Aimless Presidential Politics

By Graham Glover

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I’ve been waiting with eager anticipation for the 2016 presidential election to really get started. I had high hopes that after Labor Day the silly season would end. The summer before the primaries are all about political posturing and maneuvering and weeding out the lower-tier candidates. When fall rolled around, I expected the race to get serious.

Sadly, my hopes have been dashed. Destroyed, more like it.

The primary season might be in full swing, but I don’t know that I’ve ever witnessed a more aimless election. Its purpose is clear: to elect the leader of the free world. Its substance is practically nonexistent.

Some blame the media. Others think the public doesn’t care. Many think the Republican and Democratic parties are useless, running on the same issues they have for years.

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All of these – the media, public, and parties – might be somewhat responsible for our current wretched presidential election, but I think the real issue might be a bit more simple. The problem could simply be those running for office.

I wonder, what it is that drives this current flock of candidates in their quest for the presidency. Power? Greed? Idealism? Revolution? Fame? Change? Buffoonery? What is it that propelled them to put their hat in the ring to be President of the United States? More importantly, what continues to keep a lot of them running when they know, without any doubt, that they have ZERO chance of being elected? Are they really concerned with advancing the cause of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, or are they merely concerned with seeing their name and their face associated with the presidency?

After watching 3 Republican and 1 Democratic debate, I’m not sure any of the candidates are prepared to give a substantive answer to this question. Don’t blame the debate moderators, even the questionable CNBC ones. They have tried, even when their questions have been lame. It’s the candidates who just don’t seem overly interested in answering a question with substance. But the campaigns, led by those currently running, have made this election a joke to anyone that takes politics seriously. To say this election is aimless is an understatement.

Ask yourself: what’s important about the 2016 election? What are the top 3 issues the candidates are addressing? Have any of the candidates offered a vision of what they want America to look like if they are elected?

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For the last several months I have watched every presidential campaign fail in speaking to the eternal truths they see defining America. They are all eager to speak to the petty, current tabloid political issues, but don’t even attempt to offer a meta-narrative about who America is or what she might yet become. There has been A LOT of talk about tweaking certain policies, about which countries America should engage militarily, and whether one is qualified to be president, but I have heard very little about any substantive change these candidates want to make to policy or how they wish to preserve the trajectory of our great nation. There are many ideologues running, all of whom fail to grasp the basic notion that politics is about compromise. Pragmatism is a dirty word for both parties and it seems like for every candidate seeking the presidency. Governing is an afterthought to this group. Sound-bites and blame games dominate our current debate, with almost no time spent on debating the issues presidential candidates should be addressing.

But these candidates are only a reflection of the public they represent. A public that knows little about the art of politics. A public that is concerned with catchy one-liners and ignorant on how the Federal Government of the United States shapes the world in which they live. It is a public that is focused not on politics, but on entertainment – if one can even call it that.

The 2016 presidential election is proving to be aimless in a way I never imagined. Blame the candidates. Blame yourself. Blame all of us who are not concerned with politics in its truest nature.

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22 thoughts on “Aimless Presidential Politics

  1. Graham, I’ve heard your cry, but I don’t know what you want them to talk about. All the things you said are not there, I’ve been thinking that I heard pretty well. I believe that I know what the candidates want – because they say what that is. It’s only my opinion to be sure, but the only problem I have had with candidates in the past is that they don’t do what they say they will do. The Republicans, in particular, haven’t fought for what they say they want. Democrats typically do. Of course, I’ve been clear enough in the past that I don’t like what Democrats want. All said and done, this is the first group of candidates (with a few exceptions, I guess) that I feel confident will try very hard to do what I heard. We can argue whether other people want that stuff to happen, but we’ll see soon enough.

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  2. We’re not getting an honest answer (or if it’s honest, it’s ignorant) from any of the presidential candidates, whether Republican or Democrat, because there’s a math problem. All of the candidates want to spend money on things that are not paid for, while promising to address our country’s massive debt and unfunded liabilities in little or no detail. Oh, and virtually every candidate is promising to cut someone’s taxes.

    Rand Paul has been more forthright about deficit reduction than the other candidates, so I will give him some credit for being a canary in the coal mine. However, his candidacy is all but dead. Apparently, the primary voters in his party are looking for something else.

