Meditations on

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

My view of our choices in the 2016 presidential election

Voting is an interesting issue. Many of us like to take it very seriously, even though the vast majority of us have virtually no impact one way or the other even in swing states like Michigan, and it's really more about where we are putting our hope and loyalty than anything else.

Each candidate on the ballot represents a group of leaders, a particular set of solutions, and a particular message that we either do or don't want to sign on with. The leaders and coalitions that back a candidate are very telling in terms of predicting what that candidate will do. That's who a leader is ultimately accountable to, never forget that.

The solutions should be viewed more as a philosophy to suit the leaders and coalitions behind the candidate, specific policies mentioned on the campaign trail are worthless. Even Obama, who campaigned on Obamacare and made it the signature legislation of his presidency, had to go back on many of the details in his plan in order to pass it while in office.

Finally there's the message you're attaching yourself to, which is often either a belief in the leaders and coalition your voting with or else a big **** YOU! to the leaders and coalition that you don't want to see in power.

Here's my view of the five candidates and what we are choosing if we decide to select them on our ballots:

Jill Stein

Who does she represent?

Part of me thinks Jill Stein is actually drawing much of her support (in terms of finances, not voters) from Republican donors that want to use her to leech crucial voters away from Hillary Clinton. Much of her messaging is aimed more at insulting and attacking Hillary Clinton and drawing in people from the far left wing of the Democrat party than anything else.

Jill Stein represents the ultra-hippy liberals of our nation that can't abide the level of compromise needed to elect "a progressive who gets things done" like Hillary Clinton.

What solutions does she offer?

This is largely irrelevant, since none of her policies would have a chance of getting passed by Congress and she doesn't have a chance of being named president.

What message are we aligning with if we vote Stein?

That the Democrat party is not liberal enough and needs to be held to account! Liberals that want to send a **** YOU message to the Democrat party for moving back to the center after Obama with the Clinton nomination may choose to do so with Stein. Probably not very many will do so, though.

Evan McMullin

Who does he represent?

Evan McMullin is a (sorta) clever play by the neoconservatives in Washington to try and undermine the attempt by Donald Trump to transform the Republican party into a nationalist party that includes working class white voters.

His background includes

-Working for Goldman Sachs, who represent the worst of American banking and encouraging a debt-ridden, short-term thinking US economy.

-Working for the CIA, who represent the worst of American foreign policy and creating a "tumulta Americana" by spreading disorder across the globe in an effort to achieve American end goals.

-Membership in the Mormon Church, who represent the worst of "America is the end goal of God's plan for the planet" religious thinking that can also be found in some protestant circles.

The play here is for McMullin to try to leech some evangelicals who are traditionally Republican but uncomfortable with Donald Trump and to rally enough Mormon voters in Utah to win that state and rob Trump of its six electoral votes that could be crucial in the event of a tight race where he wins Florida and Ohio but can't nab another big state.

There's also a potential scheme in which neither Trump nor Clinton reach 270 electoral votes and the election goes to the house of representatives, who then choose McMullin instead. Now, this is a total pipe dream that would never happen unless the Republican party was willing to risk being literally tarred and feathered by their voters, but that's at least the story.

Evan McMullin represents the oligarchic or "deep state" elements of the Republican party that want to continue to pump the economy with debt and engage in wars across the globe packaged in a friendly face that pretends to be primarily concerned with social morality issues. The real goal is to throw the election to Clinton, who will maintain the same economic and foreign policies.

What solutions does he offer?

Basically the ones that Romney presented four years ago, not that it particularly matters. This guy won't be president, he probably won't even win Utah.

What message are we aligning with if we vote McMullin?

Many conservatives will vote McMullin as part of a "I want a leader I can be proud of!" message in order to avoid having to pull the lever for a sleaze bag like Donald Trump. However, under the table you're ultimately aligning with powerful elements within the party that hate Trump's policy proposals and are using the "personal morality" play because they think it will work, not because it's one of their true values.

Gary Johnson

Who does he represent?

This is Gary Johnson's second time running as the presidential candidate for the Libertarian party and he mostly represents Libertarian Americans who's main preference in politics is that it has as little to do with their everyday lives as possible.

He doesn't have big, powerful backing and he's not really targeting either Clinton or Trump voters but simply any voters he thinks he can get. The Libertarian party has tried to make a play in this election for the moderate, suburban middle class Americans that generally lean Republican but these are not "limited government!" people so it's not really been a genuine or promising alliance that is likely to actually yield long term fruit for the Libertarian party.

The modern Libertarian party today doesn't really take sides on the culture wars, preferring to let culture move in whatever fashion in wants while moving the government out of the way. So on social issues like abortion, gay marriage, or drug legalization they'd like to see the government end their involvement. They're also pretty hands off with economic or foreign policy issues, most people agree with at least some element of the Libertarian platform. Specifically whichever part where they personally enjoy or benefit from autonomy from the collective.

