Realizing that we are all in the same boat as far as reading about and thinking over implications of the coming election, I’ve stayed away from sending out any emails or personal thoughts on what’s coming up. This is NOT a post about who I think will win or who I think we should vote for. Just please indulge me for a few minutes as I write some words ahead of recommending this very thoughtful and well-considered article in Foreign Policy. I said well-considered, not necessarily accurate. Please read the article (see link below) even if you skip over my words that follow here (I’m realistic even about my good friends…).
I remember the day after the 2004 election when I was in Baghdad writing my friend Angela Gabel a long response to her very concerned email to me about what we were in for with another 4 years of President GW Bush (Angela ran democratic gubernatorial campaigns in Kentucky…). I told her that no matter who won the election the country would continue to go on largely as it had over the previous 50 years within probably one standard deviation (whatever that means). But the point was that the sun would continue to rise and we would still sit in traffic and go about our business as we do every day.
But the evidence has borne out that not only have the domestic and international decisions Angela was so concerned the US was making were wrong, or (seriously) at best, ill-considered, we don’t talk about the opportunity costs of not making other decisions in their stead. So we need to realize not just that the international mistakes have been costly, unending sink holes that have burned through money we don’t have, we also need to consider what we might have done with that money, or at least discussed doing with it instead.
So what does this have to do with the current election cycle? Beyond the obvious that at least 3 of the 4 major candidates are less than unqualified in the international arena and might actually do serious harm to domestic life as well, we ought to talk about the long-term impact of what the candidates’ proposals (not even hypotheticals, just their own stated proposals) would mean when added to an already negatively-impacted country after decades of wars that can only be at best considered failures, a stagnant economy, and the nearly complete loss of blue-colllar jobs leaving us with only low-paying service (restaurants and sales clerks) jobs or high-paying intellectual capital jobs. Think of it as compounded interest, but in a negative direction.
I’m all for big change (I hate the concept of “disruptive change”) when necessary, and now seems a good time for it. But I can’t help thinking of the scene in The Dark Night when Alfred tells Bruce Wayne that the mob was so desperate for change that they threw in their lot with someone they didn’t fully understand, and now they can’t get out of an even worse situation. The reason that Trump and Sanders have so much traction is because there really are serious issues that tug at peoples’ human emotions, issues that are so important to a genuinely large plurality of the population that they really are willing to go with someone they don’t fully understand with the (unreasonable) expectation that it can’t get any worse. Yet we’ve not had anyone step up and explain to the people in a way they will listen the very real and likely implications of following those real emotions. We could absolutely build a border wall, surveil ethnic neighborhoods, and make all college education free. But what would the implications of those action be? We have to think that out. On the other hand, we need to see what Jim Fallows has discovered (see the March cover story in The Atlantic) about communities that have done hard work at the local level to rejuvenate themselves or to keep themselves safe from the domestic economic woes. Those are empirical evidence that there are alternative courses of action.
So no predictions about who is going to be President. However, I will predict that we’re not ready for what we’re going to see in the run up to the November election or how it will play itself out. I will predict that whether he is the Republican nominee or whether he runs third party after losing the nomination in Cleveland, Trump will go all the way to November and will take more votes with him from both parties than pundits and pollsters expect. We need to cease being shocked by this. Sanders will certainly not be the nominee on the Democrat side but his surge will push Hillary in a direction she wasn’t expecting to go and will delay her general election ads until she gains the required delegates prior to the convention. Cruz will so alienate the establishment that we may actually see a third party (or even fourth) emerge in the next couple of years. When Republican party advisers are strongly urging their house and senate members to stay home and not go to Cleveland, and when Sanders picks up enough donation money to stay in the race through to June, I think we will at the very least see a genuine discussion within the parties about what it means to be Democrat and Republican. And perhaps, just perhaps, the eventual President might give some thought to how TPP and perpetual war affects the people who vote for President in the future.
Please read the article.
Pardon Our Election – http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/04/11/pardon-our-election/