Friday, May 13, 2016

Ranting On...The Presidential Election

(This blog is called The Many Rantings of John, but that is mostly a misnomer as we rarely actually "rant" in the traditional sense of what you'd expect on social media.  However, on occasion an article lives up to that title and I need to get some heat off my chest-that is the case today.  If you don't like that sort of thing, please skip over this article and we'll have our regularly-scheduled thoughtful analysis on film, television, and politics returning soon.  If this presidential cycle has you, like me, ready to punch your fist through a wall, please proceed).

It's Friday, and we haven't had a proper rant on a Friday in ages, so let's do this thing and address the giant elephant in the room one more time before I head back into OVP's and film for a little while: what the hell is going on in this presidential race?

As anyone with a television can tell you (and man has CNN gone downhill where Wolf Blitzer is literally reporting on the status of Donald Trump's plane), Donald Trump has secured the Republican nomination for president, and is now in a "do you like me?" tour through Washington trying to get the likes of Paul Ryan and vulnerable Senate/House Republicans to get behind his campaign as he pivots to the general election.  Except this is all clearly show, and it disturbs me that the media doesn't realize this.  Does anyone actually believe that Paul Ryan, the quintessential party man who has been a Republican all of his life and knows that at the very least delegate voters (whom he plans on romancing himself in four or eight years) are going to recall whether or not he supported Trump, would ever not get behind the Republican nominee, even if it's only tacit support?  No, they shouldn't, and the media should be smarter about this and maybe focus on the actual bloody candidate in the race rather than trying to be electoral strategists.

Because that is what this is-gaming out electoral strategy, guessing how the public is going to react rather than informing the public and letting public opinion form as a result of reporting the news.  There's a reason that people hate the news lately, and it's not just because it's all depressing, it's also because the news isn't actually the news anymore.  What we see on stations like CNN or FOX News is electoral strategy and guesswork and talking points, rather than reporting facts and informing the public.  Whether it's driven by a need to fill up 24 hours in a day or because the news stations don't want to appear "impartial," one of the most important aspects of journalism has been side-stepped in recent years in a major way, and that is that we no longer get the facts, but instead people guessing how the public will react to a particular news story.  Instead of examining why, for example, Paul Ryan, the highest-ranking Republican in the nation, won't endorse his party's candidate for president by interviewing him, pressing him for specifics on what policy differences he has with Trump, and then laying out whether this is consistent with his past endorsements for people like George W. Bush and Mitt Romney, we simply hear "when will he endorse-let's try and speculate!"  This isn't the news-it's just doing guesswork and gaming out scenarios for politicians in the public sphere.  In a quest to be as non-partisan as possible (because reporting straight on this story makes Trump look awful, and heaven forbid we do that and risk the ire of the social media Right pushing the narrative that CNN or MSNBC is liberal for stating facts), they have in reality become hyper-partisan, trying to keep the balance for the parties even as they themselves become more and more extreme.  The news enables that, and any person who tells you otherwise (likely a journalist), is just trying to cover their butt.

But forget the news media, who is such a sorry excuse for journalism these days that I can't get through NPR without weeping over what could be (really the last bastion for verbal journalism left on the air), and instead I want to focus on this ridiculous presidential election.  I actually have expressed some sympathy for Republicans in this situation, or at least the ones who saw the field of promising candidates like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham so many months ago and were overwhelmed with options, only to end up with a gut-ache because half the party wanted to go to White Castle and the other half didn't want an argument.  I can't imagine, as a 20+ year political junkie what this moment must be like.  As a partisan Democrat, I have had to vote for, in the past, candidates I wasn't enthused about filling the box on the ballot.  I've campaigned for guys I knew personally were jerks, or gotten behind a candidate I spent an entire primary wishing would just go away, but I've never been in a situation like this one, where I am genuinely so appalled by my party's candidate in his beliefs (which feel like he'll say literally anything to win, without any sort of personal standing on an issue except his own ego), regard for the office he was running for, and quite frankly his dangerous attitudes toward a number of Americans (Latinos, women, and Muslims come to mind, but if you aren't straight, white, rich, and male, you've probably had your own distasteful Trump insult hurled at you this cycle) that I couldn't actually vote for him without knowing it was bad for the country.  Donald Trump is a dangerous, vapid, careless man who shouldn't be put in charge of anything other than his own braggadocio-the fact that people want to trust someone this shallow and uninformed with complicated foreign policy issues, their economy despite repeated and constant failures in the business world, and their own personal rights is unnerving, and shows how deeply jaded and resentful certain sectors of the American populace have become toward others, despite our pledge proclaiming us indivisible.  Being a Republican and having to choose between a man like that and a woman who stands for so many issues I don't believe in, I would be entertaining third party options too-I'd be considering skipping that line on the ballot or finding any straws to grasp at-it's hard, and don't think I don't feel that pain.

