“Wealth Without Work
Pleasure Without Conscience
Knowledge Without Character
Commerce Without Morality
Science Without Humanity
Worship Without Sacrifice
Politics Without Principle”
The above quote seems appropriate when meanness and partisanship have replaced respect and collaboration, when cronyism substitutes for service. Nowhere are these characteristics so apparent as with the two candidates our major parties have chosen as their standard bearers.
It is why so many despair at our options. The world is a dangerous place. Capitalism, which has done more to lift people out of poverty over the past 200 years, is under siege.
Western economies are underperforming. Political correctness is pervasive. Divisiveness is ubiquitous: between rich and poor, black and white, Muslims against Christians and Jews, liberals versus conservatives. The list goes on.
And who have we nominated to address these problems? A loud-mouthed real-estate developer and TV personality, and a scheming, duplicitous politician whose lies and corruption exceed anything we’ve seen.
Mrs. Clinton does not want to make the campaign about issues. She would rather highlight her opponents stream-of-conscience, unrehearsed rants and talk of his alleged “unfitness for office.”
Mr. Trump does not want to talk of issues either. He would rather play to the miasma of discontent that envelops so much of middle America, and emphasize the “crookedness” of his opponent.
Yet we’re forced to make a choice. Some will vote for a third party candidate. Others will wait until 2020. Those are legitimate options, except that the world won’t wait four years.
Our economy’s woes and the price that underperformance has exacted on middle class families will persist. Islamic terrorists will not abide such a timetable.
One, two or three Supreme Court seats will likely be filled. China and Russia will not become less aggressive. Kim Jong-Un will not stand idly by. The poor in inner cities, left to the mercy of teachers’ unions, will have to do without school choice.
With demand for entitlements increasing at rates better than economic growth, deficits will widen. And when interest rates rise, as inevitably they will, the cost of ballooning debt will be onerous. A lot more than personalities is riding on this election.
Democrats say the choice is stark, that the choice is clear. So do many Republicans. But the choice is not clear in terms of personalities.
Both are narcissistic. Both have low boiling points. Mrs. Clinton speaks with a false veneer of magnanimity; Mr. Trump blusters. He is overt; she is covert. His public persona is worse than his private. In her case the opposite is true.
He made snide comments about gold star mother Ghazala Kahn, for which he received front-page negative press. She called gold star mother Patricia Smith a liar, for which she got a pass. Neither is a “nice” person.
Mrs. Clinton has raised the question of temperament, that Mr. Trump’s tweets show him to be unfit to hold office. Yet, Mrs. Clinton’s fiery temper is legion, enough to render her unsuitable for the same reason.
Mr. Trump’s faults are obvious, hers less so. Let’s face it; neither has the disposition we would choose in a commander in chief. But we must deal with things as they are, not as we would wish.
We must hope that whoever wins surrounds herself or himself with capable people. We must put our trust in a Congress that stands strong, and in a judicial system that reveres the Constitution.
There is much to dislike with each candidate and little to like; so the decision must be made on the fundamental differences between what we might expect to be their approach to issues facing the country, which include the economy, education, threats from Islamic terrorists, the menacing activities of China and Russia and nuclear weapons in the hands of those like North Korea and Iran.
Whose party and ideas best address these potential pitfalls?
Emerging from recession, economic growth has been the slowest since 1949. Taxes have been raised on earned incomes, capital gains and investment income.
At least 15 different taxes have been imposed to help pay for Obamacare. U.S. corporate taxes are among the highest in the developed world.
Regulations that hamper innovation and protect favored industries and businesses, rather than protect consumers and promote competition, have proliferated. Inner-city schools are run for the benefit of teachers’ unions — among the largest financial contributors to Democrats. They limit choice and stifle competition from charter schools, and also from voucher programs that would make private and parochial schools accessible.
The wealthy have choices; the poor and middle classes do not. It is the protection of the establishment — powerful teachers’ unions — against the individual — the student and his or her parents.
Globally, Islamic terrorism has increased in terms of the number of attacks, as well as in the number of organizations devoted to terrorism. Multiculturalism and political correctness are shutting down First Amendment rights in limiting or denying conservative speech on the campuses of our elite colleges and universities.
China, Russia, North Korean and Iran — enemies all to the concept of liberty — have been emboldened.
I am not happy with our choices, but I also believe that the problems we face cannot wait four years. Mr. Trump is an enigma. Admittedly, there is much we don’t know about him. He is running against the establishment, whether Republican or Democrat.
Mrs. Clinton represents the establishment, as do Paul Ryan and John McCain. She, though, portrays an uncommonly corrupt version. Interestingly — and something we should not forget — Mr. Trump made his money by dealing with the establishment, a fact he does not deny.
As David Frum wrote in The Atlantic last month, when it comes to the appeal of Donald Trump, “People in the Acela corridor don’t get it.” Mr. Trump’s constituency is the “forgotten American,” those whose income is in line with the median and who have seen no increase in almost two decades.
In their minds, debates over bathrooms for transgenders and concerns about 32-ounce drinks are frivolous. Their wants are more fundamental — good-paying jobs, decent schools and a culture that reflects the moral standards of their childhood.
They see in Mrs. Clinton a woman who claimed to be “flat broke” in 2001, and who now has, because of political-corporate cronyism, a couple of hundred million dollars. It is unfair and contrary to their values.
It is not that these people expect equality of outcomes: they recognize that some are more talented, some have greater aspiration, some work harder and some just luckier. What they don’t like are cheats. That’s what they see in Mrs. Clinton. They are anxious and they are angry.
So, as things now stand and as I wrote two and a half months ago, I will hold my nose and vote for Mr. Trump. He is often accused of being racist, and certainly his words are racist in tone, but there has been nothing to suggest he is racist in fact.
As for the assertion he is a demagogue, it is true he appeals to emotions and many of our worst instincts. But dangerous demagogues hide behind words that negate their true intentions.
Nevertheless, I may not like him, and he may self-destruct, but I see him as far better than the alternative — and possibly, just possibly, he is a messenger of positive change.
Sydney Williams, a retired stock broker, writes about politics, the economy, global affairs, education and climate, among other topics. He may be reached at [email protected]