    This math problem isn’t the only problem that is not being faced in the primaries, but it’s one that has national and economic security dimensions.

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  3. I think the country is now a basket case. Our politics reflects it. Our media is contemptible. We are so fixed on the wrong things, narcissistic, spiritually dying. While the news promotes silly reality shows, the supposed rights of sexual deviants and the usual drama….ISIS is moving forward, China is building an extraordinary technical and effective military, the Russians are jockeying in the Mid East ……and we are heading eventually to another major world war. I am not a prophet, but a student of history. We should be praying, because war is part of human history…and we are entering a most dangerous period.

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    1. I have read texts that are over 2,000 years old where Greeks were bemoaning the same things. The ills of mankind are a constant.

      As long as rugged individualism holds sway and their is freedom of religion, we, as Christians, will be in disagreement with those who live, by right, non-Christian lives.

      Conformity is no won through earthly law but through conversion and conversion places the needs of neighbors before self. this is contrary to American dogma.

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      1. hlewis, good points above.

        Do you think conformity in politics is a good thing? I certainly have my thoughts on what is good and right in the left-hand kingdom, but I rather enjoy the disagreement among our politicians. I think it is healthy for our democracy.

        My issue with this election is not whether I agree or disagree, but that the issues of substance don’t seem to dominate the discourse.

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      2. Since I tend to be a non-conformist in this nation, I obviously don’t seek it in politics. I would welcome debate, if I thought people were open to it. But, in truth, American political and economic attitudes are very dogmatic. There is too much acceptance of the “self-evident” to make a substantive debate possible.

        It might do, as you say, to take an issue-by-issue practical approach. But that approach will automatically fly in the face of one side’s unimpeachable dogmatic principles which permit only and ideal approach to an issue.

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    1. 2 or 3 is tough because that’s pretty narrow, but I’ll try. I’d say first and foremost is defense of this nation against rising external enemies and the increasing crime, especially in larger cities. I’d wrap secure borders up with that, although that is admittedly big enough by itself to get special attention. Second is to get the budget under control. Third, is touchy. Maybe more reasonable taxation to get the economy to do better, maybe stopping the steamrolling social undermining that is going on. Hard to say, really. I am equally aware that none of that will coincide to Democratic opinion these days.

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  4. 1. Deficit reduction
    2. Strategy to get our allies to pay their fair share of keeping the world safe (money and troops). The free ride has got to end.
    3. Health care reform. We spend the most but don’t have the best outcomes.
    4. Education reform. We’re falling farther and farther behind.
    5. Environmental protection. We’re slowly destroying God’s creation.
    6. International trade reform. We need free and fair trade.
    7. Gun safety reform. The old Adam loves it when everyone is called into the vocation of law enforcement.
    8. Food safety reform. We’re being poisoned by both the environment and the processed foods we are being sold as safe and nutritious.
    9. Reform whatever you have to get pornography off TV, stricter movie and music ratings and off the internet.
    10. Define life at conception.
    11. Reform the criminal justice system.

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    1. Jean: I’m with you on 1). Fully supportive of having other countries put their men and women on the line too (although the financial burden on the U.S. doesn’t bother me). 5) and 6) are spot on and seldom discussed during this campaign. 10) Yes. Yes. Yes. 11) Another very important, but often ignored issue.

      Thanks!

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  5. After the Debate in Leipzig with Luther and Eck, all one can expect is a SOUND BITE and the rule do not do something stupid. When Governor Perry with a good record of fiscal policy in Texas said he would work to change three things in government and could only remember two, just put a fork in him. He is done forever. Some may be running for President; possibly others for a Cabinet Spot. So far the “know it all Talking heads” have been wrong. ….

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    1. Paul, I think the talking heads predictions (including some from yours truly) are only going to get more crazy. This election will defy conventional wisdom and expectation!

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  6. Graham, disagree with you. It seems you are too focused on the childishness of Trump, the jerkiness of Christie, and the dogged but misguided persistence of the Lyndsey Graham types and you missing the depth, the heart, and the message of the Cruz and Rubio.

