Sunday, January 3, 2016

It's 2016: Do You Know Where Your Candidates Are?

Is there really a president in this bunch? And I'm not just talking about the Republicans either. While exactly none of the GOP candidates thrill me at all for various reasons, I find myself also looking critically at the Democrats and asking if this really is the best we can do. Of course, Americans generally ask this question every four years unless there's a candidate that people are particularly passionate about, like Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama. Neither of those guys will be on the ballot this year.

Instead, we have a group of Republicans who are falling over each other to appeal to a shrinking pool of older white voters who somehow want the country to revert back to 1953, when men were men, women were supposed to be in the home and minorities were supposed to be in the back of the bus or in the fields picking our fruits and vegetables. Those days are not coming back for a very good reason. The problem is that the GOP candidates don't see it. Donald Trump is the commander in chief of this cabal, but his greatest support will turn out to be a a Potemkin village full of people who say they love their candidate but do not come out and vote in numbers enough to elect him. Which is a good thing.

The other Republican candidates are just as flawed, and getting flawedier as time goes on. Trump has set the tone on immigration and religious intolerance, and the rest of the field has gone along with him, except for Jeb Bush but he doesn't seem to matter these days because I suspect that the last person the party wants to see at the head of the ticket is another Bush. Not that Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Chris Christie  or John Kasich are doing any better. Most of them deny any human hand in the changing climate and support various, intrusive policies for women who just want to get honest, impartial medical advice from their doctors. They've also come up with foreign policies that riff on bombings and sending American soldiers overseas without considering that other countries can do this work with limited US reserves. ISIS is a deadly threat, but sustained pressure from the sane Muslim world will go a long way towards turning the tables on them. We need to support that.

What strikes me particularly about the Republican candidates is that the two with arguably the best records in their previous jobs are Governors Bush and Kasich, and they seem to be having trouble breaking through the irresponsible and dangerous rantings of those above them in the polls. Aside from those two, none of the other candidates has done anything very notable, and that includes Christie, who asked the New Jersey Supreme Court to declare his one great accomplishment, public worker pension and benefit reform, as unconstitutional. And it did.

And if the spotlight ever turns on Christie because of a win in New Hampshire, his abysmal handling of the New Jersey economy will not endear him to economic conservatives. Similarly, Cruz, Rubio, Paul, Carson and Fiorina do not have a signature accomplishment to run on. And perhaps that doesn't matter: Mitt Romney did have an accomplishment, health care, and he ran faster than Usain Bolt away from it. Go figure.

As for the Democrats, Hillary is still faced with the drip drip of government e-mails being purged from her home server and she's less than stellar on the campaign trail. Bernie Sanders has the heart and passion, but his time was 1972, not 2016. The country is not ready to turn around and elect someone with his views, and if he's nominated (which he won't be) the Democrats will lose.

Don't get me wrong here; I believe that Hillary Clinton will be elected president in November and that she will do a fine job in the White House. It's just that the campaign's tone has focused on what makes us weak and though they try, none of the candidates is an uplifting presence who is telling us what they see as the future of this country. Perhaps that will come in the summer. But in the meantime, it's going to be a long winter.

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