The 2016 Presidential Race. This is a fun topic. I have refrained from speaking on this because I am of a mindset that you are like me. You know yourself, you sit down and listen to the candidates as they speak on the issues, and then you select the one that resonates the most with your ideology. As such, the only use of debates and following devoutly the candidates speeches is to see if they still hold up over a long haul. Once you have an opinion, there are scant few ways to alter it. We are each the summation of our lives, and unlikely to change enough to look at every candidate differently. Our ideologies are likely very similar. I think this is why political ads viciously target opponents, because it may be possible to change how candidates are viewed enough to sway voters.
Politics are a facet of life that I have rarely cared much about. While I live within several concentric rings of influence, and both am molded and benefit from their presence, I feel my life is too small for them to have a lot of effect on me. Most times I just want to work, rest, and find occasionally respite from my routine. I am left dumbfounded by the ills of the world. For all human history, all our trillion plus dollars of global GDP, and our present technology The Four Horseman ride strong. As such, the larger the political sphere one resides in the more utterly useless I perceive them to be. The best we can do with all our resources is remain embroiled in war after war? We can manage no other resolution to conflict? This is oversimplified, I will admit. I like to find solutions, and whenever I research what we as humans do, I find the same answers to the same problems we’ve always had.
This all said, I was willing to continue my passive tradition. The last time I was wound up enough to care about elections was to deny Bush II a second term. I was still young, so the Electoral College making a decision that countered the popular vote was completely unknown to me. I felt it unfair and it jaded me to later voting. I moved too much to vote locally (and maintain that pattern to this day). Even when Obama ran for office I didn’t feel compelled enough either time to chime in during either election. I realize how far we’ve come nationally. I was able to make the choice to not vote, rather than being forced to abstain. Even so, no one struck a chord within me enough to caused me to take notice. More importantly perhaps, no one enraged me enough to take action.
And then, several months before I expected to hear anything about the 2016 race, one Donald Trump announced his intention to run for President of the United States. I was shocked on the one hand because I only remembered Trump from a spat via the the World Wrestling Federation and was passingly aware of his reality show. I gave him a listen because being a celebrity doesn’t bar you from being a good politician. I recall Al Franken working in Minnesota. Based on hearing his name now and again over the years, and never related to some scandal I assume he did well enough. Arnold Schwarzenegger worked in California and the state is still a contiguous part of the United States.
It did not take long for me to pay attention this time.
Not knowing that Trump had even announced a press conference I hadn’t heard the announcement live. I got it secondhand from The Daily Show in the last days of Jon Stewart. It caused disbelief and shock as I recalled the Trump as I knew him, a celebrity. However, knowing as little as I did of him maybe he had something to say of worth. Perhaps he had political chops I didn’t know about. There is a mindset in many martial arts: Don’t underestimate your opponent. If there is someone who squares up against you, give them the due respect of a fellow warrior. And I kept this in mind. I considered “President Trump”, and once my laughter had subsided and I was clear headed I continued my viewing. The next clip that was played was the now infamous line in regards to Mexican immigrants.
“The US is a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting. And it only makes common sense. It only makes common sense. They’re sending us not the right people. It’s coming from more than Mexico. It’s coming from all over South and Latin America, and it’s coming probably – probably – from the Middle East.”
(Source: Time Magazine http://time.com/3923128/donald-trump-announcement-speech/)
The bold portion is what The Daily Show clip provided, but I like to have context around my statements. I remained mindful that videos are often edited, and on this show specifically for laughs. Still, there were no cuts. No jumps. The clip played it as one whole piece. I was floored. He expected to lead a racially diverse nation, while being so removed from the present pulse of how people feel?
Never in my life have I looked at someone and admitted no redeeming factor. No matter how incensed I was was I going to just write Trump off as an indecent human being. I do not know him, nor his life. He is a father, husband, and cared for by someone. I will recognize that. But I would be loathe to ignore the fact that, in spite of what good he may say, he lacks tact. “Telling it like it is” can be valuable. Political correctness runs rampant to some, but to others we are finally respecting other people as humans. If you wish to insulate yourself in a small world where those views are supported, very well. “As it harm none, do what thou will” so says the Wiccan Rede. But when you want to lead a nation of many people, some naturalized Hispanic immigrants, some children of these people and thus first generation natural born Americans and you disparage them all in your opening address? I do not want you representing myself or my nation on the world stage.
And that was it. No more than half an hour from hearing his announcement had his ideology removed himself as president from my mind.
