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Thoughts on Campaign 2016

Thoughts on Campaign 2016

by William H. Benson

March 10, 2016

     The United States has had two father-son presidencies. The first was John Adams and his son, John Quincy Adams, and the second was George Bush and his son, George W. Bush. Because Jeb Bush withdrew from the current race three weeks ago, we will not have a third, anytime soon. The Bush dynasty has ended, at least for the next four years.

     “The man responsible for Jeb’s demise” is Donald Trump. A journalist said, “From the moment he entered the race, the real estate mogul made Jeb his primary target, gleefully dismissing the youngest Bush scion as ‘low energy,’ mocking his polling numbers, and relentlessly trolling him on Twitter.” Trump, “the playground bully, viciously pummeled him and his elitist family again and again.”

     Yes, Trump crushed Jeb, but, according to The Washington Post, Jeb was “never, ever going to win in a year like this one.” He was, according to another journalist, “a lousy candidate, bland, dull. There was no juice, no fire.” He fumbled the most predictable of questions: “Do you think your brother’s Iraq War was a mistake?”

     The United States has never had a husband-wife presidency. The closest was Woodrow Wilson’s second wife, Edith Bolling Galt Wilson. After Wilson suffered a stroke in October 1919, he lay in his bed incapacitated for months while she ran interference for him. She determined who would see him, if anyone, and it is possible she may have signed his name on public documents. She ran the executive branch until he left the White House in March of 1921.

     A week ago a writer in The Economist wrote, “Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee; the man most likely to face her in November on the Republican ticket is Donald Trump. The prospect of Trump vs. Clinton is grim,” as in a fearful future.

     As for the Democrats, the voters in the United States are not ready to elect an avowed socialist, such as Bernie Sanders and his “voodoo” economics, for their president, but I would think they are ready to elect a woman president. I just wonder if it is Hillary.

     As for the Republicans, one must wonder about the voters who have voted for Donald Trump. The previous forty-four presidents brought to the office at least a modicum of governing experience, either as a Senator, a Congressman, a vice-president, a governor, or a war-time general, but Trump has never held public office. His learning curve would have to ascend sharply to the right.

     But then he acts as if no one should teach him anything or that he wants to learn anything.

     The New York Times commentator, Nicholas Kristof, said that to understand Trump, “a starting point is Trump’s remarkable ignorance about international affairs.” Kristof then asked an important question, “Why, at a moment when the country desperately needs our A-team, would we send in the clowns?” 

     Another New York Times commentator, Ross Douthat, said it best, “Trump is a reality TV demagogue leading a populist, nationalist revolt.” Douthat also said that Trump “is showing us something different, something that less fortunate countries know all too well: how authoritarianism works, how it seduces, and how it wins.”

     Juan Linz, a Yale political scientist, said the same in his remarkable 1990 essay, “The Perils of Presidentialism.” He pointed out that in certain Latin American countries who have tried to elect a president, a struggle erupts between Congress and the president. Both sides say that they alone represent the people’s will, but then both sides commit humanitarian abuses against the other.

     “A coup or civil war can ensue, with democracy giving way to Latin American authoritarianism,” in order to re-establish the peace. William Falk, The Week‘s editor, said, “We are not yet Argentina or Chile, but our democracy is headed toward a dangerous place.”

     It is important to remember that there is no limit to what people will do to seize power, and what they will do to retain it, once they possess it.

     One wonders about the Republican party’s future? Only a few party officials have stepped forward to endorse Donald Trump: one lone Senator, Jeff Sessions of Alabama; a few Congressman; New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie; Alaska’s former governor, Sarah Palin; and Arizona’s former governor, Jan Brewer. The party’s officials are feeling frantic, as they fear their power may slip away.

     If Trump wins the nomination, it is not preposterous to imagine the Republican party splitting apart. Nebraska’s Senator, Ben Sasse, said he will not vote for Trump, but when a Political Action Committee asked Sasse to run as a third-party candidate against Clinton and Trump, he vetoed the idea.       

     Interesting times we live in. There are no easy solutions. In November, we will know the end of this year’s business.