On the wall in my office I have a sign that simply reads: "Dishonesty Beats Crazy." That is the way Republican Senator Lindsey Graham characterized the 2016 presidential election back in February. I thought it was an erudite comment at the time, probably the best single summation of the Donald Trump - Hillary Clinton election train wreck.
Graham succinctly defined the choice between someone who is widely perceived as one of the most dishonest politicians in America, Hillary Clinton, and the absolute craziest loose cannon on the political stage, Donald Trump. It is not a choice most Americans care for and this is probably the most loathed presidential choice in my lifetime. The American electorate is pissed off and stressed out over this mess.
So, until recently, Graham's statement captured the 2016 zeitgeist of American politics for me. All that has changed now. Graham’s comparison is still valid, but other factors have come into play with a double “October surprise” for Republicans and Democrats alike. The First October Surprise happened a few weeks ago when "pussy" entered the already absurd picture. This then became the pussy election; the P-word went mainstream when Donald Trump was audio recorded on a hot mic in 2005 making various lewd comments about women. Suddenly, this train wreck of an election became a sick reality show.
Or maybe it was already that way. This wasn't the first time we heard The Donald use the P-word. Back in February, he uttered it during a campaign stop. Where was the outrage then? The Donald kept on moving and the rest of the hapless, overstuffed Republican Party gradually fell by the wayside. From about 17 candidates, Republican primary voters gave us a misogynistic, xenophobic, and racist choice for President.
The 2016 election birthed “the year of the pussy.” Clint Eastwood sees our "pussy culture" as being a reason for voting for Trump. A Russian diplomat sees the whole enchilada as bunch of "pussies" on all sides. The P-word sumsed up the election at least as well as dishonesty and crazy.
The release of Trump's original comments came just before the second presidential debate, which was called "the lowest moment" in the history of presidential debates. It was Jerry Springer style politics; an appropriate characterization. The election was already absurd before it got to this point with so many Republican candidates in the beginning, constant questions regarding Hillary’s political character, Trump mouthing off and shooting himself in the foot.
The second debate swirled more around sex scandals than policy assessments, with The Donald parading out Bill Clinton's sex abuse accusers as if to say, if a Clinton can be president with all these women complaining, then so can I. That Bill is not running for president and Donald's shenanigan's have absolutely nothing to do with Hillary's qualifications seems bizarrely irrelevant to the voters - which makes it par for the course in 2016. Hillary’s husband had lots of sex with other women, so vote for a fellow sexual predator over the wife of the cheating husband. Does that make any sense at all? I cannot think of a better example of how far American democracy has declined than the fact that 45% or so of the American voting population will vote precisely that way.
In keeping with the P-word motif, Donald's wife and former model, Melina, stylishly showed up at the second debate in a Pussy Bow Blouse. That created a sensation among the esteemed voting population rushed out and bought every Pussy Bow they could find. Do we need more proof of absurdity’s mass appeal? It is revealing. It is an opportunity for collective self-reflection.
The P-word led to all manner of other irrelevant happenings. Female artists responded by painting with their pussies. Conservative media dork Sean Hannity waded into Trump's slutty campaign strategy by offering, shall we say, penetrating insights into Bill Clinton's accusers. That's what we need in political discourse, right? Tabloid politics…welcome to "the desert of the real."
This caused me to research the origins of the P-word, apparently so important in the minds of voters.
Then, without warning, Hillary’s sticky email scandal reared its ugly head - again. Pussy was apparently forgotten by our short attention span voters. The FBI decided to take another look at Hillary’s email server after basically saying it was finished months ago. The announcement struck like a bombshell. The Second October Surprise regarded the contents of emails about the disgraced Anthony Weiner, who was lately sexting a 15-year-old. The emails apparently are not directly relevant to Hillary herself. They are about other things, involving Weiner’s wife, mentioning him in passing but the P-word definitely still applies here too.
What are the voters to do with this choice between an unenlightened powered monger (Trump) and a rogue power monger (Clinton)? Does Dishonesty really beat Crazy anymore? It’s more complicated now, but the end result (a Clinton victory) is still the best odds as of this post. The momentum has clearly shifted to Trump, however. From a strictly art of campaigning perspective, Kellyanne Conway deserves credit for a possible Trump presidency. She deftly navigated difficult circumstances with an unpopular candidate saying crazy things on the national stage. But Conway has handled things very well.
For the past few weeks, Arizona, Iowa, Nevada, and Ohio teetered into Clinton territory, indicative of a potential Democratic landslide. Now these states are swinging back and forth is a political tug of war. One day they are leaning Trump, the next leaning Clinton. North Carolina and Florida were rather firmly for Clinton before the FBI announcement. Now they are truly toss-up states. Anything could happen. (Most of this is according the the main website I follow on the election, fivethirtyeight.com.)