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  7. Graham, what is your vision? What are your issues? A lot of people talk about these things but don’t give them form or wait for a candidate to do so and then complain when nothing takes form.

    My issues:

    1) Poverty – we don’t classify or combat it properly. This affects marriages and escalates abortion rates.
    2) Economic inequality – economic systems are not natural and are intended to serve the people in obtaining needs and wants. their shape is not something to be served but to serve. they are not moral systems but may be driven by our morality. Economic fears hurt marriages and escalate abortion rates. They contribute to gratification and commitment issues. Income and wealth gaps are serious issues. We live in a finite world where we define, redefine, and invent measures but there is still only one planet to be possessed. Honesty is lacking. We deceive our selves and others when we think that people create fortunes from nothing. No. Wealth is acquired by taking something, claiming something, or proclaiming something to exist. Man is not a creator of anything substantial.
    3) Environment – this is God’s creation, not our property. The welfare of humanity is tied to a clean air, water, and food. We don’t realize the costs for the damage we do and keep pushing them off on posterity. Fossil fuels need to go and that will affect transportation and work. Our infrastructure needs to start changing in major ways.
    4) Infrastructure – not a profit center for big business and not a popular subject because of the public costs but this one is looming large. Roads, bridges, we still use telegraph poles, vulnerable to forces of nature, to carry power and comm lines, water retention, processing, and distribution are antiquated and porous.
    5) Healthcare – we all need it and we all should support our neighbors in receiving it, as needed. Get rid of insurance and networks. You want a medical license in this state? Take the patients and take the fees that are fair. You go to a hospital for emergency surgery? There is one cost that includes all their subcontractors – doctors, anesthesiologists, etc. It does not cost less to have an x-ray in Japan than in the US, get over it – index costs to reality. Same for prescription drugs. US suckers pay all the profits, the world gets their drugs at lower costs. The lowest price charged for anything, anywhere should become the highest price paid by anyone. Medical care does not exist for doctors, hospitals, and pharma, to provide jobs and profit, it exists for us. Our private system doesn’t even perform well by global standards. Clinging to it on principle is no excuse for anything. People are hot to cut waste out of government but not out of services that are essential and monopolistic? We can operate at cost and even determine that cost.
    6) Gun control – fearful angry people should not own or handle firearms. They are the ones who want more arms and fewer restrictions. Enough said.

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    1. hlewis, good and fair questions. I’m not trying to punt on them and I’ll take your commendation to address them in another post. But, my point above was to say that this presidential election cycle, more than others (at least, as it seems to me) seems to be a lot shallower on getting to the meat of the issues. Granted, there are a lot of very nontraditional candidates running, as well as a lot of them. Hopefully when the GOP gets down to 2-4 candidates and the Democrats officially rally around Hillary, things will change.

      As to the issues you raise, I’m with you on all of them. Great insight.

      More in the weeks to come…

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      1. Something to consider, what you are seeing and hearing goes to the Republican revolution begun under Goldwater culminating in the 1980 campaign. I don’t know if you were there to experience this, firsthand. There was a shift in economic rhetoric to the libertarian and a moral shift against government as a part of God’s divine plan. Instead, government was immoral from an Ayn Rand/ Milton Friedman atheist POV and also from their odd bedfellows in the moral majority. Government was to be regarded as a necessary evil focused on doing the least evil when it was concerned with protection of fortunes and property. The elder George Bush characterized the shift away from the people, the consumers, toward the suppliers as “voodoo economics”. But the Laffer Curve was sold like so much snake oil and the country has never shifted the discussion back to the center. What is the American “center” is no longer even moderate by global standards, it is solidly right wing.

        It is hard to have substantive dialog or any meaningful campaigning where the goal is to provide less governance by starving it of purpose and funding or talking about reducing deficit and debts, not by making us pay the debts incurred through taxation or seriously discussing which programs actually help and ought to be supported but, by cutting governance and programs on principle. Successive presidencies and congresses of both parties have worked to make government less relevant in daily life and, under the latest congresses, nearly useless in any positive manner and bungling in every other sense. If they do otherwise, they would have to concede that government is something good.

        Essentially, why should they waste time substantively discussing something that has been devalued?

