Monday, 13 June 2016

Joan of Arc from Chappaqua

            I’ve always loved elections. The polls, policies, and debates leading up to the final thrill of the count - you can almost see the wheels of democracy spin.

            Then why do I feel anxious about the upcoming presidential campaign? I suppose it’s the prospect of constant personal attacks, vilification, and half-truths, all curried with a disregard for any kind of factual accountability.

As usual, Mr. Yeats sums it up pithily: “the worst are full of passionate intensity.” But for once the master fails to capture the sheer boorishness and mean-spiritedness of this dogfight, at a time when there’s such a need for a cool and logical national discussion. 

The promises being bandied about are wishful thinking at best - the “good” jobs that have gone overseas are not coming back. This particular industrial flight has been gathering steam since the 1970’s.

Despite sermons on national decay, manufacturing output is at an all time high in the US; unfortunately less employees are needed in this new technological age. A modern factory that might have employed 1500 people 30 years ago can now make do with less than 500; with the expected advances in robotics things will only get worse.

Instead of rants and threats, steps could be taken to retrain discarded workers. With an actual shortage of skilled labor in many parts of the country vocational colleges could be created where firms enroll apprentices in work-study programs.

This would call for investment in a new economic model but if Germany can do it, why can’t we?

American corporations could help by repatriating the profits they are making and stashing overseas. That’s unlikely to happen until they’re made an offer they can’t refuse by an activist congress – all the more reason to cast your vote wisely in November.

There’s a lot of pain across the country because wages - adjusted for inflation - have actually diminished over the last 40 years. Blaming illegal immigrants and foreign governments might feel good but the solutions are closer at hand.

“Who the hell cares if there’s a trade war?” Mr. Trump demands? How about the 4 million plus American workers who would be laid off in a tariff battle with China and Mexico. In this interconnected world, both of those countries would likely head into recession, driving down stock markets, your 401(k) and the American economy for good measure.

Mr. Trump is long on quick-fix solutions but short of any actual details. Even his greatest illusion – the Great Wall of Mexico – is not worth considering since more Mexicans are presently leaving the US than arriving. 

Facts, however, have rarely been important to Mr. Trump – beginning with his inane “birther” assaults on President Obama.

Amazingly, Secretary Hillary Clinton is the last bulwark against a Trump presidency. Had she voted against the invasion of Iraq she would now likely be finishing out the final year of her second presidential term, while that seasoned Senator Barack Obama would be running against Mr. Trump.

What an awful campaign the Secretary has run so far! How could she not see that receiving exorbitant speaking fees from Goldman Sachs would be anathema to a country livid about banks and other high rollers? Likewise her decision to use a private server for her government emails defies logic.

The amazing decision not to contest the Indiana primary when Senator Sanders was on the ropes makes you wonder who’s running her campaign? Choosing small intimate meetings with supporters rather than Trump-Sanders barnstorming outdoor events in this age of spectacle is equally puzzling?

There are so many questions. Has President Bill Clinton totally lost his once acute political chops? Why have so many women deserted Secretary Clinton? Isn’t it time for a woman president – especially given the alternative?

African-Americans and Latinos know exactly what a Trump presidency will deliver. But the big question is - how will the rest of Americans react to the next five months of constant negativity?

Democracy is a messy business – it calls for a lot of scrubbing away at the grime and examining the facts underneath. 

I hope Madame Secretary is up to the task; come November the country will have a lot riding on this flawed, but steady, Joan of Arc from Chappaqua.

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