Monday, March 7, 2016

The Primaries ...



One of the things we must accept when living in an advanced democracy is that almost anyone can run for public office. If you are of legal age and a legal resident, absent a criminal conviction the only remaining hurdle is whether or not one has the courage to put their name on a ballot and try their luck. While political experience and formal education are both great assets that would improve anyone’s chances, they are not required to enter into a race. This holds true for Council positions at the municipal level right up to the highest offices of the land. It is somewhat of a paradox actually, in that it allows anyone who has worked hard, possesses good ideas and has a following the opportunity to lead if successful. This principal also guarantees that some people with not so great ideas, some money and the loudest voice will have that opportunity also. Add in the advent of instant publishing through social media, coupled with an angry and motivated electorate and voila – we have the 2016 American Presidential Primaries. Impossible to miss, even harder to tolerate and like an accident scene – too compelling to look away completely. As a lifelong political observer, I must say this cycle has to be the most off-putting and degenerative electoral process I have ever witnessed.

Quite obviously money plays a significant role when seeking the highest office in the most influential nation on earth and having your own billions creates a decided advantage. As a candidate you can enter the process beholden to no-one but the voting public. I would argue that this was the original intent of the framers of the US Constitution, that candidates for the office of the President would not be beholden to special interests (perhaps the Horse Ferrier’s Guild of the day). I can’t imagine though, the framers ever envisioned a time such as this where a single presidential election cycle would be fought and a billion dollars (villainous pinky to side of mouth) would be the expected and normative cost for the winner. This is however, the current state of the American presidency. It should not surprise us given the gravity of the role and the impact that US Presidents have upon the whole world that the stakes are higher than high to be sure and moneyed interests are prepared to do almost anything to protect those interests. This is why, in my view, what matters more than the independence that money can buy, is the caliber and substance of the candidate. Their bona fides must be such that if they are successful in their pursuit, they will be able to handle the job and do what is right, in spite of the whims and interests of their financial backers. This is not an entry level job and character is the chief currency of Presidents. When they speak, their words must carry meaning and intent that is unequivocal and not frequently misunderstood or unclear. The position of leader of the free world has been known to cause hair to turn grey in a matter of months and for good reason. It is about 60-70 hours a week of complex decisions and deal making. Almost all of which carry immense consequences and conflicting interests. Nations rise and fall based on the decisions and actions of US Presidents, history shows this to be true. Prudence and pensiveness should be hallmarks of the occupant of the Oval Office, not bellicosity and belligerence.

When you are the CEO of the largest economy on earth and in command of the worlds most powerful army, a propensity for reactionary and rhetorical responses would be considered liabilities by most. Enter “The Donald”. Tired of 7 years of Obama’s hope and change franchise, America stands ready to propel casino mogul and notorious real estate developer Donald Trump into arguably the most important job in the world. With only the former First Lady/Secretary of State (with legal storm clouds gathering over her head) and possibly a nutty old professor type standing in his way, this is now a statistical possibility. As other leaders from around the world wonder aloud about the possibility and some governments debate banning Donald Trump from their country - I don’t mind asking the question, “How the hell did we get here”? This feels like a one-way bus ride to crazy town. Is the world really ready for “those hands” to twitch above the nuclear button? Is this just what happens when a leadership vacuum is created? Is it the result of cultural decay over a long period of time that our cousins to the south are now ready to elect a strongman with a dictatorial bent just to right the ship? Or is this just what happens when people feel threatened? Do we instinctively seek a protector with impossible solutions who will ride in on a white horse and rescue us from ourselves? Honestly, at this point - I am vexed only with questions as to why and lay no claim to a logical reason as to how this has come to pass. But, as we draw closer each day to the possibility of a Donald vs. Hillary showdown at high noon, I fear for the future of the truth. It will surely be the greatest casualty in this epic battle of BS and regardless of the final outcome, the world will still be left with a leader we ultimately do not trust. This is the tragedy of it all.

As Winston Churchill offered, “It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all others that have been tried”. While I don’t disagree with his sentiments, I am more inclined to adhere to the belief of American Poet, E.E. Cummings who opined that, “Democracy is a messy business”.

TJB