Sunday, October 30, 2016

A final look at the election of 2016

90 year oldster considers the three most critical elections of his lifetime!

This is a rant I had planned to send several weeks ago, however I felt that it missed the mark! After a most enjoyable two weeks away from election news while on a cruise of the Mediterranean Sea and reading (most of) the book, The Age of Genius: The Seventeenth Century & The Birth of the Modern Mind, by A.C. Grayling, I've now recalled two other elections which cause me see the election from a different perspective – one VERY pertinent for the current election. I ENCOURAGE YOU TO READ THE FOLLOWING BRIEF CHANGE IN MY PERSPECTIVE. And, of course, if you find it interesting and would like more of my thoughts – KEEP going and read the rest!

I truly regret that in 1968 I was too involved with my family and working in a racially divided and tense school to pay much attention to the election. For those non-historians and/or those too young to remember, it was the election most noted for the contentiousness and hostility between Chicago's Mayor Richard J. Daley's police force and the idealistic young people – and others – opposing the war in Vietnam. Of course the stage was set earlier by the assassination of Dr. King and frustration was already at the boiling point when favored candidate for change Robert Kennedy was murdered in California shortly before the convention. Neither of the other candidates favored by those seeking dramatic change, Eugene McCarthy or George McGovern, had a chance against the establishments preferred candidate Hubert Humphrey.

Result: A lack of enthusiasm in the Democratic Party to unite behind the one candidate (other than the South's George Wallace) who had a chance against Richard M. Nixon, the Republican "law and order" nominee.

LESSON TO BE LEARNED FROM 1968 – How different the world might be today had there been a willingness to get behind the best choice available and THEN CONTINUE TO WORK FOR THE BELIEFS AND PRINCIPLES ONE HOLDS DEAR.

Occasionally one is tempted to become cynical about elections and ask "Does it really matter?" From my perspective I would point to the contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore. There's little doubt in my mind that an administration with people more knowledgeable about the complexity of the problems of the Middle East would have used better judgment before again initiating war against Iraq.

How different our world might be today.

Putting aside all of the questions about emails and judgment in the separation of personal and public positions or gathering money for the benefit of (mostly) humankind, I have little doubt that my 90 years of experience shows this to be – given the choices we have – the most critical election of my lifetime. The choice must be Hillary over Donald!

And if you still want further thoughts:

Since 1925 when "Silent Cal" was president, I have seen 14 men elected since Mr. Coolidge. Without a doubt I consider the present election to be the most critical of my lifetime. But first a brief look at the other two.

The first one I remember distinctly was in 1936 when first-term president Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran against Alfred M. Landon, the governor of Kansas. Although the pork-pie hat I wore was festooned with sunflowers from the Sunflower State, I quickly learned that my campaigning efforts were in vain. Landon carried but two states, Maine and Vermont. Despite my biases, I've since realized that we not only needed Roosevelt to see us through the depression and WWII, but Roosevelt's “New Deal” set the tone for having the government play a much greater role in making society better for the more of the citizenry.

Fast-forward to 1964 and the campaign pitting Sen. Barry Goldwater against Pres. Lyndon Baines Johnson. What a classic struggle between conservative principles and a liberal president. Although Johnson was fettered by the morass of Vietnam, he both furthered civil rights and raised our consciousness to work toward a "Great Society".

But nothing for me has matched the vitriol and the divisiveness (but yet the promise) of the current campaign. It could have hardly started on a worse note with the personal attacks by fellow Republicans in a party that I was once a member of through the election of Richard Nixon. (Yes, I admit it, I favored Nixon over Kennedy.) And while many in the Republican Party felt proud of having 14 “outstanding” candidates, the debate and events surrounding the nominating process soon became a national embarrassment. Not only did members of the Republican Party express shock at the final selection of the party, but most of the entire world was dismayed by the pronouncements, divisiveness and repudiation of American values and actions of the past by Trump's ranting as a candidate.
Meanwhile the Democrats limited its conflict to just two major contenders. One was a neophyte to the party, had as his major constituency many young people who had never before been actively involved in party politics and had the "dreaded" word to many Americans "socialist" in his pedigree. The other candidate has had so much exposure in the political arena, had taken a number of questionable actions of either poor judgment or legal misfeasance that a majority of Americans seem to have no confidence in her judgment. And, of course, the fact that her spouse had been involved in behavior that caused him to be impeached by Congress was held against her.