I went to sleep and awoke and was troubled. What if I missed something? What if there was something that I wasn’t seeing? So I found the full video and just to be safe a transcript. My shock was reinforced when I found out that the above phrase was spoken before Trump announced his intent to be president. I just shook my head and went about my day. Later on, as was my habit at the time, it included more of The Daily Show. And as Jon Stewart departed I looked at the coverage of Trump to be a running gag, a mistake many who do not like him made. Jon Stewart departed, the show went on hiatus, and I tuned out from the world for awhile.
I was left without words when I came back and not only was Trump still in the race and the center of most debates, but his rhetoric had pulled the entire political conversation towards him. The Republican party had to get kicked up early. No one could get interviewed without hosts asking for responses to any and everything Trump said. Even back then I considered writing something on the whole fervor around him myself but I thought he was getting enough free press. He was doing well. Striking a chord with people in a way that I knew was special since I abhor politics as much as I do. But he was a pastor speaking to a terrifying choir.
To wit, I was spending time with a friend and we drove back to her families’ house. There was a Republican debate in full swing and for a time while she socialized I watched and listened. The details of this debate are lost to me. While callous I opened up to listen and I quietly snorted my dissent in most cases. But I can vividly recall only being able to shake my head with terse laughter at the views of some of the presidential hopefuls. In my life I didn’t know people who held such views and it surprised me that people who did were able to maintain public office. It was those comments that caused me the most worry. And when they came from Trump they drew the greatest applause from the audience on screen, and by half the people I sat with.
I have spent a good deal of my life constraining not only my emotions, but my expression of them. I understood that I was a guest, and a new one at that. As such I kept myself contained. But I think I did a poor job of it this night. In a glance I expressed disbelief. After another round of cheers barely muted horror had bloomed. I sadly can’t remember anything that was said in vivid enough detail to relay, but I asked a few questions as to why the cheerers so wholly supported Trump. And much as I had heard on many news programs, the fact that he was an outsider who spoke his mind made him more trust worthy.
I left these grounds feeling that the majority of the Republican candidates were, in one way or another, too far gone off the rails. But there were a lot of them. Enough for two separate debates in fact. I figured I would let them get whittled down in their internal party processes. I did not agree with or approve of much, and I had seen the supporters firsthand. As I thought figuring out which party I agreed with overall would limit my openness, I never identified with any officially. But I certainly did not feel as though I could resound with the Republican party walking away from this.
It was around this time, or perhaps a little later, that the Democratic side of the political machine got into the swing of things. In my opinion Trump jumping the gun as he did caused many Republicans to stumble out of the gate that I do not think would have entered the race otherwise. Conversely to the many Republicans, the Democratic side had two strong names to I took note of: Clinton and Sanders.
I have to emphasize, if I haven’t done so already, that I am not big into politics. I think the whole process makes interpersonal matters more difficult than need be. I feel that if I tried to keep track of all that goes on the exercise would eat up too much of my time, energy, and sanity. My “process” is to listen to what a candidate has to say regarding issues. I listen, I watch, and I hold true to my own inner voice. Is this person honest? Can I trust them? In the likely event things get hard, will they try to do what is right and, failing that, what is practical? In lieu of me representing myself, would I approve of this person speaking for me? One reason why I do not hammer people with my “political ideals” is because, like most things, the decisions can be made personally with remarkable ease.
This said, I also listened to the Democratic candidates.
I hadn’t buried my head in the sand the past several decades. I knew of Clinton. I marked her as a “career politician”. Sadly, that is spat as a curse more often than not by me. But listening to her I came to the conclusion that she was a capable candidate. I could, and can I suppose, see her as President. Working with world leaders, domestic politicians, and being a representative of the people who, even if she is not liked, could be respected.
And then there was Sanders.
I had never heard of him. Good and bad in its own way. I heard many voices of dissent from those that did not like what he had to say. From the limited research I did I could come to agree with those voices that his policies may not have been the best. However, in spite of all of this there is something that Sanders did that no other candidate in this race had done. In fact, I do not think I had ever said this of a politician before.
Bernie Sanders impressed me. Less as a politician but more as a person.
He seemed careful and thoughtful. He struck me as patient. I trusted, without any real proof, that he held a capacity to listen thoughtfully that every other candidate lacked. And I felt that he would let what he heard move him and inform his responses. As I said earlier, I tend to listen to my inner voice. There is so much information out there and many I know have sources they they put faith and stock in. I am ceaselessly skeptical. I blog. I am doing that now. Content on the internet is not too difficult to create. And if you are driven enough to persuade someone you are driven enough to make it look plausible. There were no nagging doubts when I considered Sanders.
