Another Political Fantasy

Apparently, I’ve been living in a fantasy world lately.  The fantasy that I want to share this time is quite unrealistic.  It is like hoping that we elect a wise unicorn to the presidency.  It simply cannot happen.  So, if I were getting paid to philosophize, I’d call this a thought experiment.  But, since no one is paying me, I’ll stick to fantasy.  It sounds more fun that way.

My current fantasy is for elections to be anonymous.  And I don’t mean the current secret ballot kind of anonymous.  I mean the candidates would remain anonymous.  Basically, anyone who wants to be president would submit their names to their parties.  The parties would each choose a candidate, but would not announce the name of the candidate.  If anyone disclosed the name of a candidate, that candidate would be disqualified and the snitch would be imprisoned for election tampering.  Then, each party’s candidate would write up a speech outlining their positions and governing philosophy.  The anonymous speeches would be sealed in envelopes randomly labeled A, B, C, D. . . (I would also limit the number of parties.  We don’t want a thousand candidates.  But I’m not sure what a good limit would be.)  The envelopes would be delivered to a prominent actor to be read publicly.  (I like the idea of Morgan Freeman reading them, but it should change with each election cycle.  Meryl Streep would do an excellent job as well.)  They should also be printed in the news and made available online.  There would be a two week period where people would discuss the speeches.  Then, each candidate would present another speech in the same way as before, but modified (if they so choose) to incorporate the feedback.

Election day would be two weeks after the second set of speeches is presented to the public.  People would go to the polls and vote for Candidate A, B, C or D based entirely on the content of the two speeches.  The one who receives the most votes wins and that person’s name is revealed and sworn in as president.  The losers could out themselves if they so choose, but nothing official would disclose their identities.  And, finally, to keep the system honest, the speeches would be considered binding contracts.  Congress and the courts would treat ignoring or contradicting the contents of the speeches that resulted in election to be an impeachable offense.

Clearly, this is fantasy because we’d have to chuck more than half the Constitution to make it happen.  But just think how great it would be.  The entire election cycle would be less than two months.  Everyone could be an informed and engaged voter just paying attention while a famous person speaks.  It would remove sexism, racism, homophobia, ageism, etc. as factors in the election since no one would know any of those things about the candidates.  Since the parties would pick their candidates, they would be a kind of filter.  We wouldn’t have to worry about nut-jobs like Trump that are despised by their own party.  It would break the current duopoly.  And it would completely remove likeability as a factor, since no one would know who was running.  And likeability might be the dumbest criteria for choosing a president there is.

I know it is a fantasy, but it is one worth indulging.  It takes some imagination, but get a transcript of some of the campaign speeches and read them in Morgan Freeman’s voice.  You might be surprised at what they have to say.  With many of the candidates being famous, everyone goes into the election knowing who they love and who they hate.  That’s a huge barrier to electing the best person for the job.  I wish we could find a realistic way of changing it.

One More Try

For some reason, many (not all) people are either unable or unwilling to see the sexism being directed at Hillary Clinton this primary season.  I know I’ve been going on about this, but I thought I’d give it one more try.  But, this time I’m going to go about it differently.  I’m going to provide a list, for those having difficulty avoiding sexism, of legitimate reasons not to vote for Clinton.

  1. If you are against women controlling their own reproductive freedom and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  You probably want a Republican.
  2. If you are anti-immigration, either because of wage depression or xenophobia, and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  All of the other candidates are better for you.
  3. If you believe that the gun industry (or any industry) should be protected by Congress from civil litigation and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  Again, all of the other candidates are better for you.
  4. If you are against universal pre-K, and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  You’re going to want a Republican in this election.
  5. If you are for massive amounts of debt for public colleges and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republicans are better for you on this.
  6. If you want to keep tax rates as low or lower than they are now and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republican candidates are much more likely to keep tax rates down.
  7. If you are against free trade agreements and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  All of the other candidates are against free trade.
  8. If you are against the Affordable Care Act, either because government should stay out of healthcare or because it doesn’t go far enough and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republicans will help if you want government out of healthcare and Sanders is your man if idealism is that important.
  9. If you are a pacifist and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  Bernie Sanders or a third party candidate will be your best bet for pacifism.
  10. If you are against trying to mitigate the effects of global warming and this is an important or decisive issue for you, then don’t vote for Hillary Clinton.  The Republicans have this covered.