What solutions does he offer?

Gary Johnson is something of a goofball who thinks the US government is over-extended (it is) and wants to reduce what's on the Fed's plate. He'd drastically reduce America's imperial efforts overseas, perhaps drastically so, and work to cut any government programs that he could get bipartisan support to cut.

Ultimately though, the solutions that Gary Johnson offers aren't what he'll do in office, his goal in this election is to make third parties and limited government solutions viable options for the future. However, neither Johnson nor the libertarian party are really vehicles that can handle that kind of assignment. If they had positions of power, they'd just support the "keep government out of my life!" tendencies in either party while negating the "use government to impose X vision for the country!" tendencies in either party.

There's not really a major groundswell in the country for that kind of policy. To just obstruct everything that either party would like to do isn't appealing to most folks because the country has problems that people want to see the government attempt to solve.

A positive vision for the use of power usually trumps a hands off approach.

What message are we aligning with?

There are two messages that people seem keen to send with a vote for Gary Johnson. The first is a "let's stop using the government to address issues and try to sort out more with the free market and free-acting adults!" That's the typical libertarian message and seems to get about 1-2% of the vote in a normal year.

Another message is "**** this two-party system! We need more options and I'm going to encourage the most popular third option no matter what it is!" This is the message from people that can't bring themselves to vote for either Trump or Clinton and are happy to make a protest vote.

That's a potentially powerful message that could impact future elections if the major parties determine that they lost too many votes due to having candidates with a lack of appeal. Of course, the Republican party has completely lost control of their own process so unless they can retake control from Trump that's a moot point. The Democrats are more likely to be impacted by Gary Johnson snatching up a chunk of the electorate unless they find themselves victorious here or they keep their base in line.

It's more probable that those parties will lose key voters to staying home rather than them voting positively for the Libertarian option.

Gary Johnson is basically the play if you think the biggest problem facing America is a lack of options in presidential elections. If there are other matters that you think the US govt needs to address then you're better off compromising and doing the difficult calculus to determine which people should be empowered to bring solutions.

Hillary Clinton

Who does she represent?

Hillary Clinton mostly represents America's ruling class, the wealthy elites that control both parties through campaign donations and seek a neoliberal agenda for American empire around the world. Open borders, free trade agreements, and government subsidization of the working class are the main goals here.

On any issue where there's consensus amongst the ruling elites in our nation, which are mainly issues in which their power and influence over the country or interests abroad are expanded or preserved, Hillary Clinton, Mitt Romney, or any establishment figure from either party is going to be more or less the same. They all come pre-approved from elite consensus.

On issues that don't particularly matter to the status of the elites, the difference comes down to what their constituents want. The GOP establishment represents voters that have traditional values whereas the DNC has to appease voters with a much more progressive vision for matters like abortion, gay marriage, or gun rights.

For a matter like Supreme Court appointments, there would be some massive differences between Hillary Clinton and someone like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, for a matter like Syrian policy or immigration then the differences would be rather marginal.

What solutions does she offer?

The neoliberal goal is to offer greater government services for the citizens to keep them safe and happy as ruling elites exercise greater control and influence over the nation and its resources. That means continued low interests rates to keep the stock market going, moving Obamacare towards a single-payer solution, continuing to try and assert Western hegemony internationally to suit Western business interests (it's not for the good of the Syrian people that the US is currently involved), and continuing to make the West into a multi-cultural empire through open immigration.

If you have access to a degree and higher paying jobs then this vision includes some future for a middle class but it also greatly expands the pool of people who are de-facto serfs, living (hopefully rather comfortably) under the protection of big businesses with government subsidization that takes care of their health bills and retirement.

It's a far cry from the Republic of self-sufficient peasants that Thomas Jefferson envisioned or that the Republican party nominally tries to protect, but it probably sounds okay or even great to many Americans. The major problem is whether America's elites are actually competent enough to deliver on everything they're promising to deliver if their control and influence expands, or if they're competent enough to protect and expand American influence abroad in the face of 4th generation warfare and uber-competent rivals in Moscow and Beijing. There's also the question of whether they're too corrupt to accomplish those aims and actually serve the people they're asking to trust them with greater and greater power, particularly with the Clintons in charge.

What message are we aligning with?

There are three messages that people can send or align with by voting for Hillary Clinton. One is an open-eyed "I understand this vision for a globalist, multi-cultural empire run by American and Western elites and I think that's our best path forward."

Another is the, "I care deeply about progressive social values and since the president is going to be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump then that means I need to vote Clinton! She's the closest, realistic option I have to my preferred vision for the country."

