Friday, November 04, 2016

Campaign 2016: The Awful Truths We’ve Learned So Far

Although election day is still ahead of us, this nightmare of a presidential campaign has already revealed some very serious flaws in the American experiment that will require our attention in the future if we are to survive as a country. If Trump wins, of course, all bets are off and every ounce of energy we the people have will need to be focused on keeping him from blowing up the world. If Clinton prevails, and all indications are that she will, perhaps, just perhaps, there may be some shred of hope for us, although I won’t hold my breath waiting for her to tackle the deep systemic problems we face as a nation.

Public education
Once the hallmark of our democracy, public education has been under attack from conservatives for the past 40 years, and the resulting wounds are deep and potentially life threatening. The grand culmination of their efforts is presidential candidate Donald Trump, a racist, sexist, anti-intellectual billionaire who lies, bullies and promotes violence with every breath he takes, a fascist strongman who, if elected, would use the Constitution as toilet paper. The most frightening aspect of all of this is his popularity in red state America. In the Mountain States, Midwest and South, conservative school board members have worked tirelessly to eliminate science, the arts and critical thinking from school curricula and replace it with thinly disguised religious propaganda and pseudo-science, pushing for “traditional values” over intellectual inquiry and independent thinking skills. What we’ve all reaped for their efforts is a large swath of citizens who lack basic analytical abilities and are thus easily manipulated by appeals to their darkest fears and cries of victimization. Con-men (and women) in their churches, schools, and the corporate media have stoked a burning anger within these people and then directed that anger at all the wrong targets, immigrants, minorities, scientists, college professors, none of whom have any direct influence on the policies that influence the everyday lives of Americans. That would be the politicians who actually make policy in Washington and state houses around the country. We need a national effort to revitalize America’s public education system to provide children with an authentic education that focuses not merely on tests and rote knowledge, but critical thinking and analytical skills that encourage lifelong learning.

Campaign finance reform
I know I tend to harp on this subject, but with the ascension of Donald Trump, we have the poster child for everything that is wrong with our election process. Trump has zero qualifications for being President of the United States. There are two reasons why Trump has reached the position he is now in: He’s wealthy and he is highly skillful at tapping into the darkest regions of people’s psyche to manipulate them. That’s it. Supporters claim he is a successful businessman, but that is simply not true. He’s filed for bankruptcy four times, he’s lost billions of dollars over the years on failed deals, he’s being sued by just about everyone except me, and no one really knows how much he’s worth. The way we elect people to the highest offices in America needs to change drastically. The influence of money in our elections is criminal and must be undone if we are to survive as a democracy. Americans need to demand that this issue be addressed by candidates running for office and that it be part of our national debate.

The Republican Party
As part of the 2016 election cycle, we have the truly bizarre situation of lifelong Republicans who are so horrified by their candidate for president that they are publicly announcing they will not vote for him. Trump is, of course, the monster they helped create. From the days of Jim Crow to the Vietnam War “America, love it or leave it” era to the drug war to the Southern Strategy to welfare queens to attacks on abortion rights to welfare reform to Rush Limbaugh and Fox News to voter intimidation tactics to the Tea Party, Republicans have veered farther and farther to the right over the years, providing comfort and support to the looniest candidates and conspiracy theories, resulting in a party offering up a presidential candidate that their own leaders can’t stomach. The question is, what will the party do about this situation after Trump? Will they continue their descent into a religious/fascist party of violent “revolutionaries,” or will some group or individual within the party have the strength to pull it back from the mouth of madness? Some of this may depend on how Trump supporters respond after The Donald loses his presidential bid. It’s hard to imagine people like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan condoning violence, but these are very strange times and we’ll have to wait and see. We can be sure, however, that they will continue not doing their jobs and fight Clinton’s agenda every step of the way.

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