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American Political Tomfoolery, Part 4: Time to Get Real

January 10, 2016

Now that 2016 has actually begun and actual votes are going to be counted for the purpose of determining the Presidential Candidates from each of the two major American political parties, efforts will hopefully be made to educate voters as to the stark differences in policy that exist making each candidate unique in his or her qualifications for ascending to the position of most powerful politician on Earth. Until now, most of what has passed for political campaigning, at least as far as mainstream media coverage is concerned, has failed miserably in achieving anything resembling a comprehensive listing of candidates’ positions on the issues that will have the greatest impact on us leading up to the election in November and the government it will leave us with next year.

To this point,  the mainstream media has obviously paid way more attention to a few of the Republican candidates than it has to either the rest of them or the Democratic field. To be fair, there are way more GOP candidates, many of whom will not remain in the field past the March Super-Tuesday primaries. However, the differences that do exist among the GOP contenders, as expressed so far in the media, seem to me to be rather trivial and focused more on style than on substance. Little of any substance has been said contrasting the overwhelmingly oligarchic flavor of the GOP candidates to the more working class orientation expressed by the Democratic candidates let alone smaller party candidates. Concrete policy proposals have thus far been big on generalizations and included few specifics on how each candidate intends to achieve what seem to be generally agreed upon goals. What few differences currently being aired on stump speeches and in debates (if they can be called that on the GOP side) seem to focus on perceived shortcomings in personality of some as viewed by their opponents, as opposed to differences in approach to solving specific problems, let alone what policies should be priorities.

Donald Trump’s performances have been phenomenal in their almost universal offensiveness. About the only demographic he has failed to disrespect at some point or other is white males. He seems no more prone to suffering in the polls due to verbal gaffes than Ronald Reagan was. Just when some pundits believe he may have finally gone too far with one of his utterances, a new poll finds he has actually gone up in popularity. For months, journalists and politicians alike waited for his lead to dissipate. Time will tell if actual vote counting will turn the tide and allow people to see how he reacts to losing a caucus or primary. In addition to such outlandish proposals as refusing entrance to the country to followers of one of the world’s major religions and vowing to use torture along with intentionally targeting innocent civilians in fighting terrorism, he has also promised to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, build a wall on the border at Mexico’s expense and reinvigorated the birther conspiracy he championed so obnoxiously against President Obama to question the Constitutionality of the candidacy of one of his main rivals – Ted Cruz. Truth and reality have little to do with his campaign.

I find Ted Cruz even less attractive as a potential President of the US than Donald Trump, but also find unbelievable the amount of ink, television and radio airtime that is being devoted to discussing this obvious distraction from addressing real issues that are now and will for years to come seriously affect the daily lives of average American citizens. The only lip service the Republican candidates have made so far to addressing budgetary, tax, education and other economic and social issues facing us all has involved almost unanimous calls for lowering tax rates (particularly benefitting the wealthy) and cutting spending on social programs in such a manner as to make Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush appear to be bleeding heart liberals in comparison. Doubling down on policies which will exacerbate the already intolerable inequalities of wealth and income and further decimating any remaining vestiges of democracy as it pertains to American society is a given for these people. They compete to see who has the least compassion and the most macho bravado when it comes to any policy issue, foreign or domestic. The media “reports” all this unquestioningly, as if this is the available choice, which do you choose.

Recently, Donald Trump held a rally in Burlington, VT (Apparently, Bernie Sanders, former mayor of the city I used to call home, has started getting under his skin. Trump has about as much chance of winning VT in November as I do as a write-in candidate). It was on the same night as the President’s town meeting on gun control. Trump’s campaign gave out about 20,000 tickets to the event, (which is enough for more than half of the population). The venue was a theater seating about 1.400 people. it’s almost as if he would give out a million tickets to New Yorkers to see him speak at Yankee Stadium. Beyond the absurdity of the setting, MSNBC broadcast practically his entire stump speech and treated it as of basically equivalent in importance to the Presidential Town Hall Meeting. No other candidate, in any party, is receiving the amount of free advertising Trump is getting.

The DNC is helping feed this lack of balance in the media favoring some of the more repulsive Republican candidates. By scheduling fewer debates to be conducted at times known in advance to guarantee smaller audiences than those held by the GOP, the Republican candidates are effectively allowed to set the agenda for the public debate. While the other candidates for the Democratic nomination themselves are making substantive statements dealing with issues of great domestic and international importance and calling for policy changes designed to address systemic shortcomings in the treatment of most Americans in their daily lives, their proposals are being drowned out by calls to not allow Muslim refugees settle here because there are too many terrorists among them or to carpet bomb their countries till they glow in the dark. Bill Clinton’s sex-capades of decades past, Ted Cruz’s birth status and Jeb Bush’s and Ben Carson’s propensity to put people to sleep are better ratings grabbers than tax, policy, alleviation of poverty, equal rights for all and affordable education, so the pundits and networks discuss the former almost to the exclusion of the latter.

GOP attempts to gloss over their unwillingness to allow permanent change to the status quo to the benefit of most people in this country and elsewhere in the world must not be allowed to remain unchallenged. Hopefully, there will be enough time after the nominations are settled to have meaningful debate encompassing issues of importance to all of us that includes clear articulation of exactly what each candidate intends to do to improve our lives over the next four years. The appearance of favoritism for the candidacy of Clinton on the part of the DNC (and particularly its Chair) may end up dividing the Democratic Party even more than Trump and Cruz do the GOP. I hope that is not the case, as turning over the Federal Government to one of these GOP candidates in the White House with a GOP Congress would result in a bigger disaster than we suffered under W. But you can’t expect to excite the electorate to vote when you strive mightily to force the voters to choose the least undesirable candidate available.

If the next several months allow the candidate who best serves the needs and interests of the 99% instead of the oligarchs, and people are elected to office at the state, local and Congressional levels who will seek to bring about needed change in the areas of equality and social justice – not just in the USA but the world at large – perhaps the past several months of this interminable campaign will have been worth it. If, instead, we awake the following morning to a nightmare rather than a dream come true, we will find it that much harder to fix a broken democracy which perpetuates too much inequality, injustice, poverty and strife among the vast majority to benefit an increasingly smaller proportion of the privileged few. Make sure the people win this time, not the money.

Suggested Further Readings:

Trump Brings His Ugly Circus to Sanders’ Hometown

45 Million Americans Live in Poverty, but You Wouldn’t Know It From Watching 2016 Coverage

Trevor Noah: Ted Cruz’s ‘birther’ issue is insane — ‘I didn’t know this shit could happen to Republicans’

American Presidential Candidates Are Now Openly Promising to Commit War Crimes

Shunning Hillary is the Prescription for a Trump-Cruz White House

Mein Trumpf Makes a Stop in Vermont

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