This article is not intended for supporters of Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. If you’re a proud advocate for either of them, stop reading right now, because the rest of this will likely piss you off.
Rather, this message is for the countless people agonizing over choosing between the presumptive nominees of this country’s two major political parties. I guess you could say I’m reaching out to the “undecided voter.”
Under normal circumstances, I have scant sympathy for undecided voters, especially this deep into an election cycle. But these are not normal circumstances. Far from it.
The undecided voter I’m addressing in this forum is not like the traditional undecided voter. You know, the one still trying to make up his mind after staring at the menu at McDonald’s for a goddam year? Screw that guy. I don’t want to talk to him.
No, the person I’m reaching out to didn’t want to go to McDonald’s in the first place. He was taken there kicking and screaming. And rather than taking forever to decide between a Big Mac and a Quarter Pounder with cheese, the only two options he sees on the menu are arsenic and strychnine.
If this applies to you regarding the 2016 presidential race, allow me to borrow a phrase from a spouse of one of the candidates: I feel your pain. This is the first time I can actually sympathize with the undecided voter, whom I normally find exasperating.
That’s because you aren’t some dolt incapable of making decisions and/or willfully ignorant about the candidates. On the contrary, you’re extremely familiar with these two people.
You’re not undecided because you can’t make decisions. You’re undecided in the same sense Jigsaw’s victims were undecided in the movie Saw: You’re trapped and face a perverted moral dilemma forced upon you.
By the way, are you offended by my comparison of choosing between Trump and Clinton to the prospect of deciding whether you’d kill a stranger to save your family’s lives? If so, why the hell are you still reading this? I thought I told you to quit in the opening paragraph.
Back to my intended audience…
I’ve heard and read posts from a number of you describing this election as a choice between the lesser of two evils. And while that is a wholly accurate expression for this predicament, there’s another idiom that is more instructive regarding this unholy dilemma: “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.” And there is one devil in this pairing with whom we are much better acquainted — at least as far as how she’d govern in the White House — than the other.
Sure, we’re very familiar with Trump and Clinton, but only one of them has a track record from which we can extrapolate to glean even a semblance of how she’d operate as president. The other devil has never held public office and is notoriously vague on policy details, unless you count being strong, winning, and making America great again as policy details.
Many Republicans already are painting a Clinton presidency as the continuation of the Obama administration. You may not like that prospect, but it is a known entity.
What would a Trump presidency look like, on the other hand? Who the hell knows? Honestly, what the hell would it look like? He’s arguably the wildest of wildcard candidates in the history of this country. (And don’t even think about comparing Trump’s wildcard aspect to former two-term California Gov. Ronald Reagan.)
I understand some people like the wildcard aspect of Trump’s candidacy. It’s what makes him must-see-TV. Though, when it comes to choosing the next commander in chief, I’m not so sure I want to go with whatever is behind door No. 2, Monty.
For good or bad, Hillary Clinton did serve in the U.S. Senate for eight years. She served as secretary of state for four. You may be appalled by her track record of dealing with governmental issues as a public servant, but at least she has a track record of dealing with governmental issues as a public servant. Call her shrewd, calculating, hawkish, untrustworthy, or whatever; at least I feel like I have some clue as to how she’d conduct her affairs in the Oval Office.
Now, to be fair, as a businessman, Trump does have a track record, the success of which is highly debatable. His status as a billionaire is tempered by his four bankruptcies, countless failed properties, and Trump Steaks.
Nevertheless, even if you think his business acumen is unimpeachable, that doesn’t mean his behavior as a business leader would serve as a predictor of his behavior as leader of the free world. As Fareed Zakaria said in his latest column, “Government is not a business.”
In short, the structure of our republic precludes our chief executive from operating like a CEO in the private sector. Trump’s performance in the realm of commerce will hardly translate to the realm of public policy. They’re like apples and oranges, or in Trump’s case, oranges and other kinds of oranges.
Case in point: Trump has said he would renegotiate and buy back at a discount U.S. debt currently owned by other countries. While this is a practice commonly done in the corporate world, between private entities, the U.S. has never done such a thing before. Why? BECAUSE IT’S NOT HOW THIS WORKS! IT’S NOT HOW ANY OF THIS WORKS!
— Ashleigh Banfield (@TVAshleigh) May 9, 2016
So what does that leave us from which to draw realistic expectations of President Trump? Not much, other than his words as candidate Trump. And even then, despite the violent torrent of chattering that has gushed out of his mouth for nearly the past year, that still gives us next to nothing to go on. The man has said so much without really saying anything.
Yet, aside from promising to build a wall paid for by Mexico, deporting 11 million people, and bombing the hell out of ISIS, there are a few times he has said specific things that could serve as future indicators of how he’d operate if elected.
First, Trump has said he would “open up” libel laws so he could more easily sue news organizations, adding that newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Postwould “have problems” with him as president.
Given his affinity for filing lawsuits and his disdain for news outlets not named The National Enquirer, I’d say this is a pretty solid promise. If you think the mainstream media does a poor job of fact-checking Trump and holding him accountable for what he says now, just wait until those libel laws are “opened up.”
Second, when insisting Sen. John McCain was only considered a war hero because he was a prisoner of war, Trump said, “I like people that weren’t captured.” I think it’s pretty safe to infer from that statement that Trump doesn’t like people who are captured, or at least likes them less than those who aren’t taken prisoner.
So does this mean commander in chief Trump won’t fight as hard to bring back POWs from the wars he’s talked about starting? Will their captors use Trump’s own words marginalizing McCain’s war hero status to break them by convincing them their country no longer cares about them since they’ve been taken prisoner?
Then there’s the matter of nuclear proliferation. On this particular issue, Trump’s stance is wider than Larry Craig’s when the former senator visits the men’s room. It has to be that wide in order to accommodate Trump simultaneously holding every possible position on the subject.
Trump both does and does not want countries like Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia to have nuclear weapons. He said he opposes nuclear proliferation in the same breath he said our allies should have such weapons to protect themselves against possible nuclear threats posed by nations like North Korea and Iran.
When you combine that with his promise to be an “honest broker” in the Middle East — his assurance he’ll be neutral when dealing with Israel and its neighbors — it sounds like President Trump could be the Oprah of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
“YOU GET THE BOMB! YOU GET THE BOMB! YOU GET THE BOMB! YOU GET THE BOMB! EVERYBODY GETS THE BOMB!!!”
Why not? How many of our allies there, besides Saudi Arabia, feel threatened by a nuclear Israel and a potentially nuclear Iran? Jordan? Lebanon? Egypt? Turkey? UAE? Qatar? I mean, if it’s good enough for the country that produced better than three out of every four 9/11 hijackers…
Trump promised to have an unpredictable foreign policy. Mission accomplished.
Of course, none of these projections may actually come to pass if Trump gets elected. This entire race could be one protracted head-fake simply to get elected. He could turn out to be a great leader, or the guy who ushers in the destruction of all humanity. It’s hard to tell.
And that’s my whole point. He’s the unknown devil.
Clinton, for her myriad faults, is a known devil. Hate her, curse her, vomit at the very mention of her name, you at least likely have some inkling how she’d operate in the Oval Office.
Of course, you may decide to pull the lever for neither the devil you know nor the devil you don’t know, and give your nod to a third-party candidate. In the words of President Kang, “Go ahead. Throw your vote away.”
Republished from The Red Shtick.