Disillusion with the presidential race

See reader feedback posted at the end.

Some readers may have seen a sign that has been circulating on the Internet. Here's the text, please excuse the crude language:



The US is doomed

The reference, of course, is to the five presidential candidates who are currently vying for the nominations of their respective parties. And it’s quite true that each of them has notable flaws, which might make it tempting to throw up one’s hands and say “a pox on both your houses.”

This isn’t how most Americans will react, we hope, but distaste for the political drama that is playing out this year has some disturbing implications.

A. Undermining of the electoral process – The current frontrunners seem to be stumbling, and their respective vulnerabilities were evident months ago – even though we didn’t accurately foresee where things were headed. Two fearless predictions about the presidential race, 8/10/15.

•HILLARY CLINTON: Given Clinton’s legal exposures re use of a personal e-mail account/ private server to conduct State Department business and her low favorability ratings, we suggested that Vice President Joe Biden might enter the race with tacit White House backing.

Biden decided otherwise, but Clinton is still not connecting with many Democratic voters, particularly young people, despite being heavily favored by the party brass. Bernie Sanders is giving Hillary Clinton a real run for the nomination, Eugene Robinson, Washington Post,

[Sanders] has won five of the past six states, including a far-West sweep last week in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii. *** He continues to draw big, enthusiastic crowds, and raises money so easily — basically, just by mentioning his campaign website — that he can afford to stay in the race all the way to the convention.

Also, the investigation of Clinton’s e-mail/server practices continues, and she may soon have to decide whether or not to testify - a decision that could be fraught with consequences. The Clinton investigation enters a dangerous phase, Andrew Napolitano, reason.com,

•After interviewing any Clinton aides who choose to be interviewed, the DOJ personnel on the case will move their investigation into its final phase, in which they will ask Clinton herself whether she wishes to speak with them.

•If she were to talk to federal prosecutors and FBI agents, they would catch her in many inconsistencies, as she has spoken with great deception in public about this case. *** If she were to decline to be interviewed—a prudent legal but treacherous political decision—the feds would leak her rejection of their invitation, and political turmoil would break loose because one of her most imprudent and often repeated public statements in this case has been that she can't wait to talk to the FBI.

•DONALD TRUMP: In the wake of the first GOP debate, the New York billionaire launched a bitter public attack against Megyn Kelly (Fox News) for grilling him during the debate (re demeaning comments about women). We thought this was a major misstep, showing a lack of judgment and personal control, which could derail his campaign – “don’t be surprised if Trump is not a participant in the next GOP debate.”

Our scenario didn’t come to pass, and Trump has survived quite a few missteps since then. He has generally dominated the primaries (albeit not doing as well in states with caucuses), and is leading by a wide margin in the hunt for delegates. Nevertheless, there have been indications that his errors are starting to catch up with him. Trump’s mess has become his message, Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal,

It was always a mistake to think one explosive statement would blow his candidacy up. What could damage him, and is damaging him, is the aggregate—a growing pile of statements and attitudes that becomes a mood, a warning sign, a barrier. It’s been going on for four or five weeks, and you can take your pick as to the tipping point.

Many of the Trump doubters are women, it seems. And he also has a favorability gap with men, although it’s considerably smaller. [Gallup] Poll: 70 percent of women view Trump unfavorably, Kelly Cohen, Washington Examiner,

. . . in July 2015, just 58 percent of women had an unfavorable opinion of Trump. That number jumped to 62 percent in December and 5 more points to 69 percent in February.

OTHER CANDIDATES: If Clinton or Trump stalled, who would be nominated instead? The obvious answer might seem to be whoever was next in line.

Thus, Bernie Sanders would be the logical candidate if Hillary was indicted, except that the Democratic establishment might be reluctant to nominate a 74-year-old socialist (who isn’t even a party member) for the highest office in the land. What if Americans aren’t ready for openly declared socialism quite yet?

If Sanders was bypassed in favor of a previously unannounced candidate (e.g., Joe Biden), however, this would turn off millions of party members who had voted for, and in some cases contributed to, Sanders in the primaries. Moves like that undermine respect for the electoral process, which at some point could break down entirely (as has happened in other countries).

Similar arguments against bending the rules apply on the Republican side. Even if Trump falls short of 1237 delegates, as is generally expected, he should still be viewed as an esteemed candidate at the convention rather than being cast aside like an old shoe.

The point is not so much treating Trump fairly, to use his words, as it is respecting the views of the party faithful that have supported him. And while Republicans with reservations about Trump should by all means make their feelings known, it would be wise to refrain from personal attacks that might be hard to take back if he does become the nominee.

If Trump was rejected at a contested convention, the most obvious alternative would be the delegate runner up. But alas, Ted Cruz is a decidedly conservative candidate who is not held in high esteem by the Republican establishment. Indeed, some party leaders might be more inclined to accept the election of Clinton.