But even if Trump wins all the states I just mentioned, he is still short of winning the election. The Electoral Vote in such as case would be 273-265 in favor of Clinton. That makes New Hampshire interesting. Though still a Clinton state as of this post, Trump has momentum in New Hampshire. A Trump win there would produce the most absurd possible result of all, a 269-269 tie. Which would give us a President Trump, as the Republican controlled Congress would vote along party lines and choose the winner. That’s the way the Constitution works.
Another interesting possibility is that Trump picks up a single electoral vote in Maine to go with New Hampshire. In that case he wins outright 270-268. Heading in to next Tuesday, Clinton really needs a win in Nevada, North Carolina or Florida to ensure New Hampshire is irrelevant.
Everybody is sick and tired of Hillary’s emails, so the ultimate effect of the Second October Surprise might be muted; just as everybody was sick and tired of The Donald’s sexist/racist antics in the First. Pussygate turned out to be a nonevent in terms of electoral votes. Trump actually became stronger in the swing states after the news media skewered him for bragging about groping women by their vagina. What does all this say about us, as voting citizens?
When I consider all those Pussy Bow Blouses being sold out, and the obsession with an email server in the face of all our legitimate national issues like privacy, job growth, national security, the environment, healthcare, and the Supreme Court, it seems self-evident that American voters are actually getting the election we so richly deserve. This is the high-tide of democracy in action. The more participation you get in politics (voting rights), the more absurd it becomes, not because the candidates are absurd but because the voters, those responsible for the primary selection process, are absurd in and of themselves. Dishonest and crazy, “pussy culture,” unenlightened and rogue, it turns out is a reflection of who we are as political people.
Donald Trump claims this election is “rigged” and has lead us to believe he might not accept a Hillary victory without something about the election being contested. This just shows you the basically delusional character of Trump. This erratic and misinformed passion disqualifies him from my vote. But Hillary has shown poor judgment with respect to her email server while in power and her uses and possible abuses of power through the years. That ruthless nature certainly qualifies her for the presidency but I am more inclined to think differently about how to cast my vote.
In 2012 I voted for the Libertarian ticket and I will do so again in 2016. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not a “wasted vote” – let me explain why I am voting this way and why it is worth it. I live in Georgia, a state that was once almost in play because Trump was performing so badly – pre-Conway. But Georgia will now go for Trump no matter who I vote for.
The Libertarian Party needs 5% of the popular vote on election day to qualify for federal campaign funding in 2020 (rather ironic actually, I wonder if they would take that money) and it makes it somewhat more legitimate as a true political party in many states. Ballot access is assisted, though certainly not assured everywhere. So, I am voting on that fact alone. It is not as absurd as it might seem and certainly no stranger than the rest of this election. Surprising many people, the Chicago Tribune endorsed the Libertarian ticket in September in what I think is an effective editorial. Trump can have Georgia and who knows what will happen next Tuesday? This could be as close as the 2000 presidential election.
My vote is not really for Gary Johnson, a guy who I admire in many ways for his political clarity and courage. But he is rather ignorant on foreign affairs and his position on environmental issues makes him a challenge to vote for personally. “What’s Aleppo?” does not a qualified president make. But, on the positive side, he has a sense of humor that is otherwise lacking in this loathed election. His fake heart attack during a marijuana debate happened last year but seems to be an appropriate response to this election. His antics have nothing to do with being "presidential" and that is one reason I vote for him. I think the American political system needs more competition.
The two-party system has failed us as a country and the voters are mostly too mediocre and uninformed to see that such a system is delivering the worst possible political candidates as choices for president. A stronger Libertarian Party won’t produce control of congress or anything of the sort. But it might force the traditional parties to become more accountable, as there will be a clear alternative now, even though most voters would be too shallow to take it for at least a decade of so. At any rate, given the absurdity of the 2016 Presidential Campaign, I think such competition is good for the country. So why not vote for that, given the alternatives?
Besides, Libertarian VP candidate William Weld impresses me more than any other single candidate in this entire election cycle. He is fair and thoughtful. He was right to state that this election feels "like a horror movie and we can't change the channel." I hope he runs for president in 2020.
This election is not rigged. This election is a representation of our polarized, angry, shallow minded and all-too-nonprogressive society – the voters themselves. The fact that Trump surged ahead when Hillary caught pneumonia and Hillary stormed back when Trump got lewd and then Hillary lost ground again with her bizarre, undying email server story shows that this election is not about anything of substance. It is a high school level essay in conflict resolution. We are all juveniles selecting the most powerful office in the world. I am voting to guy rolling around on the stage faking a heart attack. My vote counts…it is, in fact, highly relevant to the strangest election I have ever known.
In light of the general situation, my vote in Georgia goes to the man grabbing his chest and rolling around on stage in feigned pain. There is no better metaphor for this absurd and obsessive election.
Ecce Homo: Part Two
2 weeks ago