A question of character

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So on Monday night we had this…

debate vs hillary donald

… which one could explain away as a combination of “the American political system at work” and, well …

Election 2016 gary johnson libertarian party

And one could, if one chose, simply leave it at that. But for some reason I feel compelled to say more, if only I could focus on the presidential election without perpetually being distracted by a need to hit something with a mallet, run out to the corral and shovel manure, or just, you know, bang my head against a wall.

Politics makes me go

snoopy-bleh

because I just don’t get it. Seriously, why would anyone want to be president? Here in the US you spend a year being alternately (or sometimes simultaneously) pilloried and on parade. You also have to spend a shitload of money – and I say “a shitload” intentionally, because to get it you have to kiss a lot of butt, not all of it clean. That gets you about three years to play the blame game while trying to unravel the mess your predecessor left behind. Then you pretty much put your presidential day job on hold for a year while you get back into pillory / on parade to win another three-and-a-half years in which to do the things you promised to do the first time you ran, when you were still fresh-faced and naive and thought the White House would be a cool place to live. Finally you have to spend your last six months in the job back on pillory/parade patrol, only now your party has chosen someone new to lead the parade and your job is to smile, smile, smile while they explain how they will actually do the things you said you would do only you were distracted by a war / tsunami / hurricane / plague of locusts. Then the voters pick the other party’s candidate and it’s your fault.

And that’s how it goes if you win.

Frankly we’d probably both have more fun if I just yattered on about the latest exploits of my favorite crazy goofball.

20160507_181128-2

Argos: focused, likable, and he probably won’t hurt you.

But I am a Blogger on a Mission to Fulfill my Civic Duty. I am going to discuss the US presidential election if it kills me because, notwithstanding all the noise and fuss and expenditure of obscene amounts of money, only one person can win it, and we the people have to decide who that person should be. And since clearly only an insane person could actually want the job, it’s very, very important that we take the time to understand each candidate’s particular brand of insanity, and determine whether it’s the kind of insanity that could result in us being blown up or obliged to live in cardboard boxes, because those are the kinds of insanity we should try to avoid.

Pretty simple, right? All we need to do is make a list and then cross off anyone who is untrustworthy, unqualified, unrighteous, undignified, unrestrained, unbalanced or in any other significant way un-okay.

dollary-clump

For the deluded and confused: Dollary Clump.

To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, once we have eliminated the deplorable, whoever is left must be the true choice.

Look, I’m not going to discount the possibility that you might actually like Trump or Clinton and earnestly desire to vote for one (or both) of them. But in such a case I really don’t know what more to say to you. Let’s talk about something else. Have you read any good books lately?

On the other hand, according to RealClear Politics 55.1% of voters object to Clinton while 58.3% dislike Trump, so it’s statistically likely that you plan to hold your nose all the way to the ballot box before you sadly scrawl your mark next to one or other name. These numbers make perfect sense to me since I think they’re both horrors for so many reasons that I don’t have the space or the inclination to enumerate here. (The information is all out there, guys – no need for me to repeat it. If you’ve been vacationing under a rock, please go here, here and here for a few probably-incomplete lists of what’s scary about Trump, and look here and here for a glimpse into Clinton’s dark side.)

What doesn’t make sense to me is that people are still voting for them, apparently on the basis that if they pick one the other will lose. Really, guys, the best you can do for America is pick the least worst? You’re seriously willing to live for four years with your selected portion of the bizarre mess the DemRep Coalition has sicked up on the national carpet? Come on, you can do better than that! Go for the gold!

Yes, I said it: you have a choice, and its name is Johnson/Weld. Yeah, yeah – third party, wasted vote, spoiler, blah blah. Just stay with me a little longer, okay? Let me explain why you’re wrong. Well, potentially wrong … if you’re willing to stop believing the myths and being scared by the lies. And, most important, you have to be willing to quit thinking that choosing a president is like betting on a horse race. This is not where you assess the “odds”, pick a winner and hope for the best. This is a time to think long and hard about the candidates – their character and qualifications – and choose the one who can best be trusted to deliver on their promises.

johnson-weld-2016

Libertarians Bill Weld (VP candidate) and Gary Johnson (Presidential candidate). (Side note: Johnson may look like a shrimp next to Weld, but in fact he’s 6 feet tall at sea-level, and spends a lot of his time standing on mountaintops. This means that Weld is probably taller than Abraham Lincoln – whose legs went all the way to the ground – which may or may not be significant, in that Lincoln ran as a third party candidate to become the first Republican president. Lincoln would not like the sorry, self-indulgent mess modern Republicans have made of his party! In fact, I’m pretty sure if he were running this year it would be as a Libertarian.)

