Sydney M. Williams
Thought of the Day
“The Election – What In Hell Have We Done?”
October 10, 2016
“I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing,
and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.”
Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
Letter to James Madison, January 30, 1787
For a 10th grader, my fifteen-year-old grandson follows politics closely. His concern about the upcoming election is palpable: “Pop Pop, it isn’t fair. When you were 15 Eisenhower was President; when my dad (my son) was 15, Reagan was President. Now that I’m 15 it will be either Clinton or Trump! It isn’t fair.” I acknowledged his complaint, and its reality.
A fatalist would say our lives are pre-ordained, that this election was inevitable. A cynic could argue we get what we deserve. A sociologist might claim that democracy is incompatible with human nature – that power corrupts. Benjamin Franklin famously replied, when asked what had been created in Philadelphia: “A Republic, if you can keep it.” In 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish professor at the University of Edinburg, wrote: “A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government. A democracy will continue to exist up until the time that voters discover that they can vote themselves generous gifts from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates who promise the most benefits from the public treasury, with the result that every democracy will finally collapse due to loose fiscal policy, which is always followed by a dictatorship.” Not being an historian, I cannot vouch for the validity of his observation. Perhaps America will prove the exception? But now we, a country of 330 million people, must choose between a serial liar who is both corrupt and mendacious, and a narcissistic, foul-mouthed braggart who appears clueless about affairs of state. While a full explanation is beyond my scope, some societal changes may have served as causation. Here are a few:
· Moral Relativism: We have substituted moral relativism for the proven virtues of family, civility and our Christian/Judeo heritage. It has been a cultural shift that lacks moral and common sense.
· Public Service: Public service, as a means of giving back, has been replaced by public service as a venue to personal wealth. The “pay-to-play” Clinton Foundation is exhibit ‘A.’
· Education and Political Correctness: Many public high schools have given up trying to teach students discipline, civility, mutual-respect, and knowledge of the uniqueness of our history, its institutions and the advantages of free-market capitalism. In universities, diversity is applauded, except in ideas, while complaints of victimization have meant “safe places” and “trigger warnings.” PDAs have resulted in more time “on line” and less reading and thinking.
· Short term gratification: In the political arena, we have “kicked the pail down the road” – to put off today what might be done tomorrow. “Short-termism” has become common among many of our banking and business leaders. The latter play to Wall Street whose biggest concern is the next quarter. Politicians find it is easy to make promises, but difficult to fulfill them. When we hear the promise of free public college tuition, we should be wary. While the nation’s debt, at more than 100% of GDP is worrisome, the bigger problems are promised but unfunded entitlements.
· Media Bias: All news is slanted – NY Times, Washington Post, LA Times, NY Post, Wall Street Journal, for a few; NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, etc.; and internet pundits, like Huffington Post and Breitbart. So we read, watch and hear what we want to read, watch and hear.
The road we are on leads to a place we cannot financially or morally afford. The established elite are comfortable as to where we are, which is why they are so “anti-Trump.” They don’t want to change what works for them. However, their contentment is not universal. Globalization has declined and populism has increased. Too many people have been left out – not just “deplorables” and “irredeemables,” but millions who have been unable to participate in the last decade’s economy. The principal reason has been lackluster GDP growth. Mr. Obama will be the first post-War President never to have seen 3% growth in any one year. If the economy had grown at 3%, rather than 2% since recession ended, GDP would be $1.5 trillion bigger than it is – that’s a lot of jobs! While infrastructure spending is important (and perhaps critical), it is no substitute for encouraging entrepreneurship. Keep in mind, for the first time in post-War history more small businesses are closing than opening. It is fiscal, not monetary, policies that are needed.
Our position in the world has diminished, while threats from Russia, China and Islamists have increased. Lawrence Haas’ new book about the collaboration between Harry Truman and Arthur Vandenberg, “Harry & Arthur,” ends on a sobering note – “Today, however, no great nation sits in the wings, ready to defend freedom if we bow out for the long run. No single European power can do so, and Europe as a whole has shown no capacity to act robustly in the face of threats both near and far. The same goes for Asia, where Japan struggles economically while it seeks help to contain an increasingly aggressive China. If, then, the United States will not defend freedom and secure global order in the face of rising threats, who will?”
Personalities play a big role in this election, and the press makes cartoon characters of those they see as enemies to their progressive agenda. Much has been made of Donald Trump’s comments about women, Hispanics and Muslims – none of which are defensible. Much less, though, has been written about Hillary Clinton’s misanthropic outbursts. Like Tammy Wynette, Mrs. Clinton stood by her errant husband, and skewered those women who had affairs with him. She and Bill Clinton trashed the White House before leaving it in January 2001. Her e-mail scandals are legion and posed threats to our security. She destroyed the life of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, after falsely blaming his video for the murders of Ambassador Stevens and three other men. She lies continuously, and by all accounts, treats her subordinates derisively.
When entering the polling booth and opting which lever to pull, we might consider words Jane Austen wrote in her posthumously published novel, “Persuasion.” The heroine Anne Elliot has doubts (correct ones) about her cousin who she believes will ask her hand in marriage: “She prized the frank, the open-hearted, the eager character beyond all others. Warmth and enthusiasm did captivate her still. She felt she could so much more depend on the sincerity of those who sometimes looked or said a careless or a hasty thing, than of those whose presence of mind never varied, whose tongue never slipped.” That puts to mind our two candidates: One is programmed, robot-like, at least in public; the other has never allowed himself to be harnessed, at least in public. But it is the private person that should concern us. Is Hillary Clinton as psychotic as some of those who have worked with her claim her to be? Is Donald Trump the misogynist mainstream media would have us believe him to be? Jane Austen’s words should warn us about the unnaturalness of politicians in front of cameras. To discover the real person, we must dig deep.
Regardless, we are in this mess and we must accept it. Washington’s establishment has brought us to this point. They are unlikely to get us out. Will Trump prove to be Themistocles at Salamis, Horatius at the bridge, or Don John of Austria at Lepanto? Probably not, but he does represent change. Perhaps my grandson’s fears will prove wrong? Perhaps not? In any event, citizens should make their decisions based on a thoughtful, not emotional, analysis of all pertinent information.