A Last Thought

Greetings, loyal minions. Your Maximum Leader will grace you all with his last thoughts on the impending election. He’ll even do this in the first person, for your reading pleasure.

I’ve not commented on the 2016 election as some might have expected. Afterall, I am an amateur student of politics and have, since I was very young, had a keen interest in it. But this year’s election went off the rails early and I’ve never been so disgusted in all my life by the state of political discourse in our Republic.

Perhaps I am growing older, more cynical, more bitter, more everything. I still find myself watching, reading and listening to commentary, news and the thoughts of others when it has come to the 2016 election. And the whole thing continues to disgust me. Not only is it disgusting, I actually have fears for the future of our Republic.

These fears may just be a general feeling of dread that come from hour after hour, day after day, week after week, and month after month of election coverage that doesn’t really change, it just continues down the tawdry path it started on. Maybe it is more than just general dread.

Well, let me begin at the end…

As I tweeted back in June that Hillary Clinton will become the next President of the United States. I stand by that. She will win tomorrow and will have achieved her ambitious goal. She will succeed to the office held once by her husband and be the first woman to hold the office. That being said… Hillary Clinton is an ambitious, corrupt, self-serving, paranoid, small-thinking person who under any normal circumstances would never get the nomination of the Democratic Party much less be elected President. As I’ve said to many people in person, Hillary Clinton has most of Richard Nixon’s negative traits with none of his positive traits.

I have to agree with many people who say that Hillary has an impressive resume. She does. But what really has she done in any of her positions? Nothing. From the moment Bill Clinton left office it has been painfully clear that any position Hillary Clinton aspired to was only a stepping stone to becoming President. She’s not been building a resume of qualifications. She has been ticking boxes on a checklist as she looks up to the ultimate goal.

Now, in order to be President you have to have ambition. I know that. Everyone with any sense knows it. But there is ambition and there is what Hillary has been doing. John McCain, after years in the Senate, got to thinking - as every Senator does at one point in their political career - that he would make a great President. He didn’t go to the Senate to become President. It was an eventual aspiration. Often people who are so unabashedly envious of the highest office in the land don’t actually ever get the chance to run. Because that ambition seems tawdry and unseemly. I think of Bill Nelson of Florida. He is currently the senior Senator from Florida. He was overly ambitious. The proverbial man in a hurry. His colleagues (and detractors) in Florida recognized his ambition for what it was and started jokingly calling him “Mr. President.” His ambition was the end of him. Sure, being a US Senator from a large state is a good gig, but it wasn’t where he wanted to be. People saw his ambition and were concerned. This concern goes back to the beginning of the Republic. If someone wanted to be President so badly, it was a disqualification of sorts. They had their own interests in front of those of the nation. If anyone other than Hillary Clinton had so shamelessly sought the office - from the beginning - I firmly believe that they would never have gotten far along in the primaries because people would have been suspicious of their motives and avoided her. But lucky for Hillary Clinton, she has always benefited from common perceptions not seeming to apply to her. She’s always wanted to be President and many people have just been fine with that. Frankly, this probably upsets me more than others.

Hillary Clinton’s ambition is, I believe, largely at fault for her many shortcomings. Her email scandals, her penchant for secrecy, her contempt for the press are all manifestations of her ambition. She has seen so many ways in which the path to her goal could be derailed, that she has made every effort to avoid the situations that could be problematic. But those avoidance tactics have just complicated her path and made her the phenomenally weak candidate that she is.

In fact, Hillary Clinton is such a weak candidate she would have been crushed in a general election by any person the Republican Party put forward.

Except one.

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump is a narcissistic, megalomaniacal, carnival barker. He has no real understanding of how government works. He has blatant disregard for the institutions of government and of civil society. He is, as well I believe, an awful person.

It is hard to fully explain how bad a candidate Donald Trump is. I would try to point out bad policies. But it is hard to tell what his true beliefs are. I don’t honestly know that we know what Trump actually believes on anything. He says what he says without thought, reflection, or deeply held philosophy. Donald Trump is out for Donald Trump.