Another alternative would be the third candidate, although John Kasich has only won the primary in his home state to date, and there is also talk about picking a “fresh face.” That could mean someone who dropped out of the primary race earlier (e.g., Jeb Bush) or who didn’t previously choose to run (e.g., Paul Ryan). Karl Rove: Picking “fresh face” at convention could end up really helping the GOP, Josh Feldman, medialite.com,

•[Rove] said it’s incredibly “disingenuous” for people [a veiled reference to the Cruz camp] to argue that the only two people who should be able to get votes are Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. Rove also pointed out that when you look at the polls, John Kasich is shown to beat Hillary Clinton––his competitors not so much.

•“If we have somebody who we think has been battle-tested and has strong conservative principles and the ability to articulate them, and they are nominated at this convention, there will be a lot of acrimony from the people who were seeking the nomination. But if it’s somebody who has, you know, has those convictions that they can express in a compelling way, we could come out of the convention in relatively strong position . . .”

A contested convention seems OK to us if Trump doesn’t win a majority of the delegates beforehand, indeed it might prove more edifying than the scripted events of recent years. Choosing a “fresh face” would breed disrespect for the electoral process, however, and this idea deserves to be firmly rejected.

B. Limited discussion of the issues – SAFE has endeavored to track where the candidates stand on the issues during this electoral season, and we will continue to do so. In contrast, the media seems to be focusing primarily on political strategies, primary results, and controversial comments. No doubt this coverage is an accurate reflection of the interests of the general public, which seem more geared to drama and instant answers (witness the popularity of Game of Thrones, House of Cards, etc.) than to pondering the nation’s problems.

Some campaign coverage bypasses the issues entirely. As a case in point, Ted Cruz had a phone interview on the April 1 edition of the Bill Reilly show (hosted that night by Eric Bolling). Among the points discussed (from memory, couldn’t locate a transcript):

•How did it make Cruz feel that Trump had repeatedly referred to him as “lying Ted” in recent rallies in Wisconsin?
Well, Donald does things like that when he’s scared of losing.

•How did Cruz propose to get Republican leaders to support him?
Some of them had endorsed him already, and others would hopefully come to see that he, unlike Trump, could beat Clinton in the general election.

C. A dubious outcome – For advocates of smaller, more focused, less costly government, it’s natural to favor conservative candidates. Neither Clinton nor Sanders falls in that category, so our instinct would be to take a close look at whoever wins the Republican nomination.

The last time either political party won three straight terms in the White House was in 1988, so here again it seems reasonable to envision a Republican victory. Given current dissension within GOP ranks and the prospect for a bitter convention battle, however, doubts about such an outcome have been growing.

One reference point is conservative punditry. See, e.g., The GOP primary – whoever wins [three alternative scenarios], we lose, Jeremy Sims, joemiller.us,

#Trump wins the nomination: Over a third of the Republican Party says they will never pull the lever for Donald Trump in the general election.

#Cruz wins the nomination: Cruz’s only hope is a contested convention, but contested conventions have always been the playground of the GOP establishment, a group which despises Ted Cruz.

#The establishment picks a nominee: The base will see that the GOP doesn’t care about the choice of it’s constituents, and massive fractures will appear in the party as both Trump and Cruz supporters jump the sinking GOP ship.

And then there are the betting markets, which are supposedly driven by the desire of punters to make money versus political sentiment. Trump not the nominee, anyway Clinton wins, Mark Nuckols [a US expatriate who teaches law and business in Moscow], townhall.com,

•The market is saying there is a two-out-of-three chance Trump falls short of an outright majority of delegates, and if he does, there is a three-out-of-four chance the Republican convention unites behind a different standard bearer.

•Hillary Clinton is a 83-17 favorite over Bernie Sanders. And as for the ultimate winner of the presidential race, the numbers are Clinton – 61, Trump – 18, Cruz – 14.

We’re not making any predictions here, but simply pointing out that the deteriorating tone and substance of political discourse in this country may well impact the outcome of this and future elections in an unfavorable way. So it’s time to forget about personalities, we would suggest, and get back to the issues. And those who don’t really like any of the candidates should consider who would be the least worst.

What can you do? Write a letter to the editor, call the office of your member of Congress, post your thoughts on social media, etc. Also, be sure to vote when the time comes.

* * * * * FEEDBACK * * * * *

Well said. We MUST keep our eyes on the prize -- November 8.

If Trump doesn't get the required 1237 by the time of the Republican Convention in July, then the Party leaders should do everything possible to ensure the nomination of the person who is most likely to beat Clinton.

I'm beginning to think that we should go back to the old days of the "smoked filled" rooms -- which, by the way, resulted in the nomination of such luminaries as A. Lincoln.

Retired judge

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