Monday, October 24, 2016

Undecided (and likely to stay that way until election day)

I am not permitted to endorse a partisan candidate which has given me the freedom to discuss, hopefully objectively, both major party candidates (the minor party candidates, save for Bill Weld, are non-entities) and the dilemma of remaining undecided after a great deal of effort to resolve this one way or the other.  I do not see a clear choice and perhaps not even a "lesser" of evils.

Donald Trump.  He's the guy a lot of people like to hate -- but he knocked off 16 Republican primary challengers in public voting that has shaken the Republican party establishment, something which has been needed for a long time.  To the end that he played the populist Trump was originally a breath of fresh air perhaps but is now more of a disappointment.

Trump is crass, boorish and undisciplined.  Certainly not the guy you'd want as a son-in-law.  His personal offensiveness and arrogance are well-documented.  But the biggest disappointment for me is that he squandered his chance to be a populist reformer.  He could have run as the businessman who takes the best ideas from anywhere and improves them, regardless of the source.   He could have sought to bring people together.  He could have toned down the craziness.  He could have owned up to his personal shortcomings.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

But Trump is an unconventional candidate at a time when the public mood is angst at "the establishment" of both parties.  He frustrates me because he had a mandate and has pretty much blown it by his ego and lack of presidential behavior.  Nonetheless I have tried and continue to try to find the wheat amongst the chaff -- heck, even a broken clock is right twice a day.  Trump has thrown down some profound gauntlets among his crazy notions like Mexico being forced to pay for a wall along our southern border.  He has spoken forcefully about the dangers China is bringing to the fore.  He has challenged African-American voters to look at whether Democrats have taken their votes for granted and if social welfare programs have actually inhibited racial progress.  He isn't afraid to call out illegal immigration -- despite his penchant for jingoism - and "radical Islamic terrorists."  He refused to take Hillary Clinton's bait about Russian president Vladimir Putin, holding the door open to negotiating with him.  And he's taken Mrs. Clinton to task for, in his opinion, being duped by Putin and his comrades.  Significantly, in the most pointed of these volleys Mrs. Clinton has chosen to not respond to them and the media has been more focused on whether Trump would accept the results of the election (reality check: in 2000 we had a presidential election that was decided on the basis of a recount in Florida so how could any candidate actually commit sight unseen to refrain from challenging the results?).  For Trump's part, he's thrown out big ideas but failed to deliver specifics which is very disappointing.  I truly want to hear what he plans to do and how he plans to do it.  He's let me -- and the American people -- down.

I've tried very hard to give him the benefit of the doubt, not just because of his lack of conventionalism but because he may well be the "big idea" guy who leaves it up to his staff to work out the details.  But it's wearisome to have to do this.  And I cut him some slack about his demeanor.  I worry a great deal about how well he'd interface with other foreign leaders if he became president but at the same time that brashness and unpredictability could be a plus.  Ronald Reagan understood that if you kept others a bit nervous you may not have to go into battle.  Trump certainly keeps many of us nervous.

Then there's Hillary.  We know her faults, real and perceived,  Republicans have made sure of that for years.  There, too, there is wheat amongst the chaff.  Benghazi could have happened to anyone -- in fact, there were similar attacks during Republican administrations.  And there are those who have difficulty with a woman seeking power just as they have with an African-American in power.  There is no doubt that Mrs. Clinton is qualified and capable but she nonetheless carries an enormous amount of baggage.  Some of the many scandals have become tempests in teapots but others -- like the coziness of the Clinton Foundation with foreign government donors -- are worthy of note and even a few responsible journalists have raised eyebrows.  A look at the foundation's tax records suggests that only a small amount of the money raised has been disbursed.  But setting aside the political tit-for-tat for a moment, there are other problems.  Her approach to terrorism seems eclectic and she has no meaningful plan to deal with illegal immigration.  She won't even call it that.  Trump is personally offensive and arrogant and his misconduct toward women egregious.  But Mrs. Clinton is also offensive and arrogant as documented by many people who have worked with her.  And I have a hard time deciding whether Trump's diarrhea-mouth toward women is much worse that Mrs. Clinton's contempt for political opposition from within and outside of her party.  The scheming to deprive Bernie Sanders of a shot at the nomination is horrid and matched by her calling Trump supporters -- who may well become her constituents -- a "bunch of deplorable."  That's inexcusable and, frankly, not "presidential."  Worse, when Trump lobbied legitimate volleys -- such as on racial issues and whether she was "played" by Putin -- she did not respond.

I think the nation owes Mrs. Clinton gratitude for her service as a United States senator and as secretary of state.  She has the basic competence to be president but seems to act as if she has been anointed and that an election is but an annoying prerequisite.  Certainly she will not have a working relationship with Republicans (I fear their hostility toward the Obama administration will be mild by comparison) if she's elected.  But the real dilemma is that in this time when change is in the wind no candidate typifies "the establishment" more than Mrs. Clinton.  The unresolved question is, if she's elected, what changes?  

So, in relative brevity, there you have it.  For many, it's the quintessential decision over the brand of poison to select to commit suicide.  I could list more examples for both candidates but, my gosh, what I've already said illustrates two seriously flawed candidates and campaigns.  On election day I will undoubtedly have to resolve this but chances are I won't feel proud of my decision.

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