I’ve been told by Republican friends that Trump is better than Hillary. I don’t know how I could arrive at that position. Is he pro-life? Is he pro-choice? He’s been both. He seems to be against “globalism” and most every trade deal out there. I am for free-trade and think that globalism is generally a good thing. Trade deals don’t give everyone everything they want, because they are negotiated deals. One would think that Trump would understand how to make a deal. He has made business deals. But Trump can find a way out of a business deal by hiring a slew of lawyers and beating down his opponents. You don’t do that with a trade deal, or a military alliance, or a treaty obligation. Trump is against illegal immigration. I am too. But I am in favor of a radical overhaul of how we let people in from Central & South America. (For what it is worth, I am in favor of granting large numbers of temporary work visas for migrant workers. Many industries in the US would grind to a halt without immigrants - currently many illegal immigrants. I would prefer we establish a system to track coming and going and grant some legal status to the immigrant laborers who do much to build our nation.) Maybe Donald Trump is for comprehensive immigration reform. We don’t know. All we know is that he wants to build a wall. A big, beautiful, fucking wall. That is the extent of his discourse on immigration.

Donald Trump seems to be a rather vile person overall and I don’t want a vile person becoming President. I know he’s been accused of racism over the campaign. I don’t think that there is a lot of evidence of racism in his career prior to running for President, but he has been happy to play up the racist (at worst), or at least troubling (at best), prejudices of many Americans. That being said, Donald Trump hasn’t done anything to make anyone who isn’t white feel comfortable about how they would be regarded in “Trump’s America.”

I could go on and on about the negative qualities of both candidates. But I’ll stop here. It doesn’t matter. I don’t believe in the “undecided voter.” At least not this year. The only indecision in this year’s election was the type I had. Do you vote or not? That is being “undecided.”

I have voted in every election since I was eligible to vote. I live in Virginia and we have elections every year. Yes. Every. Single. Year. I’ve not missed one. President, Senate, Congress, Governor, County Board, Sheriff, Commissioner of Revenue, even Clerk of the Circuit Court. I’ve voted in all of them. I’ve voted for men, women, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. I’m a voter. Most of the time I’ve voted Republican. I’ve considered myself a “Conservative Republican” since the Reagan years. Sure I’ve pulled the trigger for some Democrats. (I voted for Chuck Robb for Senate in 1994 - when he ran against Oliver North. I also voted for Dave Crute as Mayor of Farmville, VA. I have also voted for other local office holders who are/were Democrats.) In Presidential Elections I’ve voted for Republicans. In primaries I’ve supported Republicans - and not always the winners. (I’ll admit that I flirted with Steve Forbes in ‘96, and before that Pat Buchanan against George H.W. Bush. Because I wanted Bush to be “more conservative.” In retrospect, I regret that. I should have had more appreciation in the moment for the elder Bush… Hell, this year I supported John Kasich. Frankly, I still support him and hope that he chooses to run in 2020.) But 2016 is the year I’m not voting for the “Republican” for President.

Donald Trump is no more a Republican than Vladimir Putin is a peacenik. Trump is Trump. All is about and for Trump. And just as assuredly as Donald Trump is not a Republican he is not conservative.

I’ve known my whole life that not all conservatives are Republicans and not all Republicans are conservatives. But since the 1980s it has been safe to say that Republicans were closer to my brand of conservatism than were Democrats. Today I don’t know what the party is for a conservative. Frankly, I’m not sure what will be left of the traditional party system in four years. Because either way you cut it, the parties are going to burn.

Yes. Both of them. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are disastrous for the parties for which they are standard bearers. It will happen first and harder for the Republicans. Over the decades I’ve heard, and been told more than once, that the Republican party is doomed and will split. But this is the first year I seriously think it could happen. It has been happening over the past four years. It happens when your party doesn’t have a firm set of beliefs and policy goals. The only thing unifying the Republican party has been opposition to Barack Obama. In many ways that is enough to get by, until the election comes around. Donald Trump has successfully driven out many conservatives. He has done all he can possibly do to alienate minorities from coming to the Republican party. And he’s doing all he can to burn down the party apparatus by making the election all about him - no matter what he says or does.

Now many of my Republican friends point out that the party “elites” have grown away from the “base.” In many respects that is true. But I prefer to think that no one in the Republican party has tried to provide leadership and vision to the base to move them forward. Many Republicans are no better than or different from Democrats when it comes to keeping their jobs and doing very little. That is a serious problem. But the solution to the problem is not Donald Trump. He only makes the problems worse. I know many people who have said for years “if only the Republicans would put up a “real conservative” - then we could really show the Democrats and change America.” These people didn’t like John McCain or Mitt Romney. Those nominees “weren’t conservative enough.” Well… Here’s the thing. There aren’t enough conservatives in America to win the Presidency on the basis of only winning conservative votes. You have to appeal to conservatives, moderates, some liberals, and to idiots in order to get elected. Having said all that, Donald Trump isn’t a conservative. He is a populist carnie who is appealing to the most base feelings of a significant portion of the population. He is not the leader of a broad-based movement that will save America. He is a flame that has already damaged political discourse and political institutions. No good can come from him.

