s Supreme Court nominee should rightly be defeated in November. The case is pure and simple, they are not doing their jobs and their employers (the American people) should fire them for gross neglect of their duty.
An Alternate Reality
Living in your own head is fun. Everyone does it. It is the place where you can experience the power and prestige that most of us don’t enjoy in real life. The place where you can live out your own delusions of grandeur and engage in your utmost fantasies. The place where you can say an do just about anything and everyone likes and respects you. Eventually though, reality sets in again and a modicum of objectivity takes over and you realize that the world is a complicated place and your actions do indeed have consequences and based on what you say and do not everyone does like and respect you. I worry about the people in this world who never seem to have that objectivity and don’t seem to realize their actual place in it. I am sure there is a clinical term for those people but this is not a scientific treatise.
Sadly, the Republican nominee for President seems to suffer from this malady whatever clinical term you wish to ascribe to it. I am constantly amazed at how out of touch he seems to be between his own view of himself and the view of the population at large. This is a man who claims and I think really believes that he won all three of the Presidential debates despite every scientific poll telling him the contrary.
I have been thinking a lot about why Donald Trump seems so out of touch with the American electorate and why he seems determined to spit on our democracy and why he constantly goes against the good advice he gets from his campaign staff. I have no rational explanation for it but suspect it has a lot to do with the person he is. Trump has never really lived in the world that most of us inhabit. He is the epitome of entitlement and believes that everyone looks up to him and depends on him to save this country. He has convinced himself of this and anything that does not feed into the narrative must be “rigged” against him. I wonder how he rationalizes the growing number of conservative newspapers that have not endorsed a Democrat for decades or have never endorsed a Democrat but are standing firmly behind Hillary Clinton. Do we believe that these papers think that Hillary is that good of a candidate or could it be the fact that people who know things realize that Donald Trump is the worst, most dangerous candidate ever to have run for the Presidency. I suppose in Trump’s world, those beacons of conservative thought are also “in the bag” for Hillary. (Give me a break).
The mainstream media, which I admit has a liberal bias, keeps banging the drum on Trump’s most recent comments about the election being rigged and his evident refusal to accept the election results. For me, this reporting is a bit disingenuous. The fact is the American people will vote on November 8th and a winner will be declared shortly after the final polls close out west and it won’t matter if Trump makes the customary concession speech or not. I suspect there is a certain aspect of schadenfreude entering into their reporting and commentary. The press wants to see Trump humbled but honestly, I just want him to go away and mercifully never to return to public prominence. That is the only concession we ought need from Donald Trump.
A Taste of His Own Medicine
Remember before the last Presidential debate when Donald Trump held his “surprise” press conference with the accusers of Bill Clinton? The political press couldn’t believe it but there was Mr. Trump with Juanita Broaddrick, Kathleen Willey, Kathy Shelton and Paula Jones. Broaddrick, Willey and Jones were three women who accused Bill Clinton of sexual misconduct back in the 1980’s while he was the Governor of Arkansas. Those charges were covered extensively by the press but they did not seem to effect the election of 1992 when Mr. Clinton was elected President and then won re-election in 1996. Conspicuously absent from the press conference, however were Gennifer Flowers and Monica Lewinsky whose past with the former President was much more salacious. Be that as it may, I wonder what the reaction would be if the tables were turned? Trump thought that by staging that kind of spectacle just prior to a Presidential debate was a good idea and would somehow derail Ms. Clinton and throw her off her game plan.
Now I know in my heart that the Clinton campaign is far too smart and far too classy to engage in such theatrics but it would be heartening for me to know that at some time in the past week some staffer in the campaign suggested that she return the favor this week. I wonder how Mr. Trump would react if Ms. Clinton were to hold a press conference with Jessica Leeds, Kristin Anderson, Jill Harth, Mindy McGillivray and Natasha Stoynoff. These are the women who have just accused Donald Trump of sexual misconduct since his notorious Access Hollywood tape surfaced and he denied such activity at the second debate.