One of the problems with Johnson/Weld is that they aren’t well known, even in an election that has voters riled up and paying more attention than usual. The best way to get known – and possibly the only way to stand a real chance of winning – is to participate in the presidential debates. These are controlled by the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD), which is essentially a joint venture between the Republican and Democratic parties. The CPD requires that, for a third party candidate to take part, they must average 15% in five preselected national polls. Sounds reasonable? Tell you what, let’s get it into context.

  • Both Clinton and Trump won their presidential nominations, which the CPD recognizes automatically, on less than 9% of possible votes.
  • The polls the CPD chose to determine whether Johnson/Weld were eligible to debate have used some questionable research methodologies, such as interviewing only people contactable via landline. This means they don’t connect with younger voters, who tend to use only cellphones, and who strongly favor Johnson.
  • The CPD’s stated mission is to “provide the best possible information to viewers and listeners”.
  • Various polls indicated that Johnson/Weld were unknown to around 70% of voters.
  • According to a report by the conservative watchdog Media Research Center, from January through August this year the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts gave Trump 1,773 minutes of coverage, and Clinton 1,020 minutes. Johnson received 11 seconds on the NBC Nightly News in May, when the Libertarian Party announced his nomination. The other mainstream media, both print and broadcast, have paid him minimal attention.
  • Johnson/Weld are the only third-party candidates who appear on the ballots in all 50 states. To get there, they had to win the support of nearly a million people, spread across every state.
  • A Suffolk University poll released early this month asked voters: “If a third party presidential candidate is certified for president by a majority of state ballots, should he or she be included in the debates this fall?” 76% of respondents said yes.

So yeah, Mr Trump, you’re right. The system is indeed rigged. Lucky you.

Anyway, under the circumstances it’s impressive that Johnson/Weld averaged 9% in the selected polls – a record high for a third party contender. But the CPD wasn’t impressed, and the first debate, last Monday, went pretty much as expected …

Animatron donald trump hillary clinton debate argue

… and nobody learned anything new … EXCEPT that laid-back, chill, ever-friendly Gary Johnson could get angry. Apparently that came as a surprise. Me? I’m delighted. Let me tell you why.

But first let’s backtrack a little. You remember that Aleppo debacle? The Great Gaffe that magically knocked all of Trump’s uglies and Hillary’s sneakies off center stage for at least five minutes, until until some new dreadfulness emerged about them? Here’s a reminder.

So the interviewer asked what he planned to do about Aleppo, and inside Johnson’s head a synapse misfired and his brain went, “Umm … ALEPPO … acronym meaning whut?” instead of instantly understanding that the conversation had shifted to the conflict in Syria. And the internet lost its collective marbles. Suddenly, people who on a good day could barely find their own way to the bathroom were bumping into each other and going, “Haw! Gary Johnson! Aleppo! Haw haw haw!”

How big a deal was this? Well, on the plus-side, his name recognition improved significantly. The downside was that the mass media (and, with them, the masses) jumped to the conclusion that Johnson didn’t understand foreign policy. Obviously it would be a very big deal if a potential Commander-in-Chief didn’t know what was going on in a war zone where American troops are engaged, and didn’t have an opinion about how to deal with it. But that’s not what happened here. For a moment he lost the bubble, but as soon as he regained it he was off and running again – and by the way, I love his ideas about foreign policy. (Essentially, they amount to: “Let’s get the fuck out of everyone else’s business and clean up our own shit.” I may be over-simplifying just a little – don’t you go labeling him isolationist – but I don’t have time to talk about that here, okay? I’m starting to realize this is going to take more than one post. Oyyy…)

A couple days ago it happened again. In an interview, asked to name a leader of any country in the world that he admired, he couldn’t think of one. Now it’s possible that he thinks they’re all flawed, and it’s also possible that he’s just not good at pop quizzes. Seriously, so what?

