America has become collateral damage in a presidential election that is a race to the bottom. The moral turpitude of the Republican candidate eclipses the legalistic maneuverings of the Democratic candidate, but neither offer a clear plan to achieve a more equitable future for the nation. These candidates are flip sides of a dark coin which has exposed the ugly side of our country’s sins of racism, sexism, nationalism, xenophobia, homophobia, and religious intolerance.
Their unpopular candidacies have stripped bare the illusion that truth matters or that bad acts will have negative consequences. With 32 days to election the media and public protest with faux indignation after each scandalous revelation, yet watch with morbid fascination as these indecencies are dissected. Knowing all the while that nothing will change, and that both candidates will compete until November 8th — then one will become president.
In the midst of this, highly paid pundits and surrogates on major media networks squabble over the spoils while distancing themselves from any culpability. An article published by Mediaite on February 29, 2016, elucidates why the media’s first allegiance has not been to journalistic integrity or serving the public’s interest this election cycle.
The chief executive officer of CBS, Les Moonves, found the silver lining of this year’s tumultuous election season as only a businessperson can. The latest chairman of the company said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” and called Donald Trump‘s presence in the race a “good thing.”
This type of thinking reinforces long-held perceptions by other nations that America is driven by avarice and acquisitiveness. A belief that inspires external and domestic terrorists to do everything in their power to overthrow a government which they perceive as corrupt, godless, and idolatrous. So, when the ‘Frankenstein’ creation born out of the subterranean ideologies of the ‘Grand Old Party’ stepped forth onto the national stage, Republican politicians sought to distance themselves.
First, by claiming that Trump is not a ‘true’ Conservative, some even going as far to label him a Democrat. When that did not work, they determined that he was an aberrant creation of the ‘basket of deplorables,’ citizens who by dint of their lack of education and lower social status embrace Trump as an authoritarian general leading them to victory in a battle of class warfare. Finally, they accepted the unpalatable conclusion that if they were to survive only a ‘Savior’ could help them slough off the coarseness and toxicity of Donald Trump.
Thus, President Ronald Reagan (1981 – 1989) was chosen to rebuke Trump’s ‘Satan.’ Choosing Reagan had the added benefit of enabling Conservatives to disavow the ubiquitous failures of both Bush presidencies despite the fact that they assiduously advanced the economic policies known as Reaganomics, from which many middle and lower class people still suffer the deleterious effects. By promoting his presidency as the gold standard, revisionist Conservatives call upon an American public which is increasingly uninformed, to recall the ‘good old days’ of prosperity which did not exist.
Though ‘free market’ enterprise was the modus operandi of Reaganomics, ‘trickle-down’ was the prima facie justification for continuous deregulation, tax reductions, and the fallacious promotion that in so doing it would ‘jump start the economy’ through job creation and small business formation. In fact, these policies were and are designed simply to provide ‘welfare to big businesses,’ while denigrating relief programs created by President Franklin Roosevelt. ‘Known collectively as the New Deal, [it was] aimed to restore some measure of dignity and prosperity to many Americans” by providing a safety net through social security, welfare, and unemployment benefits.
By contrast, beginning in Reagan’s presidency the competing interests of the American people versus corporate entities has resulted in diminished civility and depressed upward mobility. Persistent efforts to defund programs euphemistically labeled as ‘entitlements’ or ‘unfunded mandates’ are a central tenet of Conservatism. Since the government cannot sustain the under girding of the weak and the poor, and simultaneously enable elected officials to act in the best interests of their corporate benefactors, citizens who benefit from New Deal programs are imputed with nefarious intent in order to justify the reallocation of these welfare dollars to big business.
It is disingenuous of pundits to juxtapose Reagan with Trump, who is a legatee of the former’s economic policies. From an economic perspective a Trump presidency would look no different from that of Reagan, George Bush, Sr., or George Bush, Jr. because in each, corporations and the extremely wealthy reaped the benefits. At issue is Trump’s temperament and personality which has been demonstrably displayed as uncouth, rapacious, erratic, and openly racist.
With such a wildcard in play, there are no assurances that he will not at some future point change his mind and redirect or curtail the benefits currently enjoyed by the wealthy and big business, for the sole aggrandizement of his business interests and those of his family. There are no guarantees that he will appoint Supreme Court justices who will codify into law agendas advanced by Conservative legislators. Equally worrisome is his populist appeal and his addiction to their adoration. This propensity carries with it the risk that he will institute policies to secure his base’s continued approval, but will probably be in direct conflict with the GOP platform.
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In the end, American citizens find themselves in a similar predicament whether governed by a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump administration. In the former, we will experience the closest thing to the dynastic governance of the Royals in England which the Founders rejected. In the latter, we will have a prevaricating robber baron who is certain to govern as an autocrat. In either case, the American public, which has been skillfully manipulated into turning against each other — loses.
In the words of Hubert H. Humphrey, “…the moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; those who are in the shadows of life; the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”
By these measures American citizens have been serially mistreated by successive administrations, and neither the Democratic nor Republican presidential candidate provides us with any hope of an alternate future.