The 2016 Presidential Election: The View from 30,000 Feet

Queen Hillary officially threw her crown into the ring last Saturday.  Let the games begin.

I hear it was a good speech, with a touching topper being a little vignette about her mom’s childhood.   I hear Hillary touched lots of issue bases as well.   Maybe not a home run, but she gets credit for a line drive double at least.

That is unless you can’t stand her to begin with.  Her and her husband, Bill, the potential first FGOTUS.   (doesn’t work as well as FLOTUS or POTUS, but that mirrors the unshaped nature of what would be a ground breaking, possibly risque role, that of first gentleman).  

Who among us that remembers the Lewinsky scandal can think of “cigar” in the same way as before?  But it certainly is interesting to contemplate POTUS Hillary and FGOTUS Slick Willy, isn’t it?   A curiosity factor that might sway the vote of the Kardashian and Housewives of Almost-Every-American-City fans, as yet an untapped demographic.

My tone might suggest I’m one of those who can’t stand the Clintons.  But that would be wrong.  It is not that I love them but I do respect their abilities not only as politicians but as rulers.   What I can’t stand is what the Republican party has become ( a few election cycles ago I would have voted for John McCain for president had not GWB grabbed, maybe stole, the nomination).

Whatever.   The key illumination was flashed decades ago by that now dead but once larger than life character/writer/womanizer Norman Mailer:   “Americans don’t vote for someone, they vote against someone else.”

And I’ll be voting against all those Republicans out there.    If either Bush III or Ohio Governor John Kasich survive the endless night of the long knives otherwise known as the Republican primaries I might think about it a bit, but I’m still likely to vote for Hilary.

She is at least as smart and as tough as those guys with much more experience of the inner workings of Washington and other capitals around the world, in short the  most capable.

I still like and respect President Obama, but my sad conclusion is that he is too professorial to be a great president, especially in these chaotic, confusing times when it comes to the world order.  Far preferable to a gun slinger like “W”, who shot our way into the Iraq mess, but still not quite up to shining in an admittedly impossible job.

I’m hoping Hillary is the best of both.  At least, no one is better prepared to be our next president.

As for her campaign thus far, I like the slow roll out.  What’s the rush?  Who’s queen here anyway?  From 30,000 feet she’s all one can see.   Everyone else needs growth hormones.  So, keep em guessing, all those detractors in the press and the other party who are just waiting for more targets to stab.

And one thing in her favor is her trio of democratic challengers, who are more sparring partners than detractors, especially Bernie Sanders, the foremost, the rarest of politicians in that he says largely what he thinks, and has for many years.  But he is a self-proclaimed Socialist.  Reminds me of the book The Scarlet Letter, though his is “S”.   Sort of a Democratic version of Ron Paul, with that sort of chance.

Let the Republican phalanx  of candidates slash and dash each other playing king of the small hill (sorry Carlie, but like Charlie Tuna…) .   Mount Hillary will await for the survivor.  Most important for the queen right now is to craft an image that is fresh and fun (I mean, within reason here), to counter Clinton fatigue and the image Republicans will continually paint as “a third term of Obama’s failed policies” along with being one Clinton too many, old old hat.

Here’s the big picture:   Most of us already know who we will vote for as president.   Either Hillary or almost anyone but Hillary – we probably need to set some parameters lest we include Charles Manson and such, perhaps drawing the line just past Donald Trump, but you get the picture.

There are tons of polls, but I can’t find one that simply asks:  If the election were held today, who would you vote for?  Hillary or someone not Hillary?  I’d be interested in what they’d come up with.

I agree with those who argue that there are really very few “independent voters” these days.  The Dem-leaning, but relatively  impartial professor, columnist, etc. Larry Sabato estimates real independents to be around 5%.  Things have become too polarized.  When the bullets are flying, you are either on one side or another.

I’m a case in point.  I think of myself as independent, but I’m really a Democrat by default.    Hillary has my vote barring some truly icky skeleton popping out of the Clinton closet. (Please, Bill…..no.)

These next 17 months of trench political warfare which most of us will come to loath is aimed not at we vast majority of decideds, but at the 5%  of the fully fickle. If you have followed this blog for years perhaps you recall my story about my bartender friend Bob, who made up my one person poll prior to the 2012 election.

