Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Reality Show Election Just Got Very Real

It is true that political discourse has taken a wildly unpredictable and extremely troubling turn in this country, but just when it seems that the shouting match will get louder, along comes a politician who is calm, focused, steely, intelligent, moral and principled. Who is this person?

The current occupant of the Oval Office. A man who has led this country through some of its most trying days. The president who will be remembered for bringing health care to millions who would not have received it had his opponents won the previous elections, and for signing a financial reform plan that is holding up well in the face of those opponents who would like to go back to the conditions that created the crisis in the first place. He has made stirring speeches, gave the order to kill Osama bin Laden, reminded us that race is still a central issue in the country, and weathered attacks by people who questioned not only his authority, but his legitimacy and fitness for the highest office in the land. And he did all of this without a major political scandal, running the government and hiring advisors who, for the most part, served their president well.

And for all of that, President Obama's approval ratings have risen as the economy has improved, as evidenced by last week's Labor Department report showing that wages are rising, more people are working and looking for work, and the economy is improving at a rate we haven't seen in years.

But of course, much of this improvement is because the opposition is presenting voters with the choice between a Know-Nothing, Say Anything candidate in Donald Trump and his main competition, Ted Cruz, whose chief accomplishments seem to suggest that he wants to be president so he can shut the government down rather than have it serve the American people.

And this past week serves as a reminder that we had better be very careful about who we elect to the presidency. Trump's mindless comments about criminalizing women who have abortions is only one-half step worse than Cruz's position that abortions due to rape and incest be likewise criminalized. Both have said that American citizens who are Muslims should be watched more closely, and of course Trump wants to bar Muslim immigrants based solely on their religious beliefs. As for foreign policy, if you can call it that, Cruz wants to carpet bomb while Trump said last week that he wants our allies to pay far more for their own defense, even if it means the spread of nuclear weapons to South Korea and Japan. Never mind that an arms race with China is a real possibility and that the United States has an interest in shoring up those two countries against Chinese and unpredictable North Korean threats.

This last issue provoked the president into reminding the country that candidates like Trump can't simply make up foreign policy on the fly. We have commitments in the world and whoever is president needs to take them seriously. And saying that many other countries, such as Pakistan, have nuclear weapons as a reason to allow more countries to have them is not responsible.

There is a reason why the Republican Party is trying desperately to stop Trump from earning enough delegates to win the nomination on the first ballot, even to go so far as to repeal a rule passed to stop Ron Paul and ensure the nomination of Mitt Romney just four short years ago. Even in the states that have already voted, such as Louisiana and Tennessee, there are efforts to deny Trump delegates or to convince formerly committed delegates to support another candidate, or no candidate at all. Yet. Now, don't confuse this with GOP support for Ted Cruz. The party doesn't want him either. What they want is an open convention where they can settle on a compromise candidate who can win, such'll get back to you on that.

All of this should serve to remind us that we have a president who is a positive role model, a committed family man, a serious thinker and an admirable representative of the United States. He's had his challenges and burdens and did not really understand just how hard the Republicans would try to thwart him, but he's learned and adjusted. In the end, we might not get Justice Garland, but we might trade that for the Senate in 2017. I'll take that deal.

And I think a majority of the people in this country are waking up to the reality of what might happen if we make the wrong choice.

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