Tag Archives: Bob MacDonald

Raise Your Hand if You Don’t Like Hillary

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Hillary Clinton may be the luckiest person in the world; certainly in presidential politics. No presidential nominee of any major Party has ever entered an election with lower “likability” ratings than Hillary Clinton; except for one, Donald Trump. No presidential nominee of any major Party has ever entered an election with a longer list questionable and seemingly corrupt activities than Hillary Clinton; except for one, Donald Trump. No presidential nominee of any major Party has ever entered an election under an active investigation for possible illegal actions, except for Hillary Clinton; not even Trump.

And yet, despite carrying around 30 years of scuffed-up political baggage and the rotting stench of a landfill full of political scandal that has made Hillary possibly the most distrusted and disliked candidate in presidential election history, as of now, it appears likely that she will be elected as the next president.

What’s going on here?

Hillary is not even all that popular with traditional Democratic voters. The Democratic primaries were intended to be a parade to her coronation, but instead they turned into a slogging slug-fest against a little-known 74 year old admitted Socialist. In the end it was the system not sentiment that gave Hillary the nomination. Makes you wonder how lucky Hillary is that Joe Biden was unwilling to take her and the system on in the primaries.

In the meantime, political neophyte Donald Trump using bluster, insults, grandiose promises and racist fear-mongering was improbably bulldozing through 16 other Republican candidates to (presumptively) secure the Republican nomination. Clinton is lucky that Trump took the Republican nomination, because he is probably the only candidate the Republicans could nominate that she could beat in the election. While Hillary is loathed by many, the prospect of a Trump presidency is terrifying to even more.

The story goes deeper than Hillary and Trump

Aside from the obvious deficiencies of Trump and Clinton, there is something deeper impacting this election that makes it even more difficult to pick a winner.

Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders offer forensic evidence that American voters – of both Parties – are dissatisfied, frustrated and angry with the status quo of the establishment political system. If that were not the case, Trump would have lasted about a month and Sanders would have remained an unknown Socialist senator from Vermont. The electorate has indicated, in no uncertain terms, that they want change; and are so desperate for it they will support one totally ill-prepared candidate and a Socialist.

In effect, Trump has been anointed as a “change agent” in this election, while Hillary embraces a continuation of the status quo. Under normal circumstances, when the voters have the attitude of “throw the bums out,” as a change agent, Trump would have an easy path to victory; especially considering how unpopular Clinton is personally. But these are not normal circumstances.

Trump is not your prototypical change agent who presents a clearly defined and understandable vision of change.  He does not have a history of persistent and consistent opposition to the status quo and, most important for a change agent, he has not been able to build a consensus of trust among voters that he is doing the right thing, the right way. Under normal circumstances it would be difficult to see Trump as an effective change agent, but these are not normal circumstances.

Change to believe in …

The concept of change is complicated and is often seen as both friend and foe. Those most frustrated with the status quo are the most vociferous in calling for change, but for some strange reason, they are often the most likely to resist change when it is presented. Maybe it is the like the old idiom, “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t.” This feeling is akin to the actions of an abused spouse who desperately seeks to change the situation, but fears what a change would mean for the future. As a result, there is often a willingness to accept the abuse, based on the false hope that the environment will change on its own.     

Real change only comes about when people fear the status quo more than they fear the unknown of change. This axiom was effectively demonstrated in the recent “Brexit” vote in the United Kingdom.  A slim majority of British voters were so fearful of their future in the European Union, they were willing to vote for a totally unknown future.

Trump has the opportunity to be a true change agent for the political system. As much as the idea of political change in this country is appealing and exciting (and needed), the reality of change is unsettling and scary; even for those who clamor for change. In the end, people are willing to embrace real change, only when they have justified trust in the leader who is leading them into the unknown. Earning the trust of the average voter (who does want change) by demonstrating that he is about the right change in the right way, is a bridge that Trump has not yet crossed.

Sure, Trump has the blind trust of his core voters, but they are not the majority of voters. Trump has a unique generational opportunity (just as Ronald Reagan did) to be a positive agent for change, but to do so he must earn the trust of voters. However, earning this trust is not accomplished with bluster, fear-mongering and demagoguery. If Trump fails to pass this test of trust, he will fail and so will the hope for change.

What is ironic (sad) in this situation is that at a time when people are crying out for change, but fearing that they can’t trust the unknown of change presented by Trump, they likely may elect the very person they distrust and dislike the most and she will bring about the least change in the system.

Trump Makes America Great

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Trump is like the safety-valve that was attached to the old railroad steam engines. This safety-valve would automatically open to harmlessly relieve any excessive pressure building up in the boiler; preventing an explosion that could derail and destroy the train. In a sense Trump’s presidential campaign has served as a safety-valve for society by allowing voters to vent pent-up feelings of powerlessness, disenfranchisement and the tension of economic displacement that has built up; preventing an explosion that could potentially change the very structure of American government.   

