Sadness. Frustration. Disgust. Anger. More Sadness.
Those were my reactions to the second presidential debate on Sunday night, a debate that was anything but presidential. The first thirty minutes of the debate were almost unwatchable–I managed to get through it, but I was worried my face would be stuck in a permanent cringing expression. From the uncomfortable non-handshake at the opening, to Donald Trump’s awkward non-apology for his crude remarks, which he termed “locker room banter” (quick aside–I’ve heard things like this in a locker room, but I don’t think women are going to buy that explanation, nor should they), to the camera panning to show women who Bill Clinton had sexually assaulted, to Hillary’s defensive non-answer on the emails and speeches released in the latest WikiLeaks dump which only underscored how untrustworthy she is, the first half hour was one of the worst television moments I’ve seen (also, Hillary–I’m pretty sure Abraham Lincoln’s definition of the importance of having a public and private position is different than yours).
The last hour of the debate was “better”, though that may be the world’s lowest bar to clear, because the candidates focused on issues, and at least acknowledged the fact this was a town hall debate and there was an audience of undecided voters they were supposed to be addressing. However, all that those undecided voters heard was a mishmash of ideas that was lacking specifics from Donald Trump, and the same old policies from Hillary Clinton that are contributing to a status quo that 68% of the country believes is putting us on the wrong track.
America, is this really the best we can do? Are these the candidates we deserve? This election has turned into a national embarrassment.
The answer, America, is that these are exactly the candidates we deserve.
The Republican Party absolutely deserved a candidate like Donald Trump, because despite being a strong, vibrant party at the state level, where it controls 31 governors’ mansions and 31 state legislatures, the party at the national level has not shown an ability to govern effectively or represent the people they serve in any way. The rank-and-file GOP base is infuriated with the fact that the elite, ruling class in Washington, DC exists only to perpetuate its own existence, regardless of party. Rather than putting forth policy and forcing President Obama to veto, the Republican Party in Washington has been frozen into inaction and is left going back to the American people every two years with no progress to highlight. Donald Trump, for all of his faults, is the only candidate who has been able to articulate the anger that such a large percentage of Americans feel toward Washington, DC (I will expound on this in another article).
The Democratic Party also deserves Hillary Clinton. Since Barack Obama was elected, the Democrats have focused on turning American institutions into instruments of the Democratic machine, regardless of the cost. How else can you explain the fact that Obamacare, one of the largest pieces of legislation in American history, and one which directly impacts 17% of the American economy, was passed without a single vote from the opposition party (not to mention that Jonathan Gruber, the chief architect of the law, stated that Obamacare was ““a very clever . . . basic exploitation of the lack of economic understanding of the American voter.”)? How else can you justify the fact that Hillary Clinton and her team destroyed evidence under subpoena yet faced no consequences from the FBI? What else can you expect from a party that caters to college students and shouting down those that disagree with them (so much for colleges being places of academic discourse), and Black Lives Matter protestors who chant threats at police officers. It’s no coincidence that in the latest Gallup polling, 73% of Americans trust the military and 56% of Americans trust the police either “a great deal” or “quite a lot”, whereas only 36% of Americans have the same levels of trust in the Presidency or Supreme Court, and only a paltry 9% of Americans have any trust in Congress. Trust in the Presidency plummeted from 51% in 2009 to 36% in July 2010. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the Affordable Care Act was passed in March 2010. For historical reference, trust in the presidency sat at 72% in March 1991, during the third year of the Bush presidency and the first year Gallup conducted the poll.
A party that has had an almost single-minded focus on turning American institutions into means to increase the party’s power deserves a candidate in Hillary Clinton whose sole aim has always been to increase her power in any possible way. From bullying her husband’s accusers into submission, to hiding potentially classified emails on an unsecured private server, to managing to rake in $203 million with her husband after leaving office despite living on a U.S. senator’s $174,000 salary (in 2016), Hillary Clinton has been on a constant drive for power since Bill Clinton’s presidency ended, and thus is a perfect match with the Democratic Party leadership.
Regardless of whether Trump or Clinton win the election, the only loser is the American people, because nothing will (or can) change. Neither candidate will be able to govern after this brutal campaign. The loser of this election is a steel worker in Ohio who doesn’t understand why he is called a racist for wanting a strong border to decrease cheap labor that threatens his job. The loser of this election is a college student who will graduate with a mountain of debt and limited job prospects who threw her support behind Bernie Sanders, only to find out his campaign never had a chance. The loser of this election is a single mother on the southside of Chicago who worries each day that her ten-year-old has to walk to school. The loser of this election is a married father of four living in the suburbs and making $250,000/year who can’t understand why even though he pays 35% of his income in taxes, politicians say he doesn’t pay his fair share.
America, we sadly have the candidates we deserve. We owe it to ourselves to change the narrative by coming together as a nation and electing politicians who will govern, and don’t just see political office as a way to fulfill their ego and obtain monetary enrichment. Until then, nothing will change, and the longer this national malaise lasts, the dimmer the beacon of liberty that America purports to represent grows.
Photo credit: CNN