Friday, February 26, 2016

256 Days Left to Pick My Write-In Candidate

Last week, my girl and I were discussing Hitler over our breakfast cereal. You know, typical mother and daughter chat stuff. We talked about his atrocities -- how he sent millions of people to their deaths and hoped to overtake the world with his warped ideology. My daughter asked how the people of Germany could elect a person like that and then go along with all he did. I responded as follows:

"Germany was humiliated after World War I. They lost badly. The people didn't feel good about being Germans. They weren't proud of their country, which was in shambles and had to pay money to a lot of other countries after the fighting stopped. Hitler came along and said, 'We need to be proud again! We are going to make Germany great again!'"

And then I fell silent, recognizing the comparison that had just come out of my mouth. Promises made to a disaffected population to make their country great again. Haven't I heard that recently?

Let me be clear. I am not calling Donald Trump a Nazi. In no way do I believe that he will send all Jews or Hispanics or any other group to to death camps. But, I do believe the sentiment that made Hitler's rise to power possible is similar to the emotions that are leading to Trump's likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president.

People are mad. They feel left behind, left out, and ignored. They have been played by the system and taken for granted for too long. They do not care that Trump has no idea what he is talking about, and has no specific plans, when comes to health insurance (or environmental policy or education or foreign affairs or . . . ), is an entitled bully who mocks people and talks in a way that would get my first grader sent to his room, suddenly touts that he is "very Christian" and has "lots of Bibles" in a gross effort to pander, and is hardly a conservative. He is loud and mocks the political establishment and has no filter . . . and in the political (and social and cultural) climate of 2016, that's considered by some to be awesome and presidential.

While popular to do so in many recent articles, to write off Trump supporters as uneducated racists is not fair and instead is "why can't these simple-minded people recognize they are voting against their own interests" elitism at its finest. Sure, there are bigots who like Trump (see the endorsement of David Duke) as he has played that sad card quite effectively. But it does not come as a surprise to me that there is a significant segment of voters who earnestly are trying to decide if they like Trump or Sanders better. Why? Because they both speak to men and women who have been pushed to the outskirts and left there. These voters are angry at how the system has been rigged for certain winners and losers for far too long and they want to be heard. For those wanting to bring voice to this with a protest vote, the difference between Trump and Sanders is just how you prefer the temperament of your messenger.

Here's a problem, though. Think about the times you've made major life decisions (or even small ones) out of anger or resentment. If you are like me, they probably haven't turned out so well. Similarly, for our country, a Trump presidency would be a disaster from which I'm not sure we could recover. I am not being flippant when I state that I truly believe we will see nuclear war under a Trump administration. Someone will offend him, and that will be it. We will lose our allies because he is a blowhard. There will never be an obnoxious wall built at the Mexican border, but there will be an increase in distrust and hate crimes and division. Our economy will suffer. Who would want to do business with us? (I know, I know . . . Trump is going to force the world to buy our stuff and like it.) Schoolkids across America will have President Trump as the most high-profile example of how a leader should speak and treat others.

I love my children and my future grandchildren (if my kids choose to procreate . . . no pressure). Therefore, I will never support Donald Trump. I shudder at the thought of the future he would create for them.

When Tennessee voters have their primary next Tuesday, I will be voting for John Kasich. I'm not particularly excited about that, but he acts like a grown up, remains positive, and has executive experience. So, I've got to go with that.

However, when the general election arrives and my choices are Trump and Clinton, I will be voting for a write-in candidate as I cannot affirmatively choose either of them to lead our country. But, I will be honest. If you make me pick one or the other, I would much rather have Hillary Clinton sitting in the Oval Office come January 2017. I don't agree with most of her agenda (and who knows if she even agrees with it, either . . .  she has no core ideology beyond a sheer drive for power and therefore changes her beliefs and mannerisms depending on her audience), but at least the country is less likely to blow up while she is in charge. Isn't that a wonderful bar to set when selecting the leader of the free world? She won't propose anything too radical, and she will be stonewalled by the politicians who make up the right-wing faction of Congress even if she does. So, she leaves me with the small hope of just waiting it out another four or eight years and somehow getting better choices next time.

And if Trump is nominated, please understand that Hillary Clinton WILL be our next president. People don't like Clinton, but they dislike Trump even more. The negatives in the polling are clear. His chances of victory are not good and I think that analysis stating otherwise is just intended to scare people into action. (It's possible I'm just repeating that over and over to reassure myself, but I'm pretty sure it's actually true.) Do you know who does beat Hillary Clinton in a general election? Pretty much every other Republican candidate still in the race.

Trump's supporters will be able to claim that they threw a load of dynamite at the establishment during the primaries, but at what cost? I'm not sure that in hindsight they will be pleased with the consequences.