But I want to believe that I would make the right decision, hold my nose and vote for the other party in that situation (and work my ass off to ensure that at least one house of Congress stayed on my side so that we would have a seat at the table until the next Midterm or presidential election when we come back with vigor).  If the election were, say, between John Kasich and Kanye West (what I see as the equivalent situation for Democrats), I would vote for John Kasich.  I'd explore the Green Party candidate's platform and possibly even campaign for Jill Stein if she was doing well, but if it was truly a two-man race, I'd go for Kasich.  Because I think when it comes down to someone who is truly not ready for the presidency, someone who would put the country in real danger (which is what Donald Trump, who has made statements on everything from South Korea to ISIS that should petrify any sane-minded person, would do), you need to step up and be bigger than a political party.  Like I said-I'm not expecting any die-hard conservative to become a Democrat here-while I'd love to have more support down-ballot, I get that that's too much to ask.  But Hillary Clinton isn't going to be a foreign-policy disaster here, someone who would put the entire world economy in disrepair and who will embarrass us repeatedly on the international stage.  She's also only president for four years, the GOP will likely still have the House to keep her administration in check, and if you really want to beat Hillary, you'll still have your chance in 2020.  It's not worth partisan purity to risk the country on a man as dangerous as Donald Trump, just because you have to hold your nose for someone like Clinton.  We've been in this situation before (the 1991 Louisiana governor's race is an example, and Hillary Clinton is better than Edwin Edwards, and ironically David Duke has endorsed Donald Trump), and when it came down between a racist hate-monger and a Democrat (and again, Clinton is a better option than Edwards), then sitting President Bush bucked his party and got behind Edwards.  And if it makes you feel better, GOP, Edwards got four years and then the Republican Party triumphed in a grand fashion four years later when they won back the governorship.

For the rest of you (he slowly tilts his head in a glaring fashion), the ones of you who proclaim to be "independents" or "vote for the person" candidates and who have not already gotten behind Hillary Clinton: are you freaking kidding me?!?  If there was ever a vote-for-the-person, not the political party, sort of scenario, this is it.  I get that some people don't like Hillary Clinton for whatever reason.  Perhaps it's because of minor ethical transgressions through the years (though literally every other politician of her power is in charge of enough government that you could pin this sort of tag on them), or perhaps it's because you find her "dishonest," "opportunistic," or "an ambitious woman" (seriously-the intense hatred around Hillary Clinton through the years has gotten so ridiculously sexist I just roll my eyes every time someone brings up an ambiguous distaste for her), but it's time to grow up.  She's been First Lady, a US senator, and Secretary of State.  The last time we had a presidential candidate this qualified it was Al Gore, and we all so how well not voting for him turned out, didn't we?  She's running against a man who can't make it through a speech without changing his mind, thinks EU is a Twitter acronym, has insulted half the world leaders on the planet, has literally called women "pigs" and "dogs," is xenophobic enough that we've now got the former president of Mexico thinking that he'll cause a war with our next-door neighbor, and whose grasp on policy is so appalling even people in his own party endorsing him can't do so without qualifying themselves.  This is the man you want to give the nuclear codes to, just because his opponent wanted to use her own bloody email account?!?  Are you kidding me?!?  Have we become so insulated from our political process that we no longer realize that our votes have consequences any more?  Because that's the only thing that I can think of here.  If you don't like Hillary Clinton as a person, fine, whatever, grumble and complain and say "let's throw them all out in 2020" just like happens every four years even though so few Americans invest any time into actually, say, voting in primaries or midterms to actually make change a reality.  But if you are genuinely thinking there is no difference between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and you can claim you "vote for the person" with a straight face, please consider purchasing a dictionary, as I don't think you know what these words mean.

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