Thus the country seems to be faced not with selecting a preferred candidate, but the one least disliked by a majority of the voters. How then can one feel that this is an election with great promise? For me it rests in a personal look at the appeal and foibles of the three most viable candidates.

Trump – there's hardly anything negative I can say about the man than has already stated even more strongly than I might utter by his fellow Republicans. To me he represents everything that can go awry in an egalitarian democratic society from his inherited head start in life to a lifestyle centered on himself and the use of any technique to push his agenda – gaining notoriety and wealth. It has been seen most clearly in the divisive campaign he has run and the staff he has chosen to assist him. I see his candidacy as a total embarrassment to a country I love. Looking for silver linings, however, I can cite 2 benefits from his campaign:
  1. He has spotlighted the travail of so many Americans who have been left behind in a country where wage inequality has grown at a furious pace, and
  2. he provides an opportunity for the voters to show that they cannot be duped by a Huey Long or Father Coughlin type figure, a fascist, who proclaims he has all the answers and pits one group of citizens against the another.

Sanders - was a populist addition to the campaign who obviously struck a major chord in youth along with their idealism. Knowing something of the powerful organization of political parties, I felt he had little chance as the campaign began. But I underestimated the zeal of youth and the commitment of elders seeking a better opportunity for all Americans. One could feel the shock of his supporters as they reluctantly realized that party elders and lifelong volunteers prevailed by nominating a candidate long associated with what they perceived as the status quo. It is however exciting to think of the possible lasting results from the involvement of the Bernies:
  1. That since their enthusiasm almost achieved its desired effect, it is imperative that they learn from their experience and become a continuing strong voice on the American scene, and
  2. that since their cries for greater equality and opportunity for all had resonance throughout the country, they can join forces with the establishment and with continuing involvement, they can convert many who too easily fell prey to a fascist type leader.

Clinton – throughout her life she has brought to the national scene the liberal causes espoused by her opponent. What a remarkable story of the American dream has been hers! Coming from a conservative middle-class Midwest home, she followed tradition throughout her youth yet by dint of effort and intelligence, found her own voice for liberal causes from civil rights to advocacy for children and healthcare. Along the way she of course made mistakes from being a zealot for certain causes to errors of judgment shared by virtually all the men who preceded her. History is replete with honored males whose missteps have been forgotten as they made contributions to society – and for themselves. And what other presidential candidate has borne the same prejudice against them because of negative publicity given to their spouse. Just as the presidency of our first African American president has shown the continued racism of society, a large segment of our nation refuses to acknowledge the ability of women.

From the the two candidates who have a chance to be elected for president, there is but one who can continue to uphold that office with dignity and respect. There is only one candidate whose life shows a commitment to the causes I believe in. One candidate who works as a team member supported by a party platform that endorses the American values that I believe in. One candidate who feels that American exceptionalism is built upon the values espoused in our political documents and symbolisms of freedom and justice and a welcoming for all who come to our shores. One candidate who continues the equal opportunity for all as evidenced by the election of the current incumbent Barack Obama.
It was a thrill for me to see the election of our first African-American president. I feel he has nobly led us through difficult times. I will be equally thrilled to see a woman elected president in her own right who, if given a chance, will work to unite our nation.

I have too long been silent and basked in the accolades of being a part of the "Greatest Generation". That "greatness" stems primarily from our unity in facing three malignant dictatorial powers as we were joined by an almost unified world. However I find it impossible to accept generalized greatness for a generation that perpetuated bigotry, did little to stem lynchings, failed to open its doors to refugees even as they languished on ships within sight of our shores who were persecuted by demons and we placed our own patriotic citizens in concentration (that is what they were called) camps because of their ethnicity. Yet the sons of many of those patriotic parents died defending the freedom of the rest of us.

We now have a generation who because of their zeal and support of the true American dream can become an even greater generation by continuing to be involved in making better FOR ALL the best governmental system devised by humans.

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