Atop that, and I admit that this is a very personal reason that I remain skeptical of, but pictures surfaced of Sanders in an active event during the Civil Rights Movement for People of Color. And seeing him in those pictures just struck a chord. How could they not? If The Movement were not successful, I would not be writing as I am now. It was not a magic spell, as there are plenty of people in the United States that would love to see it undone, but my world at least holds more opportunities due to that Movement. And while I have mixed feelings on Black Lives Matter, namely the methods of some who claim the banner, it reinforced my instinct of Sanders listening when he let some representatives of BLM take the stage at one of his rallies. It was interesting, if nothing else. Deference is not a trait I have seen among other politicians.
As an aside, there was one more comparison that caused me to trust Sanders over anyone else, especially Trump. And this is a rather silly anecdote. For those of you with pets, has someone ever come into your home that you pet has responded viscerally to? Or for those with children, something similar happens when someone holds your baby and they will not stop crying? Do you excuse it, or are you watchful to see what may have set them off? While I place stock in my own logic and ability to discern, I also adhere to my instincts and take note of those who rely on them more than I do.
Enter in two birds. A bald eagle, the symbol of the United States of America, and a humble finch.
The former, as stated, holds a good deal of importance to the country. Sadly said symbolism is lost on me. But according to the internet, it is an emblem for its long life and majesty, and at the time being believed to only be found upon this continent. (http://www.baldeagleinfo.com/eagle/eagle9.html) I could not tell if it were a bit from sketch comedy years prior or genuine promotion Trump was making for his presidential bid, but a set of GIFs emerged . In it, Trump sat at a desk with an eagle perched nearby. However, as he reached near to it the eagle became very flustered, pecking and flapping its wings.
The latter, a decidedly less predatory being, was sighted onstage during one of Sander’s rallies. Chances are it lived around a lot of people so it wasn’t impressed by the crowd. The crowd however honed in on the finch, and the camera zoomed out to observe it, before everyone returned to focus. However, a few beats later, the finch flew up and alighted itself on Sander’s podium which swept the crowd with a wave of smiles.
In this, it seemed as though Nature Herself had weighed in on the political going-ons. I came across these two events separately, but the juxtaposition in my mind was rather humorous. Two birds, two candidates, two responses. It wasn’t regarding any of the issues, but it was something I would playfully point to for emphasis of the rock/paper/scissors of the current race.
And so the race dwindled down. Due to the sheer number it seemed Republican candidates dropped out week to week. Conversely there was a passionate debate between the Democratic candidates. However the fervent and zealous emerged from all sides. It made decision making difficult for me personally because in trying to listen to all sides I was deafened by the loudest voices. Within all this action the field was narrowed to Trump for the Republicans and Clinton for the Democrats.
In previous years this is when I normally began paying attention to elections. I long assumed I had little sway in the selection of candidates and that internal politics would prevail no matter how many pebbles I threw at the stream. This year seemed to draw bemoaning groans from everywhere. Most surprisingly, there were people in both parties that were vitriolic towards the now potential-Presidents-to-be of their own party. I do not align myself with either party, so I was only surprised in the candidates that were selected. Not speaking against Clinton, but Sanders seemed so well liked that I thought he’d be a shoe in. In direct opposition I perceived Trump as so ill favored that anyone but him seemed to be viable.
Heeding my mistake of being too glib regarding Trump early on, I began taking these two candidates as seriously as I could. Most of the talking points from the campaign trail I had heard before. And if I hadn’t soundbites were on rotation, though I am wary of hand-picked content. So when I heard that debates were slated I relished the opportunity to hear from the candidates straight on.
At this point most of the debate content is lost in a haze. From what I recall Clinton always had well spoken answers though none of them particularly seized me in a positive way. Trump spoke at length but only occasionally giving what I found to be vague reactions pertaining to the questions. I watched live as he dug himself into greater holes and watched in awe as the fervor around him increased in intensity.
Fast forward to the present day. With the presidential elections happening now the time to make decisions have come for many. Some have known for a long while their choice, but some like me still bear misgivings. I have gone through the majority of this article without speaking upon the controversies of all the candidates. New ones spring forth again and again. The issue is that I am ludicrously skeptical. Hillary’s e-mails, Trump’s behaviors towards women, and even Sander’s purchase of a home after bowing out of the election himself. I have done no research so I can’t speak to the validity of any of these claims. However, there is so much information that it is hard to consider it all. There is plenty to support one candidates, and plenty to hold up in opposition to them if you look.
So where has this entire process left me?
I’ll speak for myself, and if it echoes with you all the better. If not, please be mindful that I am not the only one that feels as I do.