The final one is "**** that bigoted, sleaze bag Donald Trump! **** his deplorable voters! I'm not letting those people get anywhere near the levers of power in this country!"

Donald Trump

Who does he represent?

Trump represents the self-sufficient Americans who see the chances of their children having the lives they were able to build completely slipping away as the country becomes increasingly diverse, densely populated, debt-ridden, and dependent on Government subsidization.

He's done something interesting by uniting working class white folks from the North and South who once fought a bitter civil war with each other. However, his loose lips and sleazy past don't make him the favorite of all the traditional, college-educated Republicans in the suburbs or evangelicals.

Within his sphere of advisors there are some figures that have been friendly to the "Alt-Right" which is a new right wing movement looking to replace conservatism with something that emphasizes white identity, there are moderates that favor more nationalist policies that focus on law and order and internal improvements at home rather than adventurism abroad, and then there are "paleo-conservatives" that hate how the Republican party was co-opted by the neocons to emphasize aggressive foreign policy. Historically it's very difficult to conserve a culture and values if you're extending your reach and bringing new people under the umbrella.

So the advisors for Trump will likely push for stricter immigration policies, stronger law and order policies in the inner city (ala New York's crackdown in the 90s), and de-escalation abroad in which the United States stops trying to influence foreign governments and project power abroad. For the sake of his constituents, which are working class Americans (mostly white although his coalition is proving more diverse than expected and more diverse than Romney's) you can expect an attempt to pass protectionist laws meant to protect the American worker from immigration reducing the cost of labor or American companies moving factories over seas and removing options for Americans to get middle class jobs in manufacturing.

What solutions does he offer?

Clinton wants to keep the America of the 90's and 00's going, that's the one she knows (like the back of her hand) and the one she's always been working under. Donald Trump wants to back track to the 1950s when America was defined by the working class family, fathers could make enough money to allow their wives to stay home, the US hadn't engaged in a series of disastrous wars trying to impose regime change to serve the empire abroad, and the ruling elites had much more limited control over the country.

If your view of the 50s is picket fences, happy Americans, and good opportunity for all then this is probably exciting to you. If you view the 50s as racial oppression, white supremacy, and untapped promise then you're probably less excited.

Of course in reality, America is never going back to the 50's. What Trump will probably actually do is oversee a controlled decline of American empire abroad by deferring some of the "Pax Romana" role of maintaining global order to Russia and China and halting the transformation of the West into a multi-cultural empire.

Essentially Trump's "make America great again" is really a "try to preserve America as a nation of self-sufficient middle class peoples with traditional values" with a likely result of America becoming less "great" abroad. It's essentially the Byzantine or English "steady decline" approach rather than the Roman "bring it crashing down" to the descent of an empire. If you don't think America should accept a decrease in the empire then you probably won't like Trump's solutions unless you're willing to trade four years of gradual decline in exchange for a better option for re-amping things in four years when Clinton most certainly won't be on the ballot (assuming she loses here).

What message are we aligning with?

I think there are three main messages people are sending with a Donald Trump vote. For many traditional, conservative Republicans the message is basically "**** Hillary Clinton, that woman is full-on corrupt and represents the worst elements of the democrat party. A.B.C. Anyone but Clinton." For many of these people, the two to three supreme court justices appointments at stake in this election are tantamount to everything that's at stake.

Another is from working class Americans who feel (justifiably) that the democrat party has left them behind and are voting to put "one of their own" into power to see that their interests are protected. Trump obviously isn't a working class dude, but he's always connected with them, check out his appearances on WWE. Many of these people are traditionally democrats or disenfranchised folks who haven't voted in a while. Both the working class crew and the traditional GOP voter are probably also highly motivated by the way that Obamacare has left a smoking crater in the banking accounts of many middle class Americans.

Finally there are the people who see Trump as the figurehead of a movement to turn back the clock on America and prevent it from being transformed into something wholly different than what it was for them growing up. In the sense that Trump wants to slow immigration, fight to keep traditional middle class jobs in the U.S., and go to war with the way that political correctness is redefining American values, he represents a new (or very old) brand of conservatism that is resonating.

The potential evils of extreme nationalism are well documented by history, and Trump's embrace of the nationalism moving across the West has earned him the tag "the new Hitler!" But I think the West has oversteered too far away from Nationalism in the wake of WWI and WWII and that some course correction is due or else we risk changing American too much and too quickly for things to go down well.

I'd probably be an ABC voter no matter what, but for all his prodigious faults, I'm for sending a message today that we need to back track and seek to conserve American from the neoliberal overhaul it's been subject to for the last few decades. I'll be voting Donald Trump, God help us all and God bless America.


  1. Amazing. An entire post, just to say you were hooked by a slogan and didn't pay attention to literally anything else.

    1. That sounds like cognitive dissonance to me.