Monday, July 25, 2016

Dubious, more dubious, and totally fubar.

Not that anyone gives AFF but-
There are a few things that are troubling in the election cycle as it now stands.  One is the false equivalence argument that appears to be in play. Basically, Clinton is as bad as Trump. To be fair, I will likely vote for Ms. Clinton, but not because she is anything like my first choice. I hoped for a Bernie Sanders/Elizabeth Warren ticket. That said, equating her to Trump is silly. Thoughtful people who are in a position to make these judgments have assessed Mr. Trump to be a narcissist and/or sociopath. It is clear to me that some of the negative commentary on Ms. Clinton is supported by solid evidence and it shows she is, at best, no saint. Some would say at worst a self-serving opportunist with somewhat "flexible" ethics. I won't debate the point. That said, the people offering the most heinous assessments of her do not appear to be sober-minded folks performing a thoughtful assessment. Each one of this ilk whom I have heard is a right wing ideologue. I am open to hearing evidence to the contrary.

Another huge problem is, many Americans appear to hold a fantastical view of the American Presidency. This may be in part due to phrases that are bandied about in our media such as Leader of the Free World. This in a global sense may have some validity but in a political sense on the ground in our government structure, it is nonsense. The executive is but one of three powerful branches. This thoughtful arrangement, courtesy of our founding fathers, helps provide a needed buffer against autocrats. Thus, the office of President could be held by a shallow thinking, self-aggrandizing megalomaniac who would be better suited to running a string of used car lots than a country and things would get bit rocky but likely be alright in the end. This speaks to the political/policy side of the argument. The most troubling aspect is the fact that a U.S. President is automatically the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed forces. In a complex, dangerous, nuclear-armed world, this is a whole other can of worms.

Then we come to the issue of third party candidates. This may be the most serious problem on the horizon. To be clear, I have a largely positive assessment of both the Green Party candidate and the Libertarian Party candidate. Neither is a perfect choice for me but I feel the bits where I quibble with them would be muted by other factors. And neither one seems to be a psychopath or a slimy-opportunistic-politician type. Which is refreshing. So, why will I not likely vote "my conscience"? The answer is simple.  While hardly a scholar of our democratic republic and its complex minutiae, I am able to see where we are at this moment. We are, for good or ill, a two party system. Oh, sure, people can run as a green, a libertarian, a communist, or independent. However because we do not have a parliamentary style of governance, candidates receiving a percentage of the votes are not obliged to form coalitions to hold power. We basically have a winner-take-all system. Thus, third party candidates simply end up shearing votes from the two main candidates. This allows citizens to feel good by voting their conscience (a strategy of which I would never deprive them and to which they are absolutely entitled). However, in a nation so evenly divided, this only muddles the election. Ala, Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court, yadda yadda. 

Disclaimer: one ought not take my reference to parliamentary democracy to mean that I find that system devoid of problems. 

Finally, there is the so-called "down ballot" issue. That is to say, the important Congressional races often do not have third party candidates to whom one can turn and many voters simply pick the person at the top of the ticket (Presidential candidate) and make a party line vote. If the ballot is tricky in any way, this can throw off unsophisticated voters, the elderly, etc.- perhaps leading to unintended consequences.

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