I would love to know that the Clinton camp considered and rejected this tactic and the staff had a good laugh about it. Where is wikileaks when you need them? At this point, there is no need for the Clinton campaign to “get down in the dirt” with the Trump campaign. She needs to conduct herself like she will be the next President of the United States because that is exactly what she is.
We Have Arrived
When I say “we”, I am, of course, referring to the editorial “we” or “the royal” we. I mean “we” as a generation. As a force of society. I remember when I was in high school, I had an English teacher in senior year who was very demanding. I wrote my senior paper on the poetry of rock and roll and remember quoting Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, James Taylor among others. I got an “A” on the paper but I remember my teacher, Sister DeNeri (Catholic High School) commenting that my premise was interesting but the lyrical quality of rock and roll songs would never rise to the level of poetry. That was 1979. I would like to see Sr. DeNeri today to get her reaction to Bob Dylan being awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Boo Yah! We have arrived!
The significance of Dylan being raised to the level of fellow laureates like Rudyard Kipling, William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Sinclair Lewis, Eugene O’Neill, Pearl S. Buck, William Faulkner, Earnest Hemingway, John Steinbeck among other literary luminaries cannot be understated. It is a testament to the power of song to transform society, a vindication of a generation.
Alfred Nobel was a Swedish chemist, engineer, inventor and philanthropist and was a controversial figure in his time because of his invention of dynamite. He was called “the merchant of death” and was a man vilified by many. In 1888, he was mistakenly reported as dead and was saddened by the obituary written about him. He was determined to shape his legacy more positively and upon his actual death in 1896 left the bulk of his estate to the Foundation that bears his name. The Nobel Prizes are awarded annually in five disciplines, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Peace. The awards have been bestowed since 1901 and is arguably the most prestigious award one can win.
Just the fact that the committee would consider Dylan in the conversation is probably honor enough but for him to be awarded the prize is a milestone of historical significance. For generations to come, the late 20th century rock and roll movement will now have to be taken seriously and be studied and viewed as a movement of cultural and historical significance.
I must admit, there is good and bad associated with this landmark award. The good is the fact that rock and roll as an art form is now a serious endeavor worthy of academic investigation. The bad is that “we” are now the establishment.
Welcome To Big Boy Politics
Early on in his campaign, Donald Trump refused to allow his campaign staff to do opposition research on him. Most political professionals will tell you that this is a necessary step in the evolution of professional politics. The reason it is so important, as Mr. Trump is now learning, is that you can root out possible attacks and neutralize them before they become a major issue and derail a campaign prior to an election. Politics can be a dirty high stakes game and political professionals will do what they have to, within the bounds of the law, to get their candidates elected. When you are running against a candidate with so many “built-in” flaws like Donald Trump, sometimes it is best to just get out of the way and let things take their course.
When you are twenty-five days away from an election and you find yourself sinking in the polls, constantly defending yourself from self inflicted wounds, attacking everyone and touting conspiracy theories, it is time to realize that you are woefully out of your league. Donald Trump came into Presidential politics with somewhat of a simplistic view of the process. He had very little organization, little to no ground game, and thought he could coast to a victory based on his own self-importance and the view of himself as a popular benevolent leader. This view is just naive for anyone, much less someone as “intelligent” as Donald Trump. Good opposition research could have prevented many of the problems he has faced recently but once again, ego and self-aggrandizement got in the way.
The main question voters need to ask themselves at this point is, if someone is so inept at running a Presidential campaign, how competent will they be as a chief executive. Welcome, Donald, to the world of big boy politics.
