Our Long National Nightmare

People are still trying to come to grips with the concept of a Trump presidency. And it’s not a pretty sight. Even if he somehow manages to be sane and rational, surrounds himself with sane and rational advisers, moderates his political agenda, and doesn’t embarrass the nation any further, there are still some things that are going to happen no matter what.

He has already emboldened racists and bigots, and the GOP pretty much has free rein to do what they want in Congress.

It doesn’t look good for us.

But there are things we can do to at least mitigate the damage.
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How Can Anyone Still Be Supporting This Guy?

It boggles the minds of some how Donald Trump still has support among the electorate. After all the things that have come out about him, from being beholden to foreign banks to the bragging about committing sexual assault, surely at this point his support should be in the single digits…. But there’s still a significant portion of America that still wants the least suitable major party candidate we’ve ever had to be President.

Why? What are they thinking? What can their reasons possibly be?

Let me try to put myself in their shoes.

I’m not talking about the Deplorables – those who agree with his racist and xenophobic demagoguery. One hopes that their numbers really are an insignificant component of his supporters. There are also the die-hard Republican loyalists. These people would vote for a dead squirrel if it was a GOP candidate. There’s nothing that can be done to convince them to vote otherwise. Nor can anyone really do something about the rabid Clinton haters. They’ve been brainwashed by the “Right Wing Conspiracy Machine” and have totally fallen for the Anti-Clinton line. Nothing you can say to promote Clinton as even just a worthy candidate will change their minds.

But that cannot account for all of Trump’s support. There’s got to be something more going on here.

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On the Electoral College – 2

Last time, for those of you not paying attention or somehow reluctant to scroll down and see the last post, I discussed the Electoral College and its historical background, and how it means we don’t elect our president by a direct popular vote.

There are two things to keep in mind when contemplating a reform of the system. First, changing it would require a Constitutional Amendment. You’re just not going to get enough small states (the ones that benefit from the current system) to go along and voluntarily give up influence.

Secondly, though, nowhere in the Constitution does it say how a state must choose its electors. So if one wants to try to reform the Electoral College, the way to do it is in the selection process in the individual states.

There are a two proposals that have been getting serious consideration.
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On the Electoral College – I

As Election Day gets closer and closer, we’re starting to see more and more references to “polling numbers”. “This candidate has a six point lead, up from four a week ago.” “A new poll narrows the gap between the candidates.” Things like that. But these polls and their numbers are grossly misleading. In addition to the inherent biases in the polls, they all overlook one simple but important thing.

We do not choose our president by direct popular vote.

We never have.

There’s this thing called the Electoral College. When you vote, you are actually choosing a set of electors who have sworn to vote for the candidate you have chosen. Not that big a deal, except there’s a distinct imbalance in the Electoral College. Smaller states have a disproportionate amount of electors, and therefore slightly more influence than they should based solely on population.

How that came about is a matter of history, and reveals something about the true nature of the United States.
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Questions for the Presidential Debates

We’re just a couple of days away from the first Presidential Debate. They’ve become a regular feature of the campaign. They’re not just good theater, and a flub in one can ruin a candidate – but they provide the only direct comparison between the main candidates. In the rest of the campaign, they don’t face each other. It’s all speeches and ads.

True, they are formal and stage-managed. But consider them to be the “job interview” portion of the task of applying for the job of President. Just like a job interview, you get to see the candidates in person, in a format where they aren’t the ones in control of the situation.

As always, I have questions I’d love to ask the candidates if I ever had the chance.

First, some questions for both of them:
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In Sickness and in Health

This past weekend, while the press was once again ignoring all the many scandals surrounding and – to put it mildly – all the “misstatements” from Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton decided that being at a 9/11 memorial ceremony was worth toughing out a mild case of pneumonia.

She wasn’t able to do so and had to be helped off the scene, leading to yet another round of questions about her health and “fitness” for the Office of President.

In all the hubbub, shouldn’t one be asking why we care about a candidate’s health in the first place?
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Thoughts on the Democratic Convention

Well, the DNC wrapped up their party. As with the RNC’s version, I didn’t follow it closely. But I still have some observations….

I’m not sure that people were expecting Sen. Al Franken to go with comedy in his speech. There was little laughter from the audience. Perhaps it was just that his delivery seemed to be off. Must be out of practice. There was a lot of humor in other speeches. Have to love Michael Jordan’s – er, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s jab at Trump.

Nice touch having speakers from all the groups – minorities, immigrants, disabled – that Trump has insulted all during the campaign.

Okay – Bernie Sanders and his supporters. I’ve got no problems with Sanders. He ran a good campaign, and can be proud that he had such an influence on Clinton and the Democrat’s platform. But his supporters need to face reality. They got practically everything they wanted, except for their guy as the nominee. I heard only one commentator mention that the DNC isn’t a “democracy”. As a private organization, they can set the rules however they want, and arrange things to favor one candidate over another. There’s nothing anyone can do about it.

One other point that deserves mentioning. Clinton has been a Democrat for decades. Sanders joined the party a mere three months before the New Hampshire primary. Sounds to me like he joined up at the last possible minute, just so he could take advantage of the party machinery in his try for the White House.

Corey Booker’s speech was all over the place, but what a barn-burner! The passion was obvious.

True, Clinton isn’t that great a public speaker. She doesn’t have much in the way of charisma. But would you rather have someone all style and no substance, or no style but a lot of substance?

Not only did the Democrats have better celebrities, they had better balloons, too….

Thoughts on the Republican Convention

I was away for a while last week (and early this week), so I haven’t been able to closely follow the goings-on at the political conventions. But I have seen enough to have some thoughts and comments.

First, RepubliCon 2016:

I have to give Ted Cruz some credit for having at least a bit of honor. Whatever you think of his political views, not coming out in full support of Trump was a daring move. But since Trump insulted Cruz’s wife and slandered his father, did you honestly expect him to do otherwise?

I caught the last half of Trump’s acceptance speech. Yes, it was scary and “dark” in tone, but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t been hearing all along from him. It was basically the “cask strength” version of his views.

Donald Trump’s default expression seems to be one of self-satisfied smugness. Head tilted slightly back, with something like a cross between an inverted smile and a dismissive scowl. Most of the rare times he smiled, it was fake.

And, um, was it really a good idea to have as the closing song for the entire convention – the one bit of music you want to wrap up and summarize the entire mood of the convention – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”?

On Donald Trump

Back in the late 1840s, a growing nativist movement coalesced into a political faction. Calling themselves the “Native American” Party, they were vehemently anti-immigrant and anti-Catholic – which were at the time pretty much the same thing, given that the largest influx of immigrants were Catholics from Ireland. The party almost always met in secret, and when asked about their activities usually responded with “I know nothing.”

Naturally, they became known as the Know-Nothing Party.

This can be applied to Trump and his followers, in more ways than one. Not only are they staunchly nativist and anti-immigrant, but Trump himself seems unashamed of his ignorance.
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On Bernie Sanders

Senator Sanders seems like a decent enough guy. His long Senate career, while not really distinguished, is still honorable and trouble-free. There’s very little that you can say about him that’s to his discredit. This makes him different from the other major candidates. He describes himself as a “Democratic Socialist”, which sounds like a European political party. No one can really explain what that means. So if we’re going to criticize him, we’ll have to focus on his proposals.

His main platform, as I’ve seen in his recent TV spots, is to punish the Big Banks, increase taxes on the major corporations, and use the additional revenue gained thereby to provide universal health care and free college tuition to everyone. That’s a decidedly European socialist economic plan.

Would it work here?
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