Frustration with the established political process reaches a dangerous boiling point every few generations because the American government is an oligarchy masquerading as a democracy. The only thing the founders of the American government feared more than the tyranny of a monarchy was the power of the people. Not trusting the actions of the people in a true democracy, the founders created a representative democratic republic. The government structure outlined in the Constitution was intended to limit, not liberate the power of the people. Just a couple of examples make the point: When the Constitution was adopted, only six percent of the American population were eligible to vote; people could not vote directly for their senators or president. Even now the president is not elected by a direct vote of the people.

The idea promulgated by those in power that the American government is “of the people, by the people and for the people” is at odds with reality. The American government is, and always has been, controlled by an elite few. That is what the drafters of the constitution intended. This contradiction creates a natural friction between the masses who are told that they have power, but don’t, and those elite few who really do have power. If this tension between the myth and the reality of where power resides is allowed to fester for too long, it could lead to catastrophic consequences for the country.

Populism as a Safety-valve to Release Political Tension   

Over the years the tension between the people and the government has given rise to a number of presidential candidates who were identified as “populist leaders.” Some of the best known of these populist leaders include William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, George Wallace and Ross Perot. The appeal of these populist leaders was based on the economic grievances of those who felt financially exploited by the system – farmers, factory workers and small businesses. Ancillary to these economic issues, the populist leaders promised a “crusade” that would bring to task the entrenched elites of the political establishment, powerful banks, the Lords of Wall Street and the national media that is seen as gatekeepers of established power.

While none of the populist provocateurs were able to wrench power away from the establishment elite, they did give voice to those who felt disadvantaged and powerless; releasing the tension between the powerful and powerless before it reached the boiling point. (It can be argued that Andrew Jackson was a populist leader who did succeed. Jackson had a plurality of votes in his first campaign for president, but not a majority, so the election was thrown into the House of Representatives where the establishment elected their own candidate, However Jackson did come back to win the presidency in the next election. Seeing himself as the “direct representative” of the common man, Jackson brought about fundamental changes in the political and economic power-structure that took the establishment almost 60 years to undo.)   

Trump is the Heir to Frustration, Distrust and Disappointment

Donald Trump (and Bernie Sanders too) has inherited the legacy of the populist leaders who have gone before him. There are those who suggest that Trump is better described as an egotist than a true populist for the common man, but nevertheless he has touched the nerve of disenchantment with the overwhelming power of the elite establishment felt by the average person. Trump’s candidacy has given those who are frustrated with the reality of power in America a venue to vent their feelings. And they have by – much to the shock and chagrin of the establishment – making him the “presumptive” Republican nominee for president.

At first Trump’s candidacy was viewed as an egotistical lark or ingenious marketing campaign for the Trump brand. (Ted Cruz was initially seen by the establishment as the real threat as a populist candidate.) The establishment underestimated Trump and his appeal. What Trump had – and the other candidates lacked – was flamboyance, personality and exceptional savvy as a marketing genius. Because Trump was not seen as a serious threat, the establishment either ignored him or treated him with kid-gloves. After all, Trump had little experience in politics and certainly did not have a history as a populist. (As did Sanders.) At the same time, the media was mesmerized by his flair (something lacking in all other candidates) and what were seen as his free-wheeling audacious comments and antics. The media not only gave him a platform, they egged him on.

The combination of the establishment’s ambivalence toward Trump’s candidacy (until it was too late) and the fawning of the national media allowed all those who felt powerless and frustrated with the establishment to latch on to Trump; even though he shared few of their beliefs and is anything but a traditional populist. In essence, Trump became this generation’s populist candidate by default. People were looking for someone to speak for them against the establishment and Trump was the only one they could find.

Now What Do We Do?

Now that Trump has (supposedly) secured the nomination of the Republican Party, the establishment (of both Parties) and their media bedfellows are in a panic. With the fear that Trump might actually be elected president and upset the establishment applecart, all the guns of the elite establishment and the media have been turned on Trump in a unified effort to vanquish him. There are even those in the Republican Party calling for a change in convention rules that would deny Trump the nomination. The media has gone from fawning to flogging in their coverage of Trump.

This is not surprising. The last thing the elite power establishment – political and moneyed – want to see happen is for a candidate who is perceived as populist to win a presidential election. That would give too much power to the people who are not supposed to have power.

The likelihood is that Trump and those who support him will be crushed. That’s the way it is supposed to be, but give Trump credit for one thing. Trump has served as a safety-valve that has given those who feel powerless, disenfranchised and frustrated by economic displacement to make their views known. But there is something even more important here. Trump’s campaign – as flawed as it and the candidate may be – has made America great again by showing that people do have power and that it is possible to challenge (or at least really frighten) the elite establishment. Maybe the next populist candidate will have the experience, talent, temperament and unifying “crusade” to win the battle against the entrenched elite establishment. And that would be a good thing.

