Friday, July 15, 2016

Electing a President

Note: I started this post back in February and dropped it as it was too depressing and painful to talk about. Now that the national party conventions are about to take place, I thought it might be interesting to dust this off and post a little something on the national election. Comments are always welcome but civil discourse is the only thing that is tolerated by me. Name calling and bombastic platitudes will not be tolerated and since I have to approve all comments first, won’t show up. Thanks in advance!

So, it’s an election year.

I’m not sure if you’ve noticed. 2016 is an election year. Most years are election years but this one is a biggie, it’s a Presidential election year. The other ones are just election years, where minor officials are elected; Representatives to the US House, Senators (sometimes but at least every 3rd election), and of course all your local representatives.

Presidential Election years are so damn big, they last longer than a year. Really. This one started at least one or two years ago when people (usually those in the media – TV hosts, newspaper reporters, and the like) began to discuss the upcoming Presidential Election.

Why did they start so soon?

Ratings. Well, actually, money.  The ratings are really only a TV thing but the higher the ratings, the more advertising revenue can be brought in. For newspapers and magazines, it’s all about selling more of them. For online media, it’s all about the clicks.

(Can you imagine trying to explain some of this to one of the founding fathers? How bizarre would it sound to Thomas Jefferson if you told him that there were entire entities focused, not on electing a new president, but on speculating who the potential candidates might be in the next couple of years? And that performing this “service” produces billions of dollars of business? It also causes billions more to be spent in a number of different businesses. As forward thinking as he was, his brain might explode. Frankly, mine swells up thinking about it.)

As of this writing, February 2016, there are 2 Democrats and 9 Republicans running for President down from an initial high water mark of 3 and 17(!) respectively. I don’t know what the historical numbers look like for potential candidates but I have to think that GOP number is pretty close to a record.

Can there really be as many as 20 people at one time, willing to declare in public, that they think they’re qualified to be President of the US? Or that they even want to be? I’m amazed at that.

And it’s not as if they didn’t already have a job. We have current legislators; at the National level they make over $180,000 a year. At the state level (governors) they probably make low six figures. Then we have TV commentators, making around a quarter of million a year. And then there’s The Hair (I can’t bear to put his name on here) who makes seven figures, acting in the role of knowing what it’s like to be an average guy. (Sure, an average guy making seven figures. WTF does that feel like?)

Present Tense

It’s July, about five months after I wrote that. National conventions begin next week with the GOP in Cleveland followed by the Democrats in Philadelphia a couple of weeks later. Then the fun really begins! Four solid months of TV ads, social media posts ad nauseum from all of our friends on both sides of the aisle and, of course, televised debates between the candidates and at least one between their running mates.

(Kind of makes me wish we had taken the British method; they just changed their Prime Minister over the course of a week’s worth of discussions. How terrifically civil!)

Concerns – Yep, I’ve got a few

How did we get here?

This is the eleventh presidential election in which I’ve had a chance to vote. I can’t remember two candidates that have me scratching my head like these two. They both have horrible ratings when it comes to people thinking they’re qualified for the role of POTUS and their perceived trustworthiness is dreadful, as well. Seriously, WTF?
In no particular order……

Hilary Rodham Clinton has the pedigree to be President having served for eight years as Senator, four years as Secretary of State and having been First Lady for eight years. She has a law degree and a ton of experience in the public sector. She knows the Constitution, how Congress is supposed to work, and has served up plans to move forward.

Image result for hillary rodham clinton
Hilary Rodham Clinton
On the other hand, she has a reputation of acting as if the rules don’t apply to her (see email issues) and has been lambasted by her detractors for not playing “by the rules” and failing to act responsibly in her role as Secretary of State (see Benghazi). There is also a well held belief that Wall Street “owns” her and “big money” will sway her plans and decisions. (This is America – we do have the best politicians money can buy.)

At the same time, Congressional committees, chaired by the opposition, have spent in excess of $8 million investigating allegations of misconduct in both instances and coming up empty. (FBI director Comey did say that their investigation didn’t come up with enough evidence to pursue and indictment. Not that she was innocent but that there wasn’t enough evidence. It’s a point of law that I can’t argue as I’m not a lawyer but at a base level it means to me “There’s nothing to see here, folks, move along.” Others would say, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire!”)

Image result for donald trump
Donald Trump
Donald J. Trump has the pedigree to be President based on his 40 year career as a business person and executive. He has begun, run, and sold a number of successful companies and turned the Trump brand into a highly respected name, typically associated with high quality and commensurately high price. He would be the first business person to be elected to the office in a long time. (Harry Truman was a haberdasher just prior to entering politics and was the last one. He was also the last one without a college education and he served two terms as POTUS with some distinction.)