I don’t feel as though voting does any good. Republican or Democrat, politicians are pretty much the same in my eyes. Government is a giant machine and no matter how good a persons’ intentions are going in, the longer they are a part of it the more they work in accordance with the larger whole. I have not considered being a candidate for anything because of this, because I prefer a semblance of privacy to my life, and because I think that government is a limited mechanism for change. Broad reaching, yes, but still with its limits.
I have used many Eastern practices in my time. Seven Breaths, as I shorthand it, comes from the Hagakure, a book of samurai wisdom and reflection. It states a warrior should be able to make any decision in the space of seven breaths. This is not due to recklessness, but rather being able to quickly assess a situation, consider the circumstances and implications, and commit to action in a short space of time. Many times when I am making choices, I use this. I will swiftly settle on a decision. And if I am granted time to consider or it is not a pressing matter I will consider Why I am making the choice.
Sadly, I was not paying attention to my local issues as I tend to travel in forms quite a bit. Internet searches on those candidates and their stances had to suffice for my decision making. As for president I took an unorthodox approach. When it came down to it I voted early, and I voted for Sanders.
I do not normally consider doing this. Once someone has stepped away from the race I respect that and consider those still willfully standing in the ring of contention. However, this year neither of the options that were left convinced me that they were worthy of being voted for. So I didn’t vote for them. As I said, Sanders impressed me, and I wanted my vote to reflect that.
I have seen many vehement opinions of what people think. I do not like saying what I am about to but I will do so anyhow. Trump was not an option. Period. For any positive points I have missed of him in my fog of rage, what I feel is negative of him excludes him from my choosing. Clinton, as a career politician, does have the experience and probably connections to be a solid leader. However, voting for her does not sit well with me. And, just as I did not vote for Obama simply for his being black I will not vote for Clinton simply because she is a woman. This matters little, but I didn’t have a place to say this anywhere else thus far. Additionally, I refused to vote for her out of fear of Trump. Stein and Johnson came into the race too late in my opinion. I did not know how I would vote until I was looking at the form. And even then it took a little while. So if you are in the same boat today, that is fine. But there is something you have to do.
Vote, if you haven’t already.
No matter how flawed you find the system or disillusioned you may be, voting is part of the system we have. And, until people make something better we should play our part. If you choose not to vote as a protest I can respect that, but make your protest heard. Cut a video, aggressively tweet sixty messages on this topic with an appropriate hashtag or, I don’t know… write an article and share it with your friends. Personally, my discovery of the Electoral College for Bush II’s second term, I do not have much faith that my vote will mean anything. But a tally in a column outside The Big Two says that I was not pleased with either of them. That is what is true, and I do enjoy being truthful.
“But what if Trump wins?”
Let him win.
We humans are very reactionary creatures. I have not felt the need to vote for a long time because the two party system had me pick between Either/Or and I selected Neither. There is a good thing about Trump that he may not own, but he often doubles down on. He is polarizing. Most people I meet have very strong opinions about the man one way or another. After this election I aim to at least pay more attention to the political process, large and small. And if I think the system itself is broken then I’ll develop a new one. I’d likely be labeled as a crackpot and anarchist, but as a fiction writer I can make worlds where these things make sense. And then I can have people pick them apart, refine my system, then try again. And when I think I have it just right, try to see what changes I can make in the real world. Trump could very well be a catalyst to positive change for people like me who can’t stand him. Anger is a wonderful galvanizing force, and he may anger enough people to inspire change.
For all of the above problems, people are the cause. But better than that, people are the answer. I am considering what tomorrow looks like with people working together. “A large body of people working together sounds like the trappings of government to me” some may say. And yes, you are correct. But if people are unhappy and government isn’t listening then I am sure that we the people can figure out a better way. This is not the world that the Constitution was created in. And if we cannot change the Constitution, then we can certainly take all we learned and live better lives in spite of The Powers That Be. Even if it is a determined life, it can also be a peaceful one.
As with all things on this site, these are my feelings and opinions. Know yourself. Expose yourself to what is out there. THINK. You are unlikely to know what is truly yourself if you do not challenge your ideals. “A knight in shining armor is one who has not been tested.” Don’t be afraid of some nicks, punctures, and scoring.
Politics are not the beginning of the world, nor the end. People are. When the elections are done we still have to live and work with one another. Even if the political structure collapses we can do that. In fact, we would HAVE to. If you vote, vote as you think is best. If you do not, then it is my hope that you better the world in a way you are enriched by. And if you are of the type who is ready to watch the world burn, could you cook up something to eat? Trying to imprint change on the world is hunger-inducing work and I’ll need a break now and again.