Friday, May 13, 2016

Here's what's on my mind, Facebook

What's on your mind, Steve? That's what Facebook asked me today

Gee whiz. Where to begin, since Facebook is so interested. 

Let's see. There's Donald Trump. He seems to be on everyone's minds, not just mine. Everybody has his/her own theory on just what it is that makes Trump so appealing. Mine is that he's a wealthy, larger-than-life celebrity who gives the impression he's not afraid to tell it like it is. And that's fine. That makes him the political equivalent of Howard Cosell, another blowhard who claimed to "tell it like it is." 

Trump is not the only blowhard in this race, nor is being a blowhard necessarily a disqualification for running. Bernie Sanders is one too. He is Trump's polar opposite -- the only difference between the two, besides their basic ideology, being that he's had 40 or so years of political experience where Trump has none. 

That's not necessarily an advantage for Sanders of an impediment for Trump. To a lot of people, political experience equals the type of intractability that has turned government in 2016 into a daily taffy pull on even the most ridiculously basic issues. We cannot agree on anything, and the reason for that is political intractability that's caused by many factors.

First, we have succeeded, over the course of the last half-century, to elect dividers and not uniters, Why? Because it's easier to be a divider than it is to be a uniter. Dividers appeal to the baser aspects of human nature. It's easy to rally people around you if you're angry. You don't even have to present a thought-out solution to everyone's dissatisfaction either. You just have to make people think you're angry too, and, by damn, you're going to do something about it.

Of course, with Trump and Sanders the objects of the anger are different. But the anger is real. Trump caught on faster, and better, because he's identified a more general dissatisfaction with the system. People have had enough of the posers who occupy key seats in government -- especially federal government. I don't think they necessarily care whether Trump is on their side politically on all the arcane issues that make up public policy. They just like the fact that he seems to have the guts to say that the emperor -- and all of his minions -- has no clothes.

Sanders has narrowed his anger down to the country's high-level financial institutions, and he's not wrong. And unlike Trump, who has merely vowed to "make America great again," Sanders has at least broached the subject of how in the world Millennials are to be expected to compete for jobs that require highly specialized skills (and, by extension, pay a wage that makes achieving the American Dream somewhat possible) if they can't afford to go to college. 

To simplify even more: Trump is an unapologetic capitalist. Sanders is a socialist, or at least he says he is. But it's amazing how similar they are. For much of this campaign, Trump has given off the aura of the prototypical Angry White Man who sees all of the progress we've made on many different fronts as bad because the end game was a loss of his heretofore exalted status. This is the lament, isn't it? It's not our world anymore. It's not even our country. It's THEIR country. And never mind that, They had it given over to them They didn't earn it. They got it for free, and they still want it for free. 

Just who is "they?" Well that's the question, now, isn't it? Is it minorities? Women? Gays? All of the above? My guess is "they" isn't anyone who doesn't emanate from that class of people to whom money flows like water out of a tap. The money comes out these days, in their minds anyway, and is siphoned off to those who don't deserve it.

It's easy to dismiss Trump as a racist, and it's easy to compare him to Hitler, because that's what we do in politics. We paint people with as broad a brush as we can, and still get away with it, and hope that just enough of it will stick to the wall so it makes the right impression. That's not a new phenomenon. But it's getting uglier all the time as more and more people contemplate reaching for the pitchforks.

I don't think Trump is a racist. And I don't think he's Hitler. However, to provide just a cautionary note, none of what happened to Jews in Germany or blacks here occurred without a starting point. And that was a steady drumbeat of hate and scapegoating until those targeted were seen to be less human than the rest of us. When that happens, anything's possible, as we found out at the end of World War II.

To be honest, Trump was never even the scariest Republican in this year's race, because Ted Cruz had that all to himself. Still, I'm positive I could never vote for Trump, not because I think he's crazy, or a bigot, or because he shoots off his mouth. I can't vote for him because there has to be a shred of dignity when it comes to running for president, and being president, and that doesn't include ridiculing people with physical issues, or resorting to making crude remarks about female anatomy and biology, and urging that protesters be "punched in the mouth."

This isn't to say protesters can't be extremely annoying, or that Sanders' people haven't gone out of their way to be as subversive as their candidate would like to be. But like the song says, "it's all in the game." Anyone who's ever been in public office, or sought it, has had to deal with it.

If Trump is the Angry White Man, Sanders is the Grumpy Old Man. For all his socialism and his cultivating of millennials as his political base, Sanders is closer to the "Get Off My Lawn" type of guy. I honestly think Trump does everything either for effect or to draw attention to himself in a flashy way, and that he actually believes very little of what he says to people (another reason, by the way, that I don't trust him). Sanders, on the other hand, is a true believer. Listening to him, and I've listened as closely as I can since he became a candidate because he intrigues me, you're left with the impression that he believes this stuff. "I'll just make people like Trump over there pay for all of my initiatives."

Sure. And when I'm done with that, I'll cure cancer, solve the human genome, and start working on world peace.

Maybe it's because of my basic political leanings, but I like Bernie, even if I can admit he's got no shot at getting guys like Trump to pay for his social initiatives. It's not often you find someone who is 75 years old and that brash and that willing to veer so far out of the nice, comfortable political mainstream. And I especially like that he's running as a Democrat because if the Republicans aren't the only people in this country who need a conscience. The Democrats need one too ... as well as a collective set of gonads to stand up and fight for what they believe in once in a while.He appeals to that side of me that wants to see the political process turned on its head, only not by someone such as Trump, who's used to barking out orders and getting what he wants, because that's not going to happen if he wins. There are too many egos in Congress.

The other reason I like Bernie is because deep down inside, I know he doesn't have a shot. The system is working against him. All he's doing at this point is reinforcing my belief that Hillary Clinton's support is more of a house of cards than a solid base, and that unless she and her people can get him to stop running around undermining her chances for victory in November, he's going to keep right on embarrassing her.

And I'm actually torn about that because -- everybody take a deep breath now -- I don't like Hillary Clinton. Never did. Not even when she was First Lady. And that's sad in a way because, like Ted Kennedy (another politician I did not like), her issues are my issues. We are on the same side on a lot of things. I have no doubt she's brilliant, and able, and has the best and more complete resume of anyone who ran in this cycle. It's not because she's a woman, as I'd have gladly supported Elizabeth Warren had she chosen to run, and would even give Condoleezza Rice serious consideration had she entered the race. 

It isn't any particular issue. It isn't Benghazi, as my own belief is that she did what many cabinet people have done before her and took the bullet for the Obama administration. It isn't E-mails, as that's just another GOP red herring. The Republicans have delighted over the years in tormenting the Clintons and they show no signs of stopping.

If it's anything, it's that she's too familiar a face at this point. We've been drawing from the same pool for too long. We had 12 years of the Bush Family. We stand have 16 years of the Clinton Family, albeit with 16 years in between. We just need to get away from all these people. They're either running the government or in the shadows. They've had their chance. It's time for a new cast of characters. I don't think the Constitution's provisions were intended to allow for dynasties (which is why I'll always wonder, had Robert Kennedy not been assassinated, whether he'd really have won in 1968).

That may be an obscenely ridiculous reason for feeling the way I do. And it's more than just a little possible that I'll vote for Hillary Clinton in November if it comes to that, as much as I do not like her. I am certain that Clinton will take the job, and the office, seriously. And that's something I cannot say about Donald Trump.

And that's what's on my mind, Facebook. Thank you!!

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