Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Presumptive Nominees

It Should Have Been Better Than This

            The last time I wrote about politics in this space was back in early May of this year, when there was a chance Bernie Sanders could still win the Democratic nomination for U.S. President. I was dispirited when that was no longer a possibility. (I hold out a vain hope it could still happen.) But I was angry when I learned that the AP and CBS had called California for Hillary before people had even voted. I thought that was unethical and gave the distinct appearance of media interference in the election process. It should be illegal.
            Nevertheless, as in the terribly dispiriting Bush v. Gore Supreme Court decision, I realize it’s a done deal. Bernie’s clear vision of restoring and updating FDR’s New Deal, thus reclaiming the soul of the Democratic Party, isn’t happening this year. The surge wasn’t quite strong enough to sweep aside the skeptics who fear the economic turbulence of change and the insiders who fear losing control of the party if Bernie’s revolution succeeds.
            So now we have Hillary, who, by winning her party’s nomination, has reached the next-to-top step on her ambitious ladder of success. And on the other side is Trump, who all the pundits agree has already disqualified himself from office by his outrageous insults and fact-free policy statements. And although the pundits have been wrong about Trump from the beginning, this time they may be right. So far, anyway, Trump is coming across as a major-league bumbler. I can’t imagine enough American voters are ignorant enough to believe that he has the personal stature to fill that office.
            But then, I, too, did not think Trump would be the Republican nominee, though I’ll say he was the most interesting character in that absurd line-up of contenders, all competing for the title of Most Conservative Republican. The winner, Trump, may not even be all that conservative. Real estate moguls rarely are, except where it serves their business interests.
            Still, it seems of late Trump has looked pretty bad in the glare of the national spot light. Meanwhile, the party bosses and elder statesmen, like a posse of vigilantes, gather their forces to round up Trump and take him into custody—or take him out, as most would really prefer. No one thinks Trump can win unless he cooperates with the party, but he says he can run successfully without them. I’ll bet a lot of people would cheer him on if he tried. Even so, however the finger of fate vacillates, the Republicans just don’t look that good these days.
            I’m predicting the American people will abandon the Republicans in large numbers, except some Republican candidates will quickly move to the left a little and save their seats. But a Democratic Senate is more than possible. I think it’s a sure thing.
            Meanwhile, I hear Hillary quoting Bernie these days, when she isn’t thumping Trump. But she’s not giving Bernie credit for her incremental conversion to his campaign message. She sounds like she believes in socialism now, though I haven’t heard her say the word and I doubt she will. Some progressives think it’s a good thing Bernie forced her to the left, and, as a progressive myself, I suppose it is.
            But I have a problem with Hillary when she talks about social and economic inequality, breaking up the power of Wall Street, reforming criminal justice, fixing America’s infrastructure, free college tuition, transitioning out of fossil fuels and into renewables—all Bernie’s issues that Hillary didn’t support until she started to lose elections. Does she think our memories are that short that we don’t notice she’s changed her positions? That where before she was center-left, with the possible exception of her more conservative positions on economics and defense, her campaign now matches Bernie’s on a number of major progressive fronts?
            In a debate Bernie once ironically congratulated Hillary for “coming to religion” on the urgency of addressing climate change—a modification from her previous, more conservative, wait-and-see position. As a citizen who supported Bernie, I feel the same irony about Hillary’s seeming conversion to full left frontal. Is she really leaving behind the cultural Boomer she and Bill personified when she was First Lady and he was First Man? Her sudden shift to the left in her politics during the primaries and now, as we approach convention time, affirmed ever-more shrilly, should at least help me feel okay about this election. But I don’t. I feel there’s an opportunity missed that can’t be recovered. I feel that the wrong choices have already been made.
            Then the only hope is to minimize the damage. All good souls to the front! Peace and justice must prevail. Nothing else will work for all of us, and anything less is a kind of genocide.


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