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  8. “But, my point above was to say that this presidential election cycle, more than others (at least, as it seems to me) seems to be a lot shallower on getting to the meat of the issues.”

    Graham, you make a valid observation. The GOP primary race in particular seems to be rolling out like a talent contest, within the genre of American Idol, The Hunger Games and Survivor. That seems to be how the debates are being run as well. It is primarily personality driven. But the personality traits that appear to be in vogue are not maturity, intelligence or substantive policies, but charisma, wit and freshness. America is psyched.

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    1. Having lived my whole life in the NY Metro area, in Northern NJ, I have found it astounding that Donald Trump rose to celebrity status on TV and even more so in the campaign or that a slimy and sad Chris Christie (Jersey City political machine; right wing Springsteen fan = self-loathing) resonates as he does. the kicker with Christie is that he’s governor because the Democrats fell apart when McGreevey came out of the closet and their best alternatives didn’t want to run for governor.

      To me, it’s like watching two schoolyard bullies square off. “Elect me to student council, or else I’ll say your ugly and gay!” It’s not about talent or even popularity so much as wanting to be in with the cool kids.

      The GOP is in deep trouble because of their base. Intelligent conservatives have been muzzled and ostracized.

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      1. I have a couple of comments. First, Trump is still at the top of the polls. “Conservatives like him” is the inevitable conclusion – and in my opinion because he is combative against opposition and cannot be cowed. Christie has been reelected, which means he has wide appeal in NJ, which is no small thing – and because he is combative against opposition and cannot be cowed. So-called intelligent conservatives have been in charge of the Republican party for a good long while, and since they are not generally combative they accomplish little for conservatism – progressives have much of what they want, no matter how bad it is, even with two houses of Congress in the GOP’s essential control. Combative public leadership is desperately needed, and that’s what you are having trouble seeing.

        The muzzled thing is self-inflicted. Ostracized is from helpless leadership that is disgustingly useless for national leaders who should know better. That’s why ordinary people are in full rebellion against their party leadership.

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      2. Trump – an uncowed cretin is still a cretin. Trump has always been vulgar, loud, and stupid. His bluster and pride are not virtues for the Republican voters to respect. His base reminds one of the borderer yahoos that put Andrew Jackson in the White House.

        As to Christie, when you have to barely beat Jon Corzine, mostly due to voter hatred of Goldman-Sachs and you soundly beat Barbara Buono, an obscure unknown, it goes to my point. The best the Dems had to offer chose not to run. He is not as popular as people in other states seem to believe.

        The election will not be won by noise and combativeness. If you take a step back, it is a shrinking and increasingly angry and narrow-minded bunch of voters that is dragging the party down. There is an underlying sexist, racist, anti-intellectual, homophobic, Zionist, dominionist, faux-Christian, uncultivated bunch pushing their agenda and most moderate voters can see it. I know, they deny that’s what they are but it doesn’t take much to slice one open and see the rotten fruit inside. These loudmouths have alienated and ostracized. They don’t want discussion, they want to impose and dictate. They don’t want to win elections, they want to be given power.

        Look at the faces of the men who will elect Hilary Clinton – Trump, Carson, Christie, Cruz, Rubio. Principled conservatism is not being offered. A reason to be conservative is not being given and “conservative” is coming to mean reactionary. This is a bad thing, even for the Democrats, because choice, democracy requires at least two viable alternatives and the GOP is on the cusp of losing real viability.

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      3. I’m not saying Trump is a great guy. I said he is near the top of the polls, and therefore points the way to electability. People are sick of GOP leaders who do not fight for conservative principles. He does, and so many are attracted to him. Ditto Christie, although he is not very popular nationally. And I say to you, that the election will be won precisely with combativeness behind conservative principles. It doesn’t matter what you think, ordinary people are not what you say they are, generally, though some whackos exist here and there.

        To be honest, I am not familiar with what you suppose is conservative. All of the GOP candidates are conservative, with a few exceptions in narrow areas of personal platform. The only serious difference is that people don’t trust politicians to do what they softly imply they want, because they won’t likely fight for it – meaning Bush, Graham, Kasich, and the like. If no reason to vote for a conservative is in evidence or viable, the public wouldn’t be upsetting you so much by running to combative conservative outsiders.

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