Obviously, this is not a complete list.  I just want to point out the important features of this list.  First, it sticks to actual issues and positions of the candidates.  Second, at no point does it assume that Clinton is nothing more than an extension of her husband.  Whatever you think of her, she is her own person with her own ideas and agency.  Third, it doesn’t play into any pre-existing stereotypes.  Let’s face it, when people try to make issues out of Clinton’s work, looks, decisiveness, income and shrillness (among other things) they are playing into those stereotypes.  I know this will raise hackles, but there is nothing you can say about Clinton in these areas that doesn’t also apply to all of the other candidates in this, and any other, election cycle.  Even Bernie Sanders is rich (certainly by my standards, and most regular people’s standards), has excepted compensation from institutions most people despise (The House of Representatives and Senate), fails to look presidential, yells a lot and has voted for things in the past (like the Crime Bill) that he now feels differently about.  Finally, I avoided talk of Clinton’s personality altogether.  This isn’t an election to decide who we’d like to hang out with.  And, I’d really like to think that people’s decision to not vote for Trump or Cruz or Sanders has nothing to do with their personalities because it shouldn’t.  The decision should be based solely on the issues.

And, just as a reminder, I know this list isn’t for everyone.  Many people have already made up their minds for non-sexist reasons.  Also, this shouldn’t be taken as advocating a vote for Clinton.  It is just to aid those of you who don’t want to vote for Clinton, but are struggling to find a non-sexist way to do that because I’m really sick of trying to navigate through the truly abhorrent mass of sexism every morning as I try to read the news.  I hope this helps.

The Real Problem With Bernie’s Unqualified Comment

I wasn’t going to comment on this.  When I saw on the news on Thursday that Bernie Sanders had said that Hillary Clinton is not qualified to be president, I was going to ignore it.  I was sure about a million other people would talk about it, so why add my voice?  Plus, I’m completely sick of this election.

I was partly right.  About a million other people did talk about it.  The problem was that no one seemed to talk about the actual problem with the statement.  Some people came to Clinton’s defense and spelled out her qualifications.  Others attacked Sanders by saying that he is less qualified than Clinton.  And still others agreed with Sanders saying that Clinton isn’t qualified.  No one that I saw, though, commented on the first thing I noticed in the statement, sexism.

I have no idea what Sanders was thinking when he made the statement, but it is really the perfect example of dog-whistle sexism.  He didn’t mention gender at all, but the only way questioning the qualifications of a former senator and secretary of state could land is by picking up on some kind of bigotry.  That may not have been his intention, and I’m willing to give Sanders the benefit of the doubt, but even unintentional sexism is wrong and Sanders needs to stop it.  And someone much more important than I am should let him know.

HRC Is Better Than BS

When the Democratic results on Super Tuesday came in, I felt relieved.  I wasn’t expecting that reaction.  I thought I was undecided, but I guess I’m undecided no longer.  I was a little nervous that Bernie Sanders would upset Clinton and I felt better about things when it became clear that Clinton would take the day.

The funny thing is, going from undecided to pulling for Clinton had absolutely nothing to do with Clinton.  As Sanders’ campaign gets more and more serious and I learn more and more about him, the less I like him as a presidential candidate.  This has been coming for a little bit, but I was resisting.  I find the Sanders’ supporters to be generally pretty off-putting.  I was afraid that I was holding Sanders’ supporters against Sanders himself.  Now, though, I’m pretty sure it is Sanders himself that I object to.