On the other hand, he has a reputation as a serial philanderer (divorced twice and one of his books talks about how he wooed another woman while he was married to the first one). He, too, acts as if the rules don’t apply to him (see tax returns and marriage) and he has a track record of starting litigation when things don’t go his way (see Trump Golf Club in Scotland).

He also has a pending criminal investigation for one of his defunct businesses, Trump University; it’s the subject of numerous lawsuits by former students. (Investigators say they aren’t going to pursue until after the election. Huh. Must not be the opposition party.)

He claims to be unable to be influenced by “big money” because he has so much of it (Billions!) but is unwilling to provide his income tax returns that would show his actual worth and income. (He claims he is under an audit and it would be bad to show it.) A number of financial pundits claim that they don’t see any way he could be worth as much as $1 billion; Trump has threatened to sue for defamation.

With no law degree, Trump seems to struggle a bit with the Constitution and its value. He has made a number of changes that we intends to institute in his first 100 days in office if elected, most of which would be against the current laws of the land. Undeterred by this fact, he continues to spout these ideas and is frequently pugnacious when it’s called to his attention. (Politifact recently published findings on everything he’s said in the year he’s been a candidate and determined that 93% of the time, his claims have been false. I don’t think he responded.)

Wow, that’s Some Choice

Yeah, I know. And we all face it.

I love to read and I’ve done a lot of reading in the past year about our candidates and what the next president will be facing after taking office. I’m really struggling with my choices and may not make it until I make it to the voting booth. (There are some other candidates that may be on the ballot in this state and I won’t know until I get in there. One of those may get my vote.)

Don’t rely on one source for your reading, either. I read a couple of different newspapers and a couple of different websites, some that represent the “other side” of the political spectrum from my own. If watching TV news, I work to get equal time on those, as well. (Seriously, if you only watch FOX News or MSNBC, you’re part of the problem. Go see what the other side is saying! None of them are in the news business anymore, they’re in the ratings business so you need to see more than one or two.)

Social Media won’t help, either

This may be the thing that worries me the most. I have friends in both sides of the debate. Some are raging right wingers and some are raging left wingers. All of them enjoy using social media (Facebook) to express their opinions. A tiny fraction actually form the opinions for themselves, however. The rest really seem to enjoy posting memes that they see other friends from their side, post. Unfortunately, very few bother to determine the veracity of the information contained therein.

Say what?!

Image result for abe lincoln internet
Honest Abe
Despite Americans’ disbelief in facts (see global warming, GMO foods, flat earth society, etc) we seem to have no problem agreeing with something that is completely made up as long as 1) we agree with it and 2) we read it someplace. 

The result is that we end of up talking to ourselves and there is no transfer or expansion of knowledge or information.

Coincidentally, any conversation we may have with someone outside our own belief circle, we only listen in order to respond to the argument instead of listen for understanding of the other person’s position. In which we might learn something.

What’s the answer?

42! (See Hitchhiker’s guide to the Universe. Sorry, that was just for me and a few insiders.)

Only you can determine your answer to the question, who will be our next President? And that one is only your choice, not necessarily the choice of the nation; that’s why we vote and it’s important that we all exercise the right to do so. Don’t wait until the day after the election and start googling the person that wins. (See Brexit vote.)

My answer.

I truly don’t have one, yet. I have issues with both major candidates.
I was not a fan of the Clintons prior to the family’s first presidency and wasn’t a fan of it. I felt that WJC demeaned the office by his poor behavior (see Monica Lewinsky) and some of his policies were misaligned with my values. (And he still doesn’t get the notion that his actions have consequences, otherwise why would he visit Loretta Lynch for a private meeting just before announcements about his wife’s email. I mean damn, talk about dumb!)  While HRC has a solid resume, my gut doesn’t completely trust her. I don’t have facts, only feelings. While that may go away, right now I’m struggling.

Donald Trump frightens me. He always seems to shoot from the hip and appears to be uncoachable, preferring his own counsel rather than having trusted advisers. His lack of awareness to anything outside of his own interests, do not align with the job he seeks. He is a narcissist and a demagogue. His “policy” positions appear to be made up on the spot and are very short on details and, frequently, understanding. 

I’ve been managing, coaching, and training sales people for a long time; he sounds like the worst of people I’ve known in that role. His pugnacity tells me his ego would get in his way very quickly. He claims that he’s going to negotiate with the world and win but when he gets a hard question from a reporter, he whines that they aren’t treating him fairly. I find no redeeming qualities in his candidacy, except that he’s big on “rallying” people.

We don’t need a bullshit-artist-in-chief.  We also don’t need someone that thinks they are above the rules. I hate to vote for the least undesirable candidate but it may come down to that. The next 4 months will be critical in learning all I can to make the best decision.

I hope all of America will join me in doing the same. After all, we deserve the best.