What matters to me, and what I took away from these “gaffes”, was how he handles a setback. Unlike Clinton, he doesn’t deny. Unlike Trump, he doesn’t tweet, threaten and blame. After blanking on Aleppo, the first thing Johnson did was apologize to his supporters: “I’m so sorry. You all work so hard and I let you down.” For the week or so that followed, every time a reporter said the A-word he took responsibility and refused to make excuses. And when he couldn’t think of the name of a national leader he admired, he commented with wry humor that he was having “another Aleppo moment”.

He kept his chill until last Monday, when he was preparing to watch the first presidential debate of 2016. He was working Plan B, connecting with the press and active on social media, but it must have been heartbreaking to be muzzled, denied a space on the stage, when he had worked so hard to be there.

So when some reporter chose that occasion to ask him, yet again, about Aleppo, he came unglued. “I’m tired of innocent people being killed in these countries!” he exclaimed. “Hillary Clinton dots the i’s and crosses the t’s on all of the names … but as a result we have the foreign policy that we have right now that I have to tell you I think is horrible. Horrible!” He was angry, he said, that people were calling him out on the names of geographic locations and foreign leaders, while “the underlying policy has thousands of people dying! And that is unacceptable!”

And that, friends, is why I’m delighted. Push Hillary and she slithers behind a denial. Poke Trump and he shouts and calls you names. Put Johnson under enough pressure to dent his cool, and what flares up has nothing to do with his ego. What we see is anguish over the mess we’ve been making, and a passion to clean it up.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to be president, but I think I get why he’s running. He’s proved himself in government. He’s been outstandingly successful in business. He’s climbed the highest peaks on all seven continents. What else does he have left to do but save the world?

As for me, it’s a matter of personal integrity. When someone of such caliber asks for my vote, how can I throw it away on someone who would not respect me or honor my trust? I don’t care about his so-called “odds”. I’m in.

[All GIFs from giphy.com]

What are your thoughts on this election? What do you think is the most important character trait in a good president? Have you read any good books lately? Let’s talk!

Want to know more about Gary Johnson/ and Bill Weld? Go here and here to learn where they stand on the issues that are important to you. Wikipedia has good biographical information on both Johnson and Weld. Also, go browse their Facebook page and watch some of their online town hall meetings.

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About Belladonna Took

Into my second half-century and still trying to figure out what to be when I grow up. Born South African, naturalized American, at constant risk of losing my balance and landing ass-first in the Atlantic. A wife, a mom, a daughter and sister, kind of a grandma. Until recently a full-time dog rescuer, now more concerned with rescuing myself. User of dog hair as accessory, decor and garnish. Technical writer, strategic thinker, occasional entrepreneur. Voiceless poet and storyteller. Born again Christ-follower and former missionary schoolteacher chewing on some uncomfortable questions. Ignorer of rules, challenger of assumptions, believer in miracles. Skeptical libertarian, equal opportunity despiser of politicians and assholes. Gonnabe gardener, wannabe beekeeper, Monsanto-hating tree-hugger. Morbidly obese chocaholic, with a horse I don't ride because I might break him, and if not he would probably break me.

19 responses »

  1. I’d like to get involved at a smaller level, but I’m similarly baffled why anyone would run for preaident. Really, the fact of wanting the office should be a disqualifier.

    I knew about the first Aleppo momemt, but didn’t hear about the latter one until now. I really, really appreciate his response the latter time (and was not concerned with the former) and share his feelings. Completely.

    One pub–I think the NYT?–promptly mocked Johnson for Aleppo. Problem was, they misidentified Aleppo in the article. Then their correction got it wrong, as did their second correction. So, yeah–let’s laugh while ourselves having no clue! O.o

    Liked by 1 person

    • Have you ever read “Erewhon”, a satire by Samuel Butler? It’s a good read! One of his themes is that “civic duty” is the responsibility of all citizens – but anyone who actually wants to lead should automatically be disqualified. Something I like about Johnson is that, based on everything I’ve read about him and all the interviews I’ve watched, he passionately wants to be president, but it’s about fixing, not about all the fuss and finery. And while I enjoy his laid back personality, I’m really very drawn by the occasional glimpses of passionate concern for humanity.