One thing that has bothered me from the beginning about Sanders’ campaign is his blatant populism.  In life, it is usually best to avoid making decisions out of anger and resentment.  But, the main source of Sanders’ appeal is anger and resentment.  It is just tapping into the anger people feel towards the establishment, towards banks, towards the military and towards debt.  This isn’t to say that I like any of these things, but I don’t want to choose a president based on negative feelings.  I want to choose someone based on reason and what I think they will do while in office.

The more important thing, though, that tipped me from undecided is that Sanders is running a backwards looking campaign.  For all the talk about progressive politics and revolution, I just don’t see anything forward looking.  Sanders is simply an old school Democrat.  He believes in the New Deal and the Great Society.  Two of the biggest issues that he campaigns on are restoring Glass-Steagall and the Voters’ Rights Act, at least that’s what it sounds like to me when he talks about breaking up the banks and marching with Dr. King.  I disagree with the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, but I don’t think re-instituting a law from the 1930s is the right way to deal with it.  What we need is new legislation that regulates modern financial markets and securities.  Likewise, I strongly disagreed with the Supreme Court’s decision to void a good chunk of the Voters’ Rights Act.  But, simply restoring the Act won’t do much.  I want us to address all of the ways of denying people the vote that have popped up since 1965.

I guess what it comes down to is he is campaigning on idealism, but his ideals don’t do much for me.  They seem like the same old thing that Democrats have been saying for 80 years.  If I were going to back a revolution, it would have to have some proposals that are actually revolutionary.  I don’t think we peaked in the 1960’s and I don’t want to go back to that time.  So, Sanders isn’t my guy.  At least Clinton is up front about being evolutionary rather than revolutionary.  And, if nothing else, electing a woman would be ground breaking.

Something Is Bothering Me

There’s something that’s been bothering me about this primary season on the Democrat’s side.  Whenever I read something written by a Hillary Clinton supporter, they always seem to say that they like Bernie Sanders and then go on to say why they like Clinton better.  But, whenever I read something written by a Bernie Sanders supporter, they always seem to detest Hillary Clinton.  I find that odd on its own.  This is a primary after all.  These two agree on far more than they disagree on.  I read somewhere that when Clinton and Sanders were in the Senate together, they voted the same way 93% of the time.  Politically speaking, that makes them almost the same person.  However, the thing that I find bothersome is that the hatred seems real.

Elections are always full of overheated rhetoric.  That’s the nature of the beast.  But, in the primaries, people are supposed to leave themselves an out.  When Clinton lost to Obama in the 2008 primaries, all of her supporters were easily able to support Obama.  When Howard Dean lost to John Kerry in 2004, it was easy for all of his supporters to support Kerry.  This feels different.

The reaction of Sanders’ supporters to Paul Krugman’s recent piece in the New York Times illustrates why.  They have been loudly accusing Krugman of being a sellout, a shill for the Clinton campaign and far worse.  They have even been suggesting that he doesn’t understand basic economics or that he is being willfully blind.  I don’t read Krugman very much, but I do know that he has been a vocal supporter of Obama for many years, even going so far as to call him a legitimately great president.  So, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he supports Clinton’s proposals, which are much closer to Obama than Sanders.  But, it’s beyond me how a simple criticism of their candidate leads to such anger.  Krugman was literally just doing his job.  It’s fine to disagree, but there is no excuse for the vitriol being spewed.

A big part of what’s bothering me comes from the polls that show Sanders doing better in the general election than Clinton.  There are only a couple of ways that works.  It is possible that Clinton would get the entirety of the Democrats, but not get any Republicans or Independents while Sanders would do reasonably well with all three, but that doesn’t seem likely (I should say, I haven’t looked at a detailed breakdown of the polls).  Sanders has to be anathema to any small government types and all of the evangelicals.  They make up a decent chunk of the Republicans and Independents.  The other possibility is that if Sanders wins the primaries, all of Clinton’s supporters will back him, but Sanders’ supporters won’t support Clinton if she wins the primaries.

