When it comes to this year’s presidential election, I believe we lose no matter who wins.
If Ms. Clinton wins, it’s likely the Republican-controlled House (and the Senate, too, if the Rs’ majority holds) will spend the next four years on witch hunts. Even if Ms. Clinton proves to be an adequate or even superb president, she will encounter stiff, relentless, venomous partisan resistance, principally because that’s what the far-right’s base seems to want. And that’s what generates campaign contributions (i.e., enhances reelection prospects) and keeps primary challengers at bay even in the fringe’s safe, gerrymandered districts they’ve cunningly mapped (which, IMO, should be unconstitutional if our Supreme Court wasn’t asleep at the switch on this issue). In short, it probably means four more years of gridlock and self-injurious polarization (assuming we have any toes left to shoot off). I fear there is the additional risk of ill-advised military interventions, a risk that seems particularly high with this candidate. And who knows what other risks might emanate from the hubris of a wildly ambitious person who thinks she knows far more than she truly does and who is seemingly content with the elitist-driven systems that have led to the mess we’re in.
If Mr. Trump wins, it’s likely the Senate Democrats will use the filibuster to its maximum potential. But filibusters will be unable to stop a spending binge (his expressed plan) that will goose our economy in the near term while causing major long-term damage to our fiscal situation (since we can print money, at least he won’t bankrupt the country as he did some of his companies). Moreover, it’s likely the geopolitical and domestic landscapes will become even more volatile, erratic and downright dangerous. America’s standing and influence in the global community likely will plummet. Autocrats such as Putin will be emboldened and become more aggressive. The shift of geopolitical power to China may hasten as America’s power wanes. Finally, a person will be sitting in the Oval Office who has encouraged vigilantism, and there is no telling where that might take us. In short, the consequences for the nation and the world could be disastrous. It’s also possible Mr. Trump will overstep and be impeached by a Republican party that may jump at the chance to install one of their own into the seat of power (since, as most true conservatives know, Mr. Trump really isn’t really a conservative).
In sum, it’s hard to posit a favorable outcome to the country at large no matter who wins (although that’s not to suggest any equivalency when comparing possible outcomes).
Neither candidate, if elected, will enjoy broad support. Both will have a large percentage of the populace staunchly opposed to their rule. The upside potential seems dwarfed by the downside potential in both cases, albeit (in my judgment) considerably more so if the Republican’s candidate prevails.
So how did we get to this place?
How in a country of nearly 325 million people did we end up with two deeply flawed candidates well past the prime of their lives — too old to begin service as president (again, in my judgment) and so woefully lacking in the qualifications that should attach to the office?
I have my hypotheses and you probably have yours. I won’t bore you with mine, mainly because it doesn’t matter. At this point in time, there isn’t anything that can be done about it. It is what it is: the choice is before us; we have no other.
The one thing everyone should be able to agree on is that these two candidates didn’t get here on their own. Indeed, their mere presence in this race is a reflection and product of our own individual and collective values and judgments. When Clinton supporters look at Trump, they are looking in our national mirror. The same goes for Trump supporters.
That’s what worries me the most about this election. What a Trump victory would tell us about our country is deeply disturbing (specifically, for what it would reveal about our true character). A Clinton victory would be less disturbing in my judgment, but very troubling nonetheless (for reasons best exposed by our current economic and social predicament which, in large part, is the product of the neoliberal elitist philosophy she embraces).
So where do we go from here?
Vera, by the time you’re old enough to be aware of such things (or even to read this post if you’re so inclined), we’ll know how it all turned out. Fears and trepidation will have become history, for better or for worse.
My best guess is that our worst fears will not have materialized, but it’s only a guess. I don’t discount the possibility that things could turn out worse — much worse. Yet I know that, somehow, disasters are usually averted. But not always.
The potential impact of a leader should not be minimized. It’s true that presidents have limited power in our constitutional form of government. That said, a president can do a lot of damage and, perhaps, take a weakened nation down with him or her. I suspect we’re not that weak, but there is no way to be certain.
In any case, no matter who wins this election, we have our lives to live. Each of us will be left to navigate the world as we see best for ourselves, our families and our country. It is not an easy task for the sea we are compelled to navigate is filled with much uncertainty. More often than not, we ignore much of that uncertainty, instead succumbing to the illusions of permanency, predictability and knowledge.
It’s how we cope. It makes it easier to get out of bed in the morning. But they are mere illusions.
What’s real is uncertainty and ambiguity. There is much of both in our world. Confronting them requires resilience and preparation, not only for the ordinary but also for “tail risks,” those rare events that strike at unpredictable times, in unpredictable ways.
But perhaps preparation is overrated. After all, life is lived only one place: in the present. Indeed, we must live in the present with the full realization that the future is unknowable and there are no guarantees in this life. Not all risks can be foreseen or mitigated.
Living fully in the present, in the face of uncertainty and danger, is easier said than done. When we examine our lives closely, we find we usually are living in the past and future, and that our futures are defined inordinately by our pasts.
Living in the present in hard. Try it. Our minds are always focusing our thoughts on the next moment, the next day, the next year. Our vision and understanding are constrained and distorted by our genes, experiences and fears (our past). We embrace the illusion of knowledge to cope.
In reality, I think we know far less than we think we do. I think we understand even less.
That’s the odd thing about growing older, Vera. You likely will hear some say, the older I get, the less I know. There is much truth to this statement.
But the flip side is this: the older we get, the more we can (not necessarily will) understand. There is the potential of deeper understanding, which, ironically, comes about only through an acknowledgement of the illusion of knowledge.
I don’t know what will happen in the world tomorrow, much less what will happen when one of our two presidential candidates moves into the White House. But I do understand why they are our candidates (although I’m sure my understanding is incomplete), and I do understand, albeit only partially, some of the risks and opportunities associated with each of these individuals.
Yet understanding only takes one so far. It takes one only to hope’s doorstep. In the end, it’s hope to which we cling.
Concerning this election, I hope that, as individuals and as a nation, we spend some time during and after the election (no matter who wins) reflecting on why these two people were our candidates. I hope we spend time seriously reflecting on the circumstances and previous choices that brought us to this place. I also hope we accept responsibility for our own past decisions and lived values and don’t simply shirk responsibility by casting the blame at others — or, worse yet, demonizing them.
If we look closely in the mirror, ponder our past choices, question our assumptions and preconceptions, and honestly consider our potential and possibilities, I suspect we could learn much. I suspect we could understand more and, in the process, make better decisions and have better options.
I also suspect I wouldn’t be saying, we lose no matter who wins.
In the meantime, I’ll hope I’m wrong about this year’s outcome. As I previously shared, I frequently hope I’m wrong! I truly do.
Better yet, this time around I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised. But it doesn’t look like the odds are in my favor.