As to the question of who he was voting for, he said:  “Well, I don’t like Obama, but Romney is a Mormon and they’re really scary.  Maybe I’ll vote for my dad.  He’s a good man.” I think in the end Bob wound up not voting.

In any case, think of him in upcoming months as you are being strafed by attack ads through your TV screen or hand grenaded via your mail box, its not aimed at you.

It’s all Bobs’ fault.

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Fact Checked to Death?

A friend sent me a New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress which expressed in that magazine’s typically wry manner a frequent thought I have .   In  the cartoon a man and woman are walking down a street and the caption has her saying to him:    “My desire to be well informed is currently at odds with my desire to remain sane.”

You may have similar thoughts when thinking about our politics, economy and media.   Recently, I have dwelt on the issue of “post-truth politics” (*1)  because our politics are so polluted with misinformation that it is hard to find our bearings in relation to truth.    The creation of a cottage industry of fact checkers helps, but who besides an old bachelor with a limited social life or a younger, obsessive policy wonk is willing to do that?     Most people have lives.

English: icon for smartphone (smart phone) rel...

icon for smartphone (smart phone) related content (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the bright side, you may have heard there is a new smart phone ap that reveals the sponsors of Super PAC ads and their orientation, but at this stage it still depends on also checking with the fact checkers, which puts you smart-phoners back into my old boat.  However, in four years (Two?  Next month?), I bet they have the truth ap down, so one gets an instant truth reading and people like me won’t feel a need to synthesize fact checkers as I did in my previous post.  The only down side I see is that it will compel me to buy a smart phone.

But all of that does not quite get at a lingering anxiety that I have felt while writing most of what I have written lately.   When I dwell on the nuances of truth, I may seem to be missing the big picture, which is not who will be elected, but what will the retained or new President and another likely gridlocked Congress be able to accomplish once they are elected.  I just want you to know that I’m not missing the main point, I’m just not discussing it right now because there is no rush.  Nothing will be done about the “big picture” until this election is over.

Now that the NFL is back in season, I sometimes watch their pundits analyze likely outcomes and feel it no different then watching the political pundits analyze the win potential of the candidates.   There is a difference, however.  In football they are analyzing the real game about to be played.  In politics they are analyzing the potential of candidates to make the team that will play the real game  after Nov 6.   Another difference is it will take longer for us to see whether we picked a losing team or not.

When the real political game begins, the first question will be:  How are we going to navigate through what is often called the “fiscal cliff” which in line with my Titanic theme I envision as a field of  icebergs.    Many economists believe that poor navigation could send our economy in reverse early next year, something I did not see brought up at either convention.   (It’s complicated and doesn’t make for a simple sound bite likely to prompt cheers).

If you don’t know about the fiscal cliff…..you might as well remain blissfully unawares for another football weekend or two.   I’ll get to it soon enough in a post, but until then you might as well stay unawares, especially since our politicians won’t get around to it until some time after Nov 6.

Today I just wanted to make you aware that assessing who is lying more about whom is actually not my central interest, despite being closely tied.  My primary interest lies  in how the new captain and crew will direct our ship of state.  Will we come to feel more or less like passengers on our own Titanic?  I particularly wanted to make one reader/friend aware of this, as he may have gotten impatient with  my trying to parse the truthfulness of Bill Clinton’s speech in my previous post.

As he wrote to me privately:

“Exactly NOBODY addresses the problems.  They all throw out meaningless phrases – “Family values”, “Return the Country to Prosperity”, “Create jobs for everyone”, “live the American Dream”.  They never provide specific programs or how programs are to be funded.  Has anybody once said we have to fix SS and them make specific proposals to achieve that goal.

None of them have any integrity or courage to tell the voters that they can’t have everything, they have to pay more in taxes, and entitlements will be cut.

That is why I have not watched one single minute of either convention.  It is all how to manipulate voters to vote for someone and nothing else.”

I hear you brother.   I hear you….

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(*1)  In an earlier post I suggested that Paul Krugman may have come up with the term “post-truth politics” which is now commonly used.  David Roberts, who writes a blog on “energy, politics and more” claims credit for coining the term and then Krugman popularizing it in this piece.