Spotted lily

Spotted lily

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Why I Wasn’t Among Conservatives Celebrating the Presidential Election Results

So, the American electorate actually went ahead and voted to make Donald J. Trump the next president of the United States.  Ever since Trump announced his candidacy and was (shockingly, to me) taken seriously by influential “conservative” media figures, I’d been hoping against hope that this result would not actually come to pass.  Of course, I’ve been voting in presidential elections since 1992, and the only times I’ve been pleased by the outcomes were George W. Bush’s victories -- one of which, you may recall, was a bit of a squeaker, so I did half-expect that my disapproval of Trump might be a strong indication that he would somehow manage to win.  Many Trump-skeptical conservatives are pretty thrilled that at least Hillary Clinton lost and that Democrats also had a terrible time in lower-level races.  I am glad that many Republican Congressional candidates, including our own Senator Johnson, were able to win and that the GOP will retain control of the House and Senate, but I still feel that the main story of November 8 -- the elevation of President-Elect (sigh) Donald Trump -- is a cause for serious concern and sadness.  A good friend of mine, who I guess would qualify as a somewhat reluctant Trump supporter, asked me a few days after the election what considerations made me believe that Trump’s victory is a worse circumstance than even having Hillary Clinton heading for the White House.  That’s a good question, and I’ll try to articulate a few of my reasons here.

Perhaps the most fundamental problem is that I just do not think Trump is fit for the presidency because he lacks the knowledge, experience, principled belief system and temperament to qualify him for a job with so much power and responsibility.  I think that this may lead to negative developments in many areas, but it is especially worrisome in the foreign policy realm.  The way he has been dismissive of the importance of long-standing alliances, praised violent authoritarians like Vladimir Putin and the Chinese leaders who crushed protesters, casually tossed around reckless ideas for handling terrorism and overseas conflicts, proposed actions that would violate international law, and belittled many of our military leaders while claiming to himself have greater knowledge of defense matters make me believe that Trump may actually be too unstable and dangerous a person to put in probably the most powerful position in the world.  I think it is possible that he could bring about some dire global consequences, and this alone was pretty much sufficient to make me conclude that, in a general election where either he or Clinton would be the winner, Trump was the least acceptable option.

Obviously, I was extremely unhappy with the choices we had in this November’s presidential election.  As much as I disagree with her on most things, I thought that Hillary Clinton was more reasonable and stable and less likely to wreak havoc from the Oval Office, particularly since she would face serious opposition, rather than a rubber stamp, from Republicans in Congress.  If Hillary Clinton had won, at least I could have hoped that, in four years, perhaps the Republicans would nominate a strong, respectable conservative candidate that I could happily support.  I seriously doubt that Donald Trump will want to voluntarily step aside after one term, so he’ll almost certainly be the nominee again in 2020.   That means it will be at least  eight years before there’s any chance of having a decent presidential candidate on the ballot, and that’s a pretty depressing thought.

In addition, I have many concerns related to the possible effects that Trump’s victory may have on the Republican party, the conservative movement, and our overall political culture going forward.  Donald Trump is, to say the least, not a traditional conservative, and he has long expressed views and taken positions usually more compatible with liberals and the Democratic party.  He continued to do so even during this presidential campaign, during which he also kept changing positions on many issues so that I’m not sure how anyone can guess which ones he’s supposed to hold at the present time.  Now, he will be the main face and voice of the GOP, so his views and pronouncements will be identified as Republican ideas, especially if, as is likely, most other Republican office-holders rally around to defend him against criticism from Democrats and the media and to help him enact items on his agenda.  (After all, it seems that once people join Trump’s side at all, even with reservations, they tend to eventually wind up as committed loyalists and apologists.)  We really don’t need another party happy to make deals with dictators, vastly increase government spending, add new entitlements for things like child care while refusing to consider any reforms to Social Security and Medicare, praise Planned Parenthood and government-provided health care, etc., so I continue to believe that Donald Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party is far from a positive development.

Because so many people who’ve been known as conservative politicians and media figures jumped on his bandwagon so enthusiastically, Trump will likely even be seen by many as a main representative of conservatism, even though he does not share many traditional conservative views and has gone out of his way to point out that the GOP is the “Republican” party, not the “conservative” party.  Also, I think Republicans may well decide that, since they were able to win with the “populist” (and, I’d say, largely liberal) Trump and not with recent more traditionally conservative candidates and messages, the party should commit to the Trumpian approach more completely and stick with it in the future.  In that case, conservatism as we’ve known it for decades might no longer play a leading role in the GOP -- and where else can it find a good home?  I still think that conservatism is a better option for the country, so I can’t cheer the possibility of it’s untimely demise at the hands of “Trumpism.”

To those enthusiastic about Trump’s campaign and victory, some of my other concerns probably reflect my status as a hopelessly “square” person and a clueless enabler of the so-called political “establishment.”  I’m one of those silly people who actually think that some relevant knowledge and experience would be good attributes to have in someone seeking the job of President of the United States.  Trump’s example may lead both major parties (and others) to conclude that it’s a great idea to nominate “outsider’ candidates with no experience to connect them with distrusted government institutions and no pesky records of actually having to deal with tricky political issues.  Ideally, the novices would also be celebrities, since they already have lots of name recognition and would not need to spend as much money on advertising or put in as much effort to get their names out to the voters.  Just imagine all of the actors, singers, and athletes out there who are quite famous and well-liked by the American public and who may have an interest in politics.  (Republicans might want to note that there are probably a lot more of these folks on the other side of the aisle.)  Is selecting our leaders from a pool such as this really a good idea?  I’m not convinced it is.