      One post I need to write is about libertarianism. Classic libertarians can be incredibly cold in their philosophy. I suspect Ayn Rand was a rather horrible person! So when they criticize Johnson for not being a “real libertarian” I go “Good!” I want a leader whose philosophy is informed by pragmatism and concern for real, living and breathing human beings. A mensch rather than a philosopher king. Because the hard lumps of reality will always intrude, and when you have to decide what needs to give, I’d prefer human need to count first. (It goes without saying, of course, that I won’t even consider the “leader” who puts self-interest ahead of either philosophy or humanity.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. With respect, Johnson cannot get in and your vote for him will count for nothing except the possibility of letting the worse candidate into office. It’s that simple.

    It is not a matter of personal integrity.

    It is not open to you to decide that the cards as they are dealt are too dirty to handle. The facts are what they are. You cannot claim integrity and stand on the sidelines and let in a worse candidate by your moral stance.

    I understand that life is a long game, and that if Johnson were to get enough votes this time around it might spark more of a movement for the next time.

    And I understand that it seems as though every election claims it is dealing with a crisis where people must vote to keep out X because he/she is so dangerous for the country.

    And yet the country moves along anyway, whoever gets in.

    But this is Trump we are speaking about.

    Liked by 1 person

    • David, honestly, I do understand your concern – and, as always, I so appreciate your thoughtful comments. Here, briefly (more to come in a future post … probably) is what I think:

      1. I actually don’t believe it’s impossible for him to win. I recognize it’s very unlikely, for two reasons – first, the system is set up to keep voters ignorant about their options, and second, as soon as voters get informed, the system goes to work convincing them that nothing can change anyway. If we get serious about sharing information wherever we can, and if we have courage and inspire everyone we can to have courage too, we CAN vote him in. One state at a time we can tip the balance. People think the Electoral College will prevent it – but if a state chooses the Libertarian candidate – which, based on the number of people who would love to have “a viable third party candidate” – that is who that state’s electors will be pledged to support. So my choice is clear: to be led by fear in a direction I despise, or to stand firm for what I believe in. For me, that’s not a touch choice.

      2. Like you, I used to think Trump was the scariest option. I’m still not 100% he isn’t. But I’d encourage you to read the links to Deborah Bryan’s two blogs. She started writing about her thoughts re this election in her personal blog, The Monster In Your Closet, then realized she had more to say on the subject than many of her followers wanted to read so she started another blog, Learning to Speak Politics. I link to two of her posts with reference to reasons to not vote for Clinton, but she has written several, all thought-provoking and from the perspective of a former passionate Democrat, and all in turn linking to more challenging sources. She has convinced me that while Trump is scary because he might just accidentally explode the planet, Hillary is even more scary because she will lead us relentlessly down a dark road. With Trump, just as there’s the risk he’ll do something nuts, there’s the possibility that he’ll be distracted or prevented before he actually does it. But no one will deflect Hillary.

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  3. I always feel a bit sullied when mentioning politics (Poly=many, Tics=blood sucking parasites) – and I’m not going to crow on the behalf of any of the Presidential Candidates. As things stand right now, we will have either The Donald or The Shrew – the electoral college will see to that, as it overrules the popular vote in the race to pick out White House curtains.

    My focus is on the ‘lesser’ elections – state officials and congresspersons. We need to undermine the foundation of the ‘two’ Monopolistic Super-Parties (although, technically, they’re opposite sides of the same coin) by removing the Dem and the GOP from these ‘lesser’ houses.

    What happens when you have foundation damage in your home & don’t fix it? It falls. Same principal.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Isn’t it great! Made me laugh out loud when I saw it. They aren’t interchangeable, of course – they’re completely different types of nasty. But they both lead in the same scary direction, albeit by different roads – debt, war and cultural division. Horrible! Unconscionable!

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    • I absolutely agree with you, Peg. The change needs to be total! But I don’t think there’s any reason not to start at the top, since that option has presented itself now. After all, if the roof blows off the walls will fall down before you have a chance to fix the foundations!

      One of the many things I love about Johnson is that he’s the only candidate who has the smallest chance of getting Congress to work together. Someone asked him how he would construct his Cabinet, given the dearth of Libertarians in Congress, and he said he would choose the best and most qualified from both sides of the house. I’m not saying it would be easy, but both he and Weld achieved much during two terms as Republican governors in Democratic-dominated states. If you think of a governorship as a presidency in microcosm, it’s clear that they’re both far better qualified than either Clinton or Trump.

