Saturday, March 12, 2016

Race for the White House Volume 63

There are so many different ways I could go with this or choose to write about. I could talk about whether or not I am likely to continue this feature or this blog much longer. The past week has not been easy as I waiver between pessimism about the very future of the country and abiding faith. That is the faith that has seen American through many challenges and crises before. I pray that America will always be America, regardless of where we are today and where we may be headed. The same Providence that has protected our nation from its founding will not leave us and that everything will work itself out the way it was needed to be done.

The thought has occurred to me though this week: Donald Trump voters are the O.J. Simpson jury.

With the new cable series about the O.J. trial from a generation ago in the news, I cannot help but see the parallels.  The evidence was clear that Simpson had committed the murders, but that became irrelevant to the jury and to many Americans, especially African-Americans, because O.J. "getting off" would be a "victory" for anyone who had felt discrimination or been subjected to unfair treatment by the police. Facts be damned. There was a message to be sent.

That is where we are in politics in 2016. Donald Trump is not a conservative, but that does not matter to those who call themselves conservatives and back Trump. Even his supporters realize he may very well be a con man, but that does not matter to them because they like what he says and the strong way he says it. They have felt cheated and aggrieved by institutions in America, just like black America felt during the O.J. saga. Some of that anger is justified, some of it is not, but it's just all about a reaction and having others feel the same sense of pain and outrage. Barack Obama told his supporters to vote for "revenge" as part of his closing message in 2012, while Mitt Romney told supporters to vote for "love of country." Now, since it looks like revenge won, the reaction is here and none of us are going to be better for it.

Underestimating a threat and then overcompensating to face it. That is a big theme. Perhaps it is relevant to how the Hillary Clinton campaign has been dealing with Bernie Sanders, especially after his somewhat shocking win in last week's Michigan Primary. It is especially relevant though to how Republicans across the board failed to see the Trump threat as real, acted like it would go away on its own, and have then reacted in ways that may just bolster his support. After largely ignoring Trump for months, Marco Rubio had to engage, and he was clearly right to point out that Trump is a dangerous con-man, but when he got into the mud with Trump over physical appearance and junior high like insults, it only helped Trump and has greatly damaged Rubio among those who do not think he is up to being President. Now, Senator Rubio is in the political fight of his life leading up to Tuesday's final vote in Florida, the home state he should be dominating. The candidacies of Ted Cruz and John Kasich who did not take on some of the tactics of Rubio in going after Trump have now surpassed him, and the anti-Trump vote remains deeply split. The time to coalesce behind one candidate was weeks ago. It did not work and we are at a point where now it is best to have as many candidates as possible, since most states will reward delegates proportionally and it is merely about denying Trump the nomination at the Republican convention.

Since last week though, the delegate math has inched forward in Trump's favor. Only Cruz might possibly catch him, but with Trump beating him among Evangelical voters, and with many states more likely to go to Trump, it is hard to see how that happens. The huge states of Ohio and Florida, this coming Tuesday are winner take all, and the pressure is immense on Kasich and Rubio to deny Trump wins in their home states. If polls are to be believed, Kasich might be able to do it in Ohio and win his first state, while Rubio is facing an uphill battle down south. The only sensible thing to do, weeks ago, was to unite around the concept of Rubio must win Florida and Kasich must win Ohio. Rubio seems to be willing to play along with that, but Kasich and Cruz have not, in regards to Florida, and once again, that is going to maybe be disastrous. The entire Republican Party is in big, big trouble, but the dangers to America itself are even worse.

Last Sunday, America learned of the passing of former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who at the advanced age of 94, got her wish to be reunited with her beloved Ronnie. She was a consequential and courageous figure in American history. (It is shameful that Hillary Clinton capitulated to the left-wing of her party and apologized for praising Nancy Reagan on a particular matter, after receiving backlash on the very day the woman was buried.) It is unlikely there would have ever been a President Reagan without her unwavering and total devotion to him. It feels almost prophetic that the Reagan Era is officially ending as the GOP itself is facing perhaps the biggest challenge in its history.

