Monday, July 18, 2016
THOUGHTS BEFORE THE CONVENTION
Just as the Republican convention begins, it's important to remember where the race for leader of the free world is: on July 5th. FBI director James B. Comey finally released the results of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails; while no criminal charges are going to be made against her, he did conclude that her behavior was "extremely careless", and he contradicted many of the public statements she had made concerning the emails.
The report confirms the public's image of Clinton and her husband as essentially dishonest people who always have some underhanded scam going on. Sometimes this image has been proven true (Bill Clinton's lying about his affair with intern Monica Lewinsky) and sometimes it is absurd (Hillary Clinton has been accused of murdering former white house aide Vince Foster). In any event, her cavalier attitude towards an issue of national security does call into question her judgement. If she were running against a normal candidate, it could become a major issue, making progressives like me write in Bernie Sanders or just stay home in disgust. But let's not kid ourselves, her opponent is no normal candidate.
As Donald Trump inevitably prepares to accept the Republican nomination, it is important to remember just what kind of man Trump is: he has never held any kind of elected office or served in the military. He was born into a wealthy family, went into the family business, and inherited an enormous amount of money, all while claiming to be a great real estate tycoon. Just how great a tycoon he is is questionable, seeing as he refuses to release his tax returns and shrugs his several bankruptcies off as no big deal. His desire to put his name on everything from steaks to bottled water displays his swelled ego, while some of his tie ins seem like outright scams, like the worthless, defunct Trump University.
And as a candidate, he's been far worse: he first announced his candidacy thirteen months ago, and since then he has said hateful things about Mexican immigrants, Muslims and women. His speeches are filled with lies, idle boasts and childish insults. He has encouraged violent responses to protestors at his rallies, endorsed torture and idly mentioned that the military should kill the families of terrorists, which is a war crime. He is the single most repulsive, hate mongering major party presidential candidate of the modern era. He has already done damage to America, because his hateful rhetoric against Muslims has been used as a recruiting tool for Isis. And despite all of that, he just might win.
I've already compared Trump to one time Ku Klux Klan member and former gubernatorial candidate David Duke, and sure enough, Duke recently raised his hideous head and endorsed Trump on his radio show, an endorsement that Trump eventually repudiated only in the softest terms. Let's look at the history of Duke's run for the governor: in 1991, after holding a Louisiana state house seat, he ran for governor of the state and lost, but, as he would so proudly point out, he won the majority of the white vote. I remember how I was stunned to think about how people could possibly vote for a man who had once freely admitted that he used to celebrate Adolf Hitler's birthday! At the time I just shrugged that off as southern state racism, but now here we are in 2016, where a Duke like demagogue is about to accept the nomination for president from a major party. While recent polls show Trump losing to Clinton, the fact that they are even close at all is disturbing. Even more upsetting is Trump's standing with white voters, who support him by narrow margins. While some of this can be chalked up to white republicans voting the party ticket and people voting against Clinton instead of for Trump, it still upsets me that a majority of white Americans support a candidate who has called Mexican immigrants rapists and murderers and who wants to ban all Muslim immigrants from entering the country. Are white Americans really so receptive to an openly bigoted candidate? Sadly, it appears so.
The silver lining in all this is that many Americans don't pay much attention to presidential campaigns until the conventions, and that Trump's inevitable bluster on national TV will wake people up to the horror of him being president, causing a turn around in the polls and a landslide for Clinton. Still, the mere fact that he has gotten this far and that he will probably win a few states in the election is depressing enough.