As I write this morning, August 1, 2016, Donald J. Trump, the Republican Party Nominee for President of the United States, is mired in a demeaning spat with both parents of a Gold Star family, and is accused of unknowingly advancing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s interests in the Ukraine and the Baltic states through ignorance and by questioning our NATO obligations. A week earlier, Wikileaks had released 19,000 emails and attachments hacked from the computer networks of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) just before that party’s national convention. Apparently the aim was to embarrass the party’s nominee, Hillary Clinton. Russian Intelligence agencies had turned out to be involved in the hack. At midweek, Trump called upon Russia (in sarcasm he now says) to hack into his opponent’s computers to find a batch of supposedly missing emails.
I’m dumbstruck by these happenings. The movie, The Manchurian Candidate comes unwittingly to mind. What’s going on? There are still 100 days until the election. For my own sanity I need to take stock of the campaign and note a few important things. I need to orient myself for the days ahead. Maybe you do too.
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I like to write, but have not attempted history. Think about the problems that brave historians will have in writing the history of this labyrinthian election. How can they do it? For instance, read the paragraph I just wrote about happenings in one week, last week, and notice all the important events I didn’t mention. I didn’t describe the convention at all. I didn’t report the firing of DNC chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. I didn’t describe the great speeches, some of which, like Michele Obama’s, will warrant books of their own. I didn’t mention that Senator Tim Kaine, of Virginia, was selected as the Vice-Presidential candidate, or that his son, a US Marine is on his way for service in the Baltics. I didn’t mention that his Republican counterpart in the Republican Party, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana, is also the father of a Marine on active duty. I didn’t even describe the consequential speech in which Khizr Khan, with his wife Ghazala at his side, the parents of US Army Capt. Humayun Khan, who gave his life for his country in Iraq in 2004, called out Mr. Trump at the convention for his lack of knowledge of the Constitution and his lack of personal sacrifice. This event alone will inspire hundreds of books and may turn out to be the determining event in the election.
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Answer quickly. When did Rand Paul run for President? When I asked this of a relative, she answered 2008, possibly confusing Rand, the Senator from Kentucky, with his father Ron, the Representative from Texas who ran twice for the office.
The answer is 2015-2016. Rand ran for President in this election! Doesn’t it seem eons ago since he and the other sixteen Republican candidates dropped out? Doesn’t this campaign feel interminable?
Here’s the thing: modern media technology and the pseudo-event of the ”twenty-four hour news cycle” causes the sense of longevity and interminability. Significant campaign events occur daily, and hourly, thus requiring that the “day” be used as the primary category for data collection. Not only is news happening hourly within the daily news cycle, but so are the responses to those events, which are “news” too. Daily news is increasing exponentially. News is now approaching a virtual limit of Twitter speed.
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Due to the warp speed character of politics, participants run a risk of being turned unwittingly into fools and objects of ridicule. It’s a trend. Here is one small example:
- On November 8, 2015, Joseph McQuaid, Publisher of the The Union Leader in Manchester, New Hampshire announces the paper’s endorsement of Chris Christie, the Governor of New Jersey.
- On December 15, 2015 McQuaid publishes an editorial entitled Trump Campaign Insults NH Voters’ Intelligence. He calls Trump a “bully” and compares him to Biff in the movie Back to the Future.
- On December 28, Donald Trump retorts by calling newspaper Publisher McQuaid a ‘lowlife’ and assails Chris Christie.
- On February 26, 2016 Governor Christie drops his campaign and endorses Donald Trump, his “great friend.”
McQuaid is left holding the bag, and looks like a fool, and so does Christie. Note that the historian can do the same analysis with Ben Carson, who we thought was an evangelical Christian and a hard right conservative until he endorsed Trump.
By July 2016, at the Republican convention, Christie is holding a witchcraft trial of Hillary Clinton, calling her a liar and evoking “Lock her up” retorts from the feverish audience!
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Who knows what will happen next in this campaign? Nobody does. Anything could. As of today, August 2, the pundits are reporting Clinton’s poll numbers are such (5 points over Trump) that Trump will have to carry Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida in order to have any chance to win. On this same day, the Trump campaign is floating the rumor that the election is “rigged” against him, thus appearing to delegitimate the election should he lose. He sounds like he’s expecting to lose.