Tough Times at Trump Tower
Is anyone surprised at the numerous women starting to come forward to confirm that Donald Trump improperly made sexual advances to them. Really? It is not shocking or surprising that the Donald Trump we heard on the Access Hollywood video is exactly who he is, an egotistical skirt chasing creep. In the 1970’s and 1980’s men could get away with their aggression and sexual abuse of women because let us not forget, abuse is not about sex, it is about power and in those days, white men had the power and women did not. Today, our society has progressed and those kinds of advances are not tolerated as much especially in the work place. It still happens but with much less frequency. Women these days are much more likely to report bad behavior because they can, and many take it very seriously. When Mr. Trump rails against political correctness this is in part what he is talking about. He wants to go back to the days when white men had all the power and opportunities for women and minorities were only available when the white men said so.
tarnish Hillary because she attacked the women. Yeah, duh. Most women who love their husbands would do the same. And further, in situations like that, sympathy and empathy always enures to the scorned wife. Of course Trump and his peeps do not understand that because they have little concept of sympathy or empathy. I believe, however the real danger in this strategy is that you are reminding the American people that not that long ago, we had a philandering creep in the Oval Office and it was a national embarrassment. Do we really want another philandering creep in the White House?
“The enemy of my enemy is my friend”
-Ancient Sanskrit proverb
Donald Trump might be the best thing to happen to American politics since the Nixon Administration, when everything went South. Regardless of what happens on November 8th in the House and Senate races, both Republicans and Democrats are going to have to address the 30% of the electorate that is just pissed off and willing to strip the Washington political machine of all of its power and start over. Those people cannot be ignored any longer. From the way it appears currently, Hillary Clinton will be the 45th President of the United States, Democrats will control the Senate and Republicans will hold a small majority in the House of Representatives. If they intend to stave off an all out revolt of a very vocal plurality of the citizenry, the two sides had better learn to work together to pass legislation that will help average Americans in their daily lives.
Paul Ryan, as the leader of the Republican party, not withstanding Donald Trump, and Hillary Clinton need to meet face to face during transition to plot out some common ground and devise a plan to move forward together. I know that sounds like a revolutionary idea but revolutionary ideas are in order. A show of that kind of unity will be important for both Clinton and Ryan moving forward. It will demonstrate that Hillary’s campaign slogan was genuine and for Ryan, it will show that the GOP is done with it’s obstructionist ways and is truly willing to work with Democrats to do business.
Let us not forget that these factions exist on both sides of the political spectrum. For every supporter of Trump on the right, there is a Sanders supporter on the left and I am convinced that unless the two establishment wings of the political process can come together and work side by side, there may be no hope for any of them in the next election cycle. There is a groundswell emerging in America that is even more polarized than the current group of political hacks. Unless we want our national government to come to a stand still, I would urge “the establishment” to put its petty differences aside and learn to work together for the good of the country.
When the American electorate goes to the polls, they vote for the whole person. I remember in the 2004 election a poll question emerged that read something like this,”which candidate would you most like to sit down and have a beer with”. George W. Bush obviously won that poll question because he was seen as a regular guy and John Kerry was perceived as too smart and too aloof to want to party with. I believe this has come about because a majority of the electorate is frankly too intellectually challenged to understand the nuances of the complexity of the issues facing this country. People vote on three things, the first two are real and the third is more ethereal. First, they vote on the state of their pocketbooks or wallets. Will a candidate be able to improve their economic situation. Second, will the candidate be able to keep us safe in our own homes. And the third factor is this “personality” thing. Is the candidate the kind of person I want to see on the news every day for the next four years?
In this election cycle, the importance of this third criteria has seemingly overtaken the first two. If voters were honest, more than half would tell you that they are voting this year against a candidate rather than for the other. The debates have attested to the fact that voters aren’t really concerned about policy proposals because if they were, the choice would be clear. No contest, election over. An interesting trend is beginning and I believe we will see it play out all the way to Election Day. Trump is losing support and I think he will continue to lose voters for one reason: women.
Bob Dylan said, ““I think women rule the world and that no man has ever done anything that a woman either hasn’t allowed him to do or encouraged him to do.” There is a lot of truth to this statement and I think a vast majority of women are now completely turned off by Trump’s “locker room talk” and will begin to exert their influence on their husbands and significant others to strongly re-consider their support of Trump. It won’t be overt but will more like a silent killer rather than a tidal wave. I do believe that Trump has a certain base of support and that base is probably around 30%. So if the polls are correct, Trump has about 5% more to lose which won’t seem like much but will set him on the path of the worst defeat in US presidential political history. I can’t wait to hear how “the Donald” spins that.