Having agonized with the rest of you over the endless barrage of hacked emails and and the equally endless parade of Trump accusers who found their voice here in October (surprise!), I am compelled to put aside my political persuasions and stand up for the only viable candidate whose morality and character is not outrageous and reprehensible. One small problem, it looks like there isn’t one.
Not all people are as informed on popular culture as others are, some people have jobs and families, or even hobbies which divert their attention from the cesspools of television, Hollywood, and Washington. Despite my own busy life, I still can’t as easily ignore what I see and hear, so, for better or worse, Donald Trump’s crude hot mic moment came as no more of a surprise to me than the revelations that Hillary had a “secret” dream of open borders, or that her campaign disdained traditional religion. The allegations of the women against Trump were more of a surprise, but the timing arguably casts a shadow over whether they are victims or operatives. Unfortunately, the election will be over before their stories can be checked out. That is not to Trump’s advantage, as people tend to lean guilty until proven innocent when it comes to accusations of sexual impropriety, especially when you have numbers of accusers, and Trump and Billy Bush provided the template for the accusations. Trump has tried to fight back, citing Bill Clinton’s sordid sexual escapades and Hillary’s codependent participation in silencing or destroying the women who accused him; far worse than most of what Trump is accused of. Sexual innuendo has a shelf life though, and accusations of impropriety are a dish best served hot. Though the atrocities committed on women by the Clintons are generally acknowledged by all but the most naive partisans, it’s yesteryear’s news, and we like our salaciousness fresh and juicy.
But if we stipulate that Mr. Trump is as corrupt a human being as Hillary Clinton, what then shall we do? It’s as though we live in a neighborhood with two grocery stores; one grocer beats his wife, and the other beats his kid… at which store do we buy our groceries? Oh, there’s a couple down the road that wants to start a grocery store, they can take your money if you want to make a statement, but they can’t give you any food. If you don’t make a choice, your neighbors will make the choice for you, so your kids don’t starve, and send you the bill later. Oh, by the way, one store is selling some food that you love, and the other is selling only food you hate. Let’s not have dizzying arguments about whose sin is more mortal, let’s not try to defend the reprehensible in either candidate, let us admit that these characters would not be our first choices for godparents for our children– but where will we buy our groceries?
Progressives are better at this than we are. Conservatives are more black and white about right and wrong. Republicans are the party who forced their own President to leave office over a cover-up, and no one even died! Progressives tend to see sin as more relative; relative to party, relative to how it impacts their goals, relative to whether it helps or hurts their political adversaries. When our guys do or say something unseemly, it generally spells their doom. Democrats who do the same are tapped for their own TV shows, regularly reelected, sometimes even after a stint in prison, or steadfastly supported while the loyal make excuses for their missteps. Let’s not go there. Let’s not lose our moral compass in justifying wickedness, but neither let us lose our hope in the Clintonian supposition that a person or a situation is beyond redemption. In the end, when we are left with only bad choices, including the bad choice of not choosing, we are consigned to the pragmatism of a choice based on something other than virtue, our future.
President Obama recently echoed the sentiments of Hillary’s “basket of deplorables” comment, in referring to Rush Limbaugh listeners and Fox News viewers as being “in the swamp of crazy…there’s sort of a spectrum, right– it’s a whole kind of ecosystem…”. Likewise the hacked emails from John Podesta revealed the disdain the campaign has for conservative Catholics, and worse still, Evangelicals. Bill Clinton then referenced conservative voters as rednecks, reminiscent of Obama’s infamous “Cinging to guns and religion” comment. The catchy Democratic slogan, “Stronger together”, apparently has some narrowly drawn parameters. All these show a party unwelcoming of dissent, intolerant of debate, and disparaging of those who disagree. In an election where our choices are between Donald and Hillary, it is hard to disagree that we are “in the swamp of crazy”, but we have followed the trail you blazed to get us here, Mr. President, these are both the candidates your party wanted.
IMHO: In a run-off between complicated deviancy and common baseness, revulsion of the latter is more gut level and doesn’t require the tedium of thinking things through as does the former. As ridiculously convoluted and unbelievable the Clinton excuses may be, without video of the transgressions, outlandish tales can be spun for the gullible. For that reason, pundits can be excused for again writing obituaries for the Trump campaign. In any other election year, with any other set of candidates, this would be well over. Yet the latest polls show Trump continuing to be competitive, despite the dip immediately after the release of the hot mic tape. One recalls the words of Hillary Clinton, “Why am I not fifty points ahead?!”. We are in this election beyond values; if values are to be the criteria then both candidates are disqualified. Hope is not lost though. Unlike the imagery of a basket of “unredeemable deplorables” floating lost forever through a “swamp of crazy”, this is where conservatives are less black and white than progressives. Few people are monsters, nowhere near half, and even fewer are beyond redemption. Though these candidates are indeed flawed, their flaws may not define them; the story of many great men and women is about redemption. Our choice may come down to which candidate we sense is more likely to find that road, and failing that, which candidate is more likely to secure our future despite their flaws.
Some regard their vote as an extension of their soul, not to be sullied by being connected to a sub-par candidate. I can’t blame them for that, each must follow their conscience, but these make themselves of no consequence to this election, and less consequence to future elections than they might believe. What they may however do is miss an opportunity to mitigate the damages. If you want to change the future of our political process it will require a little more effort than voting for some obscure third party candidate or write-in so you can absolve yourself with a bumper sticker after the election. You can answer how you please, but the only question left to us this time around is “Trump or Hillary?”. If you can’t find a way to answer that question, someone else will answer it for you.
“Our lives are fashioned by our choices.
First we make our choices.
Then our choices make us.”