Our Over-Obsession With Presidential Politics

Some of the candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency

Some of the candidates for the Republican nomination for the Presidency

The election is still over a year away. Yet what has been the biggest political story since about mid-summer? The race for the nomination for the Presidency. Poll after poll is cited. Celebrity political journalists talk endlessly about who’s up, who’s down, whether this statement or that policy position is real or strategic, and we’ve even had party-political debates, giving the candidates the opportunity to present their stump speeches to the country as a whole.

This isn’t politics. It’s not even journalism. It’s entertainment, a game show with Wolf Blitzer and Candy Crowley as hosts and the prize the nomination as candidate for the Presidency. There are lovely parting gifts like long mailing lists for the losers to use to raise money for everything from their next electoral pursuits to offer themselves as highly-paid guest speakers to groups around the country. Even the Democrats, who at least have conducted themselves with something approaching seriousness, actually talking about policy, are still fully engaged in a far less fun game show than the Republicans.

Even as the ability of the President to push through more than a single large piece of legislation in a term collapses; even as Congress implodes, proving the necessity both of replacing pretty much everyone in both Houses as well as dealing in institutional reforms; even as our world continues and things that need attention are increasingly sidelined at big news outlets because the money seems to be on Presidential politics; through all this, we have had to deal with everything from an entire Republican candidate field neither personally nor professionally fit for the office while the Democrats offerings are really quite weak.

Folks may love what Bernie Sanders has to say about everything from wealth inequality to education policy – and believe me, I’ve been listening to this guy since he was in the House of Representatives, and I really like the things he says on those topics – but being President isn’t about changing either economic stratification or altering the sad cultural decline of organized labor. There’s a whole lot more to it. I don’t like it all that much but the United States is still an empire with a global reach and global responsibilities; carrying on about our over-inflated military budget and the human costs of war are meaningless until and unless we make positive steps toward removing ourselves from the world stage. To do that there needs to be another power replacing us, because as we’ve watched in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan over the past fifteen years, a power vacuum creates chaos that is far worse than anything that preceded it. Just stepping away from our international and strategic commitments, while certainly attractive, would be both politically and morally irresponsible. All this is to say I’m not convinced Sanders – as much as I like the things he says – is temperamentally capable of being our military’s Commander-Chief.

As for Hillary Clinton . . . I think the expiration date has passed. I don’t think she’s too old (although she would be the same age Ronald Reagan was when he was elected and lots of folks worried about his age). I don’t think she isn’t capable; on the contrary, I believe she is both politically and temperamentally capable of being an adequate President. I don’t want another four years of the Clintons. I lived through a Clinton Presidency and it was fine for what it was. And I don’t want an adequate President. We’ve had an adequate President since 2009. We are in dire need of something else.

As for the Republicans, all I can think over and over again is, Are you kidding me? Even if one of those jokers gets the nomination, once outside the FOXNews/CNN bubble where they’re treated like serious people doing and saying serious things, I can’t see any of them doing much more than crashing and burning. Treating any of them as if they’re serious people saying serious things is always the first mistake. Just because they’re “candidates” for office doesn’t mean we shouldn’t point and laugh at the lot of them. I know there are people who are going to read this and get upset I dismiss an entire field of candidates so glibly. I’m sorry. These folks treat the Presidency as . . . well, as anything other than the high political office with grave responsibilities and burdens that it is. There isn’t a single person in the Republican field, with the possible exception of George Pataki who understands this, and no one’s paying attention to Pataki because he isn’t saying something racist or just plain nuts. Once upon a time I think Pataki would have been able to trade on his experience as Governor of New York with ease. No longer. We listen to candidates say all sorts of things that are just out there in another world and everyone thinks it’s a hoot or a lark. It isn’t. It’s sad.

We are so far away from any serious campaigning for the Presidency; the current crop of candidates is either escaped from a loony bin or underwhelming; and frankly, I have a life, a family, and things that really interest me. I suspect this will be the only thing I say about Presidential politics for a while.

 

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