09 June 2016
Worst election ever?
Many mediocrities have run for President of the United States and some have won. It's tempting to declare the impending contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump the worst presidential election ever -- though you're likely to be branded a sexist if you don't blame that on Trump alone -- but that may only tell us that our memories are short. Are Trump and Clinton really worse than our choices in 1852, when Franklin Pierce, who proved one of the worst Presidents, defeated Winfield Scott, whose only credential was being a general in the War of 1812 and the Mexican War? What about 1876, when Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden proved their character by sacrificing Reconstruction to resolve their deadlock? Or 1872, when Ulysses S. Grant, whose administration was riddled with corruption, defeated newspaper publisher Horace Greeley, a candidate so moribund that he was dead within a month of Election Day? The American past was not so meritocratic then as nostalgics today may believe. After all, in those days Clinton would not have been allowed to run -- a fact that may recommend the past to some people today but has nothing to do with Clinton's record -- while Trump most likely would have been killed in a duel long before politics called him -- a probability that may recommend the past to others. Historical perspective can be a calming thing, but there's no denying that our major-party choices stink pretty ripely. Trump remains what he's always been, a moron's ideal of a businessman, while Clinton remains what she's been ever since she betrayed whatever authentic feminism she espoused at Wellesley to be a politician's wife. Nevertheless, now is not the time to panic. Neither candidate is a sufficient argument for voting for the other. No one needs to vote for Hillary Clinton to stop Donald Trump; a Republican Congress will probably stop him as well as it's stopped President Obama. Nor does anyone need to vote for Donald Trump to stop Hillary Clinton, however emotionally satisfying doing so may be to some people. Really, there's no reason for anyone to vote for Trump except for spite; voting for him just to stick it to other Americans would be like detonating a suicide vest, only without any hope of virgins greeting you in paradise -- more likely, Trump himself will kiss you on the lips. On the other hand, there is little reason to vote for Clinton other than to spite Trump and the idiots who idolize him, and electing her will accomplish little more than that. Those who argue that it's imperative to make history have to explain why they did not draft Senator Warren, who with less baggage probably would have routed Senator Sanders in the Democratic primaries and annihilated Trump in the general election. History will want to know why the first woman President, if it comes to that, had to be Hillary Clinton, and there had better be a better answer than "the only alternative was Trump." Warren herself will have a lot to answer for if there was any thought or instinct on her part of deference to Clinton's seniority or celebrity when history called. But it's not up to us to keep the window of opportunity open for Warren by voting for Trump. Anyone who votes negatively this November is just another victim of the American Bipolarchy, which sustains itself by offering one head as the sole alternative to the unacceptable other. A negative vote for Trump or Clinton is a betrayal of our right and duty to vote for the best candidate, who this year can be neither person. Voting for an independent might be seen as a negative vote cast against both Clinton and Trump, but since there are many independents to choose from, inevitably by choosing one you are voting for somebody and making a positive statement in a year when there will be all too few of those.