If the second possibility is the case, that makes Sanders’ supporters (and by default, Sanders) into Ralph Nader if Clinton wins the primaries.  That very idea terrifies me.   All those Democrats and left leaning Independents who hated Gore because they saw him as an extension of Bill Clinton gave us eight years of George Bush.  Is it possible that we have learned so little in the last 16 years that Sanders’ supporters could give us a Trump presidency?  It’s starting to look that way.

Pros and Cons

As I’ve mentioned previously, I am an undecided voter.  In my continuing effort to decide, I had the thought that I could steal an idea from a bunch of sitcoms and make pro and con lists for both candidates.  I know full well that this won’t do much good.  It’s not like all pros and cons are created equal.  But, I thought it would be a fun exercise.  I will start with Hillary Clinton, not for any good reason.  I’m just going to start with her.

 

Hillary Clinton – Pros:

  1. By all accounts, she is extremely smart.
  2. By all accounts, she works harder than anyone.
  3. She has a unique perspective as a former first lady, former senator and former secretary of state.
  4. She would appoint progressive Supreme Court Justices.
  5. Her record shows that she gets things done.
  6. She’s a woman.
  7. She has shown a willingness to be open minded and even change her mind.
  8. She has been a consistent advocate of gun control.
  9. She has been a consistent advocate for children.
  10. She has been a consistent advocate for women.
  11. She is pragmatic.
  12. She would fight climate change.
  13. She would protect Obama’s legacy.

Hillary Clinton – Cons:

  1. She has, at times, shown bad judgement – see email servers.
  2. She is polarizing.
  3. Through little fault of her own, she has a lot of baggage.
  4. She is too old.
  5. She is too comfortable with the economic status quo.

Bernie Sanders – Pros:

  1. He understands how evil the banks are.
  2. Single payer health care would be nice.
  3. Free education (whatever that means, probably single payer education) would be nice.
  4. He is Jewish.
  5. He would appoint progressive Supreme Court justices.
  6. He has been a dedicated public servant for many years.
  7. He is more pragmatic than people think.
  8. He has a Keynesian outlook.
  9. He would fight climate change.
  10. He would probably protect Obama’s legacy.
Bernie Sanders – Cons:
  1. He doesn’t seem to understand what the word revolution means.
  2. He is too old.
  3. His supporters are polarizing.
  4. He has never been a good advocate for gun control.
  5. He seems to see everything through a class lens.
  6. He doesn’t make it clear that he understands how the world has changed since the 60s.

I know this is nowhere near a complete list for either candidate.  It is just where my thoughts tend to go when I think about them.  I still don’t see any big difference between them.  And I still think O’Malley was our best choice.  I guess it may be a coin flip when I vote in April.  I guess I can take solace in the fact that neither are likely to be disastrous and both have the potential to be excellent.

 

Undecided

For the first time in my life, I’m an undecided voter.  I always wondered about undecided voters.  They are talked about every election, but, until now, I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.  I’ve always wondered what they are like and what makes them undecided.  Is there something wrong with them?  Are they not paying attention?  But, now I realize that it’s a problem of desire.

Up until now, every election has had an obvious choice for me.  Either I really liked one of the candidates or really hated one of the candidates or the candidate was running unopposed.  This time, I really liked Martin O’Malley.  But now that he has dropped out, I have to choose between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.  Every time I think I’ve decided on one, the other says something appealing or the one says something that rubs me the wrong way.

I feel like I’m standing in front of the refrigerator.  I’m not really hungry, but I want to eat something.  Hillary Clinton is the left over Chinese from this weekend.  Bernie Sanders is the cold pizza from lunch.  I know they both taste good, but I can’t decide which to have.  As I’m about to choose Clinton, I stop and think, “I’ve had Chinese three nights in a row.”  Then I reach for Sanders, but stop and think, “But I just had this pizza for lunch.”  I stop and think that I would love a meatball grinder, but O’Malley already dropped out.  So I stand there in front of the fridge with the door open wasting electricity.

At least I know I won’t be undecided anymore after the primaries.  I may let others pick my dinner for me, but it will either be pizza or Chinese.  There’s no chance I’m going to eat the rat poison that’s on the floor behind the fridge.