Then there is the issue of Donald Trump’s character, or lack thereof, and the extent to which that has become acceptable.  Near-constant lying, mocking and attacking opponents and whole categories of people, a history of questionable business practices, and bragging about leading a libertine lifestyle and of foisting unwanted attentions on women did not deter voters from electing the boastful billionaire.  Heck, this person is even the new “hero” of much of the religious Right.  Republicans used to marvel at the things Democrats overlooked to keep supporting guys like Bill Clinton and Ted Kennedy.  If Republicans and Independents are now also OK with a man as personally “flawed,” to put it nicely, as Donald J. Trump in the role of president, what does that say about our society and the direction our culture is headed?  Was Trump correct when he said that even shooting someone in public would not cost him votes?  What would it now take to disqualify someone from a position of importance or respect?  These are just more disturbing questions related to the Trump phenomenon. 

Nonetheless, the people have made their choice, and Donald Trump will be the next president.  I can only hope that he and his administration will manage to avoid bringing about any serious disasters, and perhaps he and the Republican Congress will even manage to do a couple of positive things during his term.  Maybe if I think about Trump as just another liberal president I wouldn’t have chosen, reality won’t seem so disappointing compared to what I’d have imagined might be possible with a “real” Republican in the White House.  Or, I could just try a news-avoidance strategy from now on and limit my presidency-related TV viewing to the fictional world of “Designated Survivor.”  In any case, i’d guess that even those of us who never willingly boarded the “Trump train” may be in for an interesting ride the next few years -- hopefully we’ll all make it through with nothing worse than a few minor scrapes and bruises...

Thursday, November 3, 2016

More Uncertainty as Election Day Draws Near

Well, we’ve almost reached the end of this agonizing election season, and it seems that the bizarre developments are likely to keep coming even in the last few days.  After following this crazy saga for well over a year, I still find it difficult to understand what much of the public will find persuasive or problematic.

It seems that the FBI director’s notification to Congress that the Bureau would be looking into some more e-mails they came across on a Clinton aide’s computer might make a big difference in the outcome of the race, but I’m not sure why it should at this point.  Nothing new has actually happened related to Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server, and we haven’t actually heard about any additional findings.  Actually, it appears that, when Director Comey’s letter was issued, the FBI had yet to look at the new e-mails to even discern if they were relevant to the investigation and were not duplicates of messages already obtained elsewhere, way less to have examined the content of any that might be unique.  While it makes sense that the FBI would study these new e-mails, publicizing this step so close to a presidential election without being able to also inform people of any results of this examination seems less than ideal.  Obviously, being reminded that a candidate has been investigated by the FBI is not going to be a point in her favor, but it seems odd to me that this would be the thing to finally push someone to reject Clinton or opt for her opponent.  Of course, this whole election cycle has constantly reinforced the fact that I’m out of step with much of the electorate, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised if many people find this development much more significant than I do.

Actually, even before the FBI-related news broke, some polls had already shown a tightening of the race, and I must say that I found it quite strange for Donald Trump to have been gaining support during the weeks since the last debate.   During that time, he was devoting plenty of time in his campaign to complaints about supposedly “rigged” polls and not-yet completed balloting, attacks on House Speaker Paul Ryan and other Republicans not supportive enough for Trump’s liking, and promises to sue the women who’ve alleged that Trump accosted them.  Are there really quite a few people who find these things to be convincing reasons, after this very long campaign, to back an inexperienced, inconsistent, ill-prepared, self-absorbed authoritarian like Donald Trump?  Maybe there are -- after all, Trump’s whining about the unfair treatment he claimed he was getting in the Republican primary process and from GOP leaders generally seemed to help him clinch the nomination over Ted Cruz this spring. Who would have thought that this sort of thing would actually appeal to voters?  I guess that a good portion of America really does like a whiner, or at least wants to reward one with sympathy votes.

So, we shall soon see if Donald J. Trump manages to pull off the ultimate con and secure himself a spot in the Oval Office.  If he does, who knows what we’ll see from him next year and beyond.  Which, if any, of the sometimes conflicting goals or proposals he’s brought up during the campaign might he actually try to implement?  How much might he use his powerful new office to indulge his vindictive impulses and punish those he sees as having opposed or wronged him in some way during his run for the presidency?  How much and in what ways will he “shake up” Washington or “burn down” the Republican establishment, as so many of his ardent supporters want him to do, and how destructive might these things be?  I do know that I see no reason to expect an administration that will really help move America in a better, more conservative direction, and I do not find at all persuasive the arguments some have made that Trump would be held in check by other members of "his " party because he’s enjoyed less then enthusiastic support from many of them.  I think it’s far more likely that a Donald Trump who managed to win the election despite all of the crazy things he’s said and done and the (almost entirely justified) criticism he’s received from so many of us would be even more emboldened and would believe that he has a mandate from the voters to be “unshackled” as President and to do what he wants.  I’m afraid that the best case we could hope for would involve Trump having no real interest in governing at all, so that he would just travel around holding rallies and other events at which he could bask in the adulation of his adoring fans while allowing more responsible Republicans in Congress or his administration to actually deal with things like setting policies and trying to enact legislation.  But Trump might well believe his own rhetoric that he alone can fix everything in our country and, as a result, try to impose his will regarding many issues on everyone.  There’s no way to know ahead of time what would happen during a Donald Trump presidency, but I’m dreading the possibility that we might have to find out.