Our politics have become ugly, and Republicans bear some responsibility for that, and for enabling the rise of Trump, but for someone like me who has identified with the Republican Party since my childhood and has spent my entire life since then being a proud member of the party and what it represents for America, it still feels like a hostile takeover.

I just know, as was stated plainly during the 49 state Reagan-Bush 1984 landslide, that in my party, there cannot even be a small corner for the racists or the haters. The Republican Party needs to stand for equality, justice, opportunity for all, personal freedom, and individual liberty for all Americans, and indeed all people anywhere on Earth, regardless of race, sex, religion, class, or circumstance of birth. When it ceases to be those things, it is no longer my party, even if that becomes only a temporary condition.

Where are we headed if Trump becomes the nominee of the Republican Party? We are seeing violence at his rallies with organized agitators from the Left clashing with Trump supporters, as the candidate takes relish in egging on violence. A rally in Chicago was cancelled by Trump last night after it was clear that violence was inevitable. I abhor violence in the political realm and cherish free speech. My feelings about what happened are so mixed. I detest Donald Trump so much, far more than any American political figure of either party, that I cannot help but be proud when he and his hate are shut down. I realize though that is not the optimal way of dealing with things. This is what America is facing though over the next several months and beyond, as long as Donald Trump is not rejected. A man was arrested in Ohio today for rushing a stage and trying to get to Trump, while the momentarily shell-shocked candidate was surrounded by his security. He was not harmed this time, which of course is a good thing, but it does not take a genius to realize where this is all likely headed. Pray for America. Pray for the Secret Service and all innocent Americans.

In the meantime, the appropriate course of action to take to stop Donald Trump is to vote against him. I did so today, as part of early voting in Cook County Illinois. Yes, the line was sort of long, but it was time that was necessary to vote for an actual Republican to be President of the United States. I just hope that today was not the last day this year or the last day ever that I may be able to vote for a Republican to be our leader.

In spite of all of this, my enthusiasm and happiness about voting was at a personal all-time low today. I could not vote for Mitt Romney, the man who should be President today, and I had to pass on casting a wasted vote for Jeb Bush, the most prepared person to be President who ran this cycle, but who ended his campaign weeks ago, back when it looked like Trump would be easier to stop.

I would have liked to have voted today for Marco Rubio, whom I decided was our best bet when Bush dropped out. Rubio's incredibly substantive and strong debate performance this past week in Miami only speak to his appeal as a conservative and as a candidate. None of that seems to matter though anymore. Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich all took steps back to not hit Trump as hard and Trump followed suit. Is this political necessity or is the writing just on the wall? What happened to the calls for Trump to release what exactly he said behind closed doors to the New York Times? That should have been an issue pressed every hour of every day, as I believe he might have but admitted his candidacy itself was a fraud. All the candidates and the media have let that pass.

(As I was typing the last paragraph, I hit a key that made the whole post disappear, but I was able to use the back key to get it back. A huge relief amid what must come across as rambling despair.)

So, when I voted today, I voted for John Kasich. There was not much enthusiasm associated with it though. It's nothing personal against Kasich, whom I have been a fan of going back to the 1990s and who is eminently qualified to be President. I will be thrilled if he is to somehow emerges as the nominee, but my vote for him was merely strategic. At this point in Illinois, I think he is going to finish several points ahead of Marco Rubio, and thus I had to do what was needed to maximize my anti-Trump vote. This was really a decision I had to wrestle with and while Ted Cruz may ultimately finish second in Illinois, I have not seen any strong evidence to suggest that I needed to take the steps of casting an even more distasteful ballot for him. Hopefully, I did the right thing.

The campaign goes on. Today, Ted Cruz has won Wyoming and Marco Rubio has won the District of Columbia. Donald Trump was a distant third in both locations. What happens on Tuesday though in Missouri, North Carolina, John Kasich's Ohio, Marco Rubio's Florida, and my Illinois, the Land of Lincoln will matter far more though. Regardless of the outcome, and no matter how hopeless it may feel, I will still believe that my party and my country will survive, as they always have in the past. I just hope that 2016 will be a year where we can look back in pride to one day and not have us destined to live out an even more divisive version of 1968.


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