What’s Wrong With Hillary?

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Hillary Clinton’s approval ratings are lower than any other candidate in the history of presidential politics, except for one – Donald Trump. It’s not surprising that Trump’s ego-centric, bombastic, bullying demagoguery is off-putting to a large segment of voters, but what is it that causes the same type of visceral negative reaction toward Clinton?

After all, few candidates have ever been as qualified by experience to be president as is Clinton. Hillary’s professional life as a lawyer, First Lady of Arkansas and then in the White House; followed by twice being elected United States senator from New York; almost becoming the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008 and then serving four years as Secretary of State, has positioned her to become the first woman president. In building her qualifications, Hillary has followed the same formula and has done what all the men before her have done to become president. In contrast, Obama had far fewer experiences and qualifications to become the first black president, beyond the fact that he is black.  

The problem for Hillary is that many Americans believe it will take more than simply being qualified to function as a president to earn their vote. There are those who, in fact, believe that her panoply of public experiences actually disqualifies her to be president. Clinton is seen as manipulative, scheming, calculating, unscrupulous and devious. In other words, Clinton is identified as a consummate professional politician. Unfortunately for her, such a moniker comes at a time when professional politicians are looked upon with little more than disdain and scorn.  But there is something different in the attitude toward Hillary. After all, Bernie Sanders has been in politics just a long as Clinton (and is far more liberal) and yet he is not identified or despised as a politician. Why is that?

Maybe it’s because scandals of one type or another have dogged Clinton’s history. Hillary haters have accused her of being complicit in all sorts of scurrilous activity that has run the gamut from illegal land deals, Filegate, involvement in the death of aide Vincent Foster, pimping for her husband, being personally responsible for the Benghazi attacks and using a secret (and illegal) private email system when Secretary of State. It seems of little matter to the Hillary detractors that there has never been any credible evidence of illegal activity on her part and the results of every investigation into the supposed skulduggery have fully exonerated her of any intentional wrong-doing.

Hills for Hillary to Climb

The first challenge for Hillary to overcome is the tsunami of anti-establishment feeling triggered by a seismic disconnection of the voters and politicians. People are simply put-off by what they see as the same old same old from professional politicians. Clinton worked hard to become the epitome of an establishment politician because that has always been the game plan men have followed to become president. But voters have signaled that they are in search of an option – any option – to what they see as the pandering promises and failure of establishment politicians to address the important issues facing the country.  

This wave of frustration and dissatisfaction engulfed all of the qualified establishment candidates in the Republican primaries and drove them from the race. Trump won the Republican nomination, not because of his experience, intellect or clearly defined workable policies, but because he was the most anti-establishment candidate the voters could find. As for Hillary, her failure to secure the Democratic nomination until the very end of the primaries is clear evidence that the anti-establishment feeling of the voters crosses Party lines. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have few policy differences, but Sanders made the nomination a battle because votes for him were seen as a way for Democratic voters to express anti-establishment feelings. Had it not been for Democratic Party rules that tilted heavily in favor of a candidate favored by the establishment, Hillary may have even lost the nomination.

There is an even steeper hill for Hillary to climb if she is to become the first woman elected president. Despite the progress that has been made by women – especially in business – there is still a silent, deep-seated gender bias against strong women in power. This prejudice is not about “equality,” as women do have legal equal rights (although it does show up in the lack of equal pay), but it is about power. There is an undertow of chauvinism that still exists when it comes to women in power; especially in politics. Interestingly, this prejudice against women seeking political power is practiced equally by men and women.  

Certainly Clinton is manipulative, scheming, calculating and devious and will prevaricate when she thinks it is in her own best interests. But, what is unique about that? Every other male candidate for president could be described by using the exact same adjectives. The truth is that a candidate cannot be elected president, unless they are that way. Do you think that men running for president have not been embroiled in scandals? (The list is too long to detail here, but Google “presidential candidate scandals” to see how common they are.) Of course you need go no further than the scandals of Donald Trump to get the idea. So why is it that the scandals of Trump are virtually ignored, while the scandals of Clinton are considered a disqualifier? Why is Clinton held to a higher standard? It is because she is a woman seeking power in an area that has been (and still is) considered the purview of the male.

Be honest: Do you think that Trump could have gotten away with his antics, slurs and bully tactics if he were a woman? When a man seeks to gain or use political power by being manipulative, scheming, calculating and devious, what is he called? A leader. When an experienced, strong woman seeks power doing the same thing, what is she called? I don’t have to tell you, you know the answer.

If a man who possessed the background and experience of Clinton were running against another man with Trump’s temperament, background and experience (or lack thereof) the election would not even be close. This is not to suggest that Clinton should or will be elected president, but if she were male, there is little doubt that “he” would win.