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I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter, and am hopeful she will win. She should if only because her opponent, Donald Trump, has turned himself into such a grotesque figure and national security risk. It’s going to be a torturous 99 days.
Males will be a problem for Clinton. Wary males will be able to employ every variety of clever sexist trick to diminish the candidate. My wife Beverly and I sent the following email complaint to the PBS Newshour on July 30 protesting the Brooks and Shields critique of the Clinton acceptance speech:
We strongly disagree with Shields and Brooks’ assessment of Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech, and in particular their disappointment and even blame (“She had the chance”) of failing to emotionally connect with the audience. The two of them have been pointing to this presumed failing over and over throughout the campaign, (along with her supposed lack of vision and problems with truth-telling), and they set up the audience for disappointment in advance by saying how vital self disclosure is going to be in the speech.
1. We don’t feel any such need for deeper knowledge of Clinton’s soul and being. We are 79 years of age and know her as well as we need to. She is obviously trustworthy in every way that counts, and super competent.
2. It was a great speech, especially because she spoke earnestly, forcefully, and directly, and laid out an inspiring vision of a confident, purposeful, caring America, without deceiving herself that poetical flourishes were required.
3. The commentators failed to note the powerful central claim and metaphor of the speech—that she will bring a mother’s love, commitment, care, and diligence to the presidency. She showed plenty of self-disclosure and passion about that.
4. Women and mothers got that message, but your guys did not.
We love David and Mark’s commentary. We listen to them every Friday. Their remarks are almost always helpful and informative. But when it comes to Hillary, they are not wise fatherly gurus, but rather, to paraphrase the Tammy Wynette classic, (Stand by your Man), “because, after all, they are just men.”
Male attitudes are going to be the largest problem of this campaign. Male attitudes are likely to lead to everything from schoolyard bullying, teasing, name calling, and witchcraft trials to unfavorable comparisons to Pericles, Napoleon, Lincoln, and the Founding Fathers. We hope the Newshour can avoid participating in the worst scenes of the coming Inquisition.
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Here is the big thing to bring front and center, the really “huge” fact, to borrow an adjective, nobody knows yet whether the state of gridlock in Congress will be broken by this election. That’s the remaining question to be answered by this election, and the issue we all should be asking our Representatives and Senators.
Here are five interesting facts:
- The conservative movement that started with Barry Goldwater, peaked with President Reagan, and led to gridlock in the Obama presidency lost big to Donald Trump in this election. His followers didn’t care about the Conservative agenda. Trump defeated every conservative candidate.
- Trumps dark, angry, fearmongering campaign allowed the Democratic Party at its convention to grab seven or eight of the traditional themes of the Republican party: patriotism, pride in the military, simple virtues, religious belief, self-reliance, voluntarism, cooperation, a can do attitude, and hope for the future.
- The Republican Party has been gutted of its values by Trump and faces the excruciating question of deciding whether to repudiate its own nominee.
- Both parties have already changed hugely in this election.
- Yet, when the election is over, the Republican legislators, under the leadership of Paul Ryan in the House and Mitch McConnell in the Senate, are prepared‚ as of right now, to resume all of the practices that have held the nation in gridlock for eight years. Notice that Judge Garland has received no hearing. Look at Speaker Ryan’s announced agenda for next year.
No matter what happens in the election, the nation is in big trouble if political gridlock continues.
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Must Donald Trump be defeated? Absolutely. He wants to be a dictator. If the Republicans dislike President Obama’s executive orders, just imagine what Donald Trump’s dictates would be like.
But with Trump beaten and Hillary Clinton in the White House, the question Americans need to get answered is whether her proposed jobs bill can be negotiated, moved through Congress, and signed into law so that the nation’s infrastructure can be rebuilt and the work and workers involved can give a needed boost to the economy. Has the country had enough of gridlock, sequestrations, budget blackmail, and government shutdowns? That’s the key question for the future.
Make your vote count. Make your vote contingent on a new spirit of cooperation between Democrats and Republicans. Ask candidates about that possibility and their willingness to cooperate. Both parties have failed us and yet both are changing fast. This is an excellent chance to renew ourselves and to work together as Americans again.
Will Callender, Jr. ©
August 2, 2016
Author of Abdication: God Steps Down for Good