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  4. I was interested to read your post. I think it’s quite possible that Gary Johnson might be the nicest of the candidates running. He might even make the best president. I do worry, though, that voting for him will make it more likely that Donald Trump will win. I’m seriously alarmed by that prospect. There are lots of politicians whose view I don’t agree with, but in the case of Donald Trump, I’m genuinely worried about the safety of our planet if he gets in. It sounds like hyperbole, but it’s the literal truth. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I get where you’re coming from, and I commented in some detail about this in my responses above. I agree that he’s dangerous in a way that’s potentially catastrophic … but over the long term I think Clinton would be worse. What she brings would be slower and quieter in coming, but the effect on all of us would be the same. That’s why I have to vote my hope – that Gary could win. Yes, it’s unlikely, because so many people believe he can’t. But if we can convince them to vote their hope rather than their fear, he could in fact win by a landslide.

      I’d encourage you to read what the Chicago Tribune says about it at http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/editorials/ct-gary-johnson-president-endorsement-edit-1002-20160930-story.html.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I had a look at the Chicago Times article and your answers. I’m still rather more worried about Donald Trump that Hillary Clinton to be honest, but I understand that different people can take an objective look at the same facts and come to different, but honestly-reached, conclusions. I think that’s fine–perhaps even healthy in democracies. The only thing I don’t like is people voting for a particular party purely from tribal loyalty. A vote is something people should think seriously about (as you clearly have).

        Incidentally, I have read Erewhon before (about thirty years ago now). I remember enjoying it a lot at the time and it reminding me of Gulliver’s Travels, which I suppose isn’t surprising given that they were both written as satires. I was certain the line about the hen being simply the way an egg makes another egg came from Erewhon, but when I checked, I was surprised to learn it comes from another of Samuel Butler’s books. Perhaps I read it in the introduction or something. Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it?

        Like

        • “The only thing I don’t like is people voting for a particular party purely from tribal loyalty” – YES, I couldn’t agree more! So interesting that you’ve read Erewhon – you’re the first person I’ve read who has! And yes, it reminds me of Gulliver’s Travels as well – aren’t the from about the same political era? I’d check, but am watching Gary Johnson’s town hall in Texas and he just walked on stage. End of multitasking… 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t it wonderful? Made me laugh so much when I saw it, I totally rewrote the beginning of this post so I could use it!

      I see from your blog you’re one of Hillary’s boys, so you’re probably not as scared of her as I am. But feel free to join the discussion … I said more on this subject in some of my responses above… 🙂

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  5. This is a great post. I’m still not sold on him, but I understand why you are. I just cannot support anyone who is for the privatization of basic services and tax-free big business. He’s a free market, anti social policies guy, and the “free market” has already led us down a very dark road. But that’s another discussion. If I was in the States, and was going to be voting, I would probably go with Gary, I guess, as the least of three evil evils. Sigh. I’m very glad I don’t have to vote in this one. Choice is EASY over here!

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    • The problem, as I understand it, is that the market isn’t really free, particularly in the US. Government interference is unrelenting, you have an impossible tax code and regulatory structure, you have influence-peddling between politicians and bureaucrats, on one hand, and lobbyists, on the other. And the power is almost entirely in the hands of the wealthy; trade unions are corrupt at worst and bureaucratic a lot of the time, and even at their best they do more to restrict than liberate the individual. Entrepreneurs are at a HUGE disadvantage – yet they’re the source of real grassroots growth, innovation and job creation. So while I’m a little anxious about his proposals in this regard, I’m willing to give a chance to free markets + reduced bureaucracy + lower taxes + minimal legislative interference. That’s a model we haven’t really ever experienced.

      Like

  6. I had to wait until well after the election to read any more posts on the topic. I liked your presentation–even if I voted for one-half of the Dollary Clump ticket. (Loved the memes and vid links you enclosed. Do not think that picture of Dollary is leaving my mind any time soon.)

    I am a strong supporter of people voting with their conscience–wherever their vote takes them. If you left the polling booth feeling stronger and better as a citizen, that is the choice you can live with regardless of who gets elected.

    That said, with the election results being what they were, do not expect me to want to talk politics for at least four more years! Maybe even longer.

    Like

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