I don’t know what the future will bring for the Republican party. But there is some serious soul-searching and work to be done. If they want to be a serious party for the future they will have to purge some of the voices that echo the worst of Trump. They will have to come up with an ideology and a standard bearer for that ideology. If not, they will become a marginal group that will shrink to irrelevance. It is possible that some conservatives will bolt and form another party. One that is more conservative. I don’t know. But change is coming.

Of course, the Democrats are not out of the woods themselves. Hillary Clinton will be a disaster for them and for the nation. All the problems that have beset her as a candidate will magnify themselves 100 fold as President. Her penchant for secrecy will be viewed as Nixonian - and as much as they press may not like to do it I believe that they will ultimately have to report on the misdeeds that will surely come. Hillary Clinton’s first reaction to criticism is attack the source, circle the wagons, and protect herself. The press will go along for a time, but they eventually come around to defending themselves. Hillary Clinton will continue to use the Democratic party as an extension of her ambition and the disillusionment that is currently being felt by Bernie Sanders supporters who think that she used dirty tricks to cheat their guy out of the nomination will grow. I suspect that we’ll see that Hillary Clinton has, or will, use the party apparatus in some way that she shouldn’t and it will cause lasting damage to the party.

And when both parties are damaged, and when both candidates are so terribly flawed it can only hurt the Republic. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton care a wit about the nation. They are in it for themselves. As such, they can’t be transformational leaders, or even leaders. They only know blunt force. When the only tool you have in your kit is blunt force, you meet nothing but resistance. If you think that Hillary Clinton can “bring America together” then you need to share whatever you’re smoking with Gary Johnson. She can’t. She’ll never bring along anyone who isn’t already supporting her. You can’t govern a diverse nation without reaching out. And she’s incapable of doing that.

So gird your loins for four years of partisanship, bitterness, invective, investigation, and accusation that will make the last eight years of Barack Obama seem like the Era of Good Feelings.

So if you are wondering, after this rambling wreck of a blog post, “who will Mike be voting for?” Well let me tell you. This is the year where I’ve realized that the franchise is only an affirmative franchise. We vote “for” someone. A vote “for” someone is a positive affirmation of that candidate. There isn’t a vote that relates that the recipient of that vote is the “lesser of possible evils.” And we don’t have a “no” or “none of the above” category. Up until 2016 I’ve been able to vote “for” everyone I’ve ever marked a ballot for. I may not have agreed with them on everything. I know that I’ve held my nose voting for some. But I’ve always been able to assure myself that the person receiving my vote was qualified to hold the office and wouldn’t engage in malfeasance in office. I can’t say that about either major party candidate this year. I thought for a long time I’d vote for Gary Johnson. But the more I’ve learned, the less impressed I’ve been. Johnson doesn’t seem up to the job. I suspect that I’ll go into the voting booth tomorrow and leave blank the spot where I vote for President. (I’ll cast a vote for Rob Whitman - my Congressman. And I’ll vote against the Constitutional measures on the ballot.) I’ll not endorse anyone for President - because not one of them are worth my imprimatur. They are all an awful lot and not worthy of the office for which they run.

There is some small nagging voice within me that says I should vote for someone. I may get into the voting booth and realize that I just HAVE TO vote for someone to be President. I don’t know. I may yet vote for Gary Johnson - if only to boost the future prospects of the Libertarian Party. I might vote for Evan McMullin - who doesn’t seem to be ill-informed, ill-mannered, or incompetent. One thing is certain, I’ll not vote for Clinton or Trump.

All this being written… I could be wrong. I doubt it. But I could be. I also encourage you to vote. (If you haven’t already. And aren’t dead.)

As I say as your Maximum Leader,

Carry on.

UPDATED: Ballot completed. Was voter 268 in my precinct. Felt compelled to cast vote for President. It was Johnson. Don’t feel good about that. But it is finished.

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