Photo credits: Sanders, Wall Street Journal; Trump, NBC
A couple of weekends ago, while out to lunch with some of the family, my teenaged niece mused that she really ought to pay more attention to politics. My guess is that she’s hearing a lot about the upcoming U.S. presidential election. It would be hard not to, even though it is still a year away. I smiled and nodded, unwilling to admit my own ignorance on the subject.
I suppose ignorance is a relative thing. It’s not as if I can’t name the front-running Republicans and Democrats, but I’d have a hard time telling you what their positions are on the issues. My education in this area is decidedly hit or miss, primarily limited to what I read in the Washington Post on my phone during my lunch breaks at work. And I know that I don’t retain much of it.
Politics seems such a strange subject in America. For example, it is said that religion and politics are the two subjects that should never be discussed in polite company (didn’t sex used to be part of that list?). The point, I think, is that political disagreements can drive wedges between neighbors, friends, business associates. While many don’t care a whit about politics, others have very strong opinions and feel compelled to argue the correctness of their positions. Discouraging conversation on the issue, however, would indicate that most of us are so closedminded that we are unwilling to listen to the merits of other positions and decide for ourselves. I am not so sure that I believe this.
Perhaps it is my legal training that has made me perfectly amenable to entertaining contradictory ideas on a subject. As I’m fond of saying, there are usually more than two sides to every story.
In light of the above, it should come as no surprise that I am admirer of both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, presidential candidates who are arguably positioned at least six standard deviations apart on the political spectrum. I see good and bad in everything.
I can’t ever recall having voted for a Republican for president in my decades of going to the polls. However, they say there’s a first time for everything, and, for me, 2016 might be just that. If, as expected, Hillary Rodham Clinton sews up the Democratic nomination, I expect to support Mr. Trump should he emerge as his party’s standard bearer.
The usual arguments against Clinton seem to have struck a chord with me. Between her handling of Benghazi, the despicable email scandal and my repulsion with political dynasties that make us look like a Third World country, I simply can’t stomach the thought of a Clinton presidency. The choice of Clinton disappoints me not only because I have heretofore been a diehard supporter of the Democrats, but also because I think it would be wonderful to have a woman as chief executive. I have long admired Margaret Thatcher, Angela Merkel and Vigdis Finnbogadóttir (former president of Iceland), and I think the time has come for the United States to break the male stranglehold on this particular club. But not with Hillary Clinton, dear God. Carly Fiorina? I’m listening.
I fully plan to vote for Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary even though I am quite aware that I will not have the opportunity to vote for him in the general election. Many who, like me, “feel the Bern,” insist that it is still quite early and that anything can happen in the twelve months between now and the election. I believe they are deluded. While I pray that they are right, I believe that a Sanders nomination would require nothing short of a miracle. I doubt that he can even win the Feb. 1 Iowa caucus, despite the fact that he’s campaigning so hard there that he’s about ready to be declared an honorary Hawkeye.
Much has been made of Sanders’ self-characterization as a democratic socialist. For some, “the S word” is anathema that they continue to incorrectly associate with communism. While I find the term to be unfortunate, I believe that labels are best applied to bottles, not people.
I believe that Bernie Sanders has his head in the right place. I believe that he truly loves America and its people. His support of environmental causes, income redistribution, and access to college education and health care for all place us squarely on the same page. I’m not exactly a cockeyed optimist, however. I realize that, were Sanders president, he would have a hell of a time with Congress and the Supreme Court. Then again, isn’t that what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they engineered the separation of powers between the branches of the federal government?
Which brings me to The Donald. I have doubts as to whether he can secure the Republican nomination, but at least he seems to have a chance, something that Sanders lacks with the Democrats. However, if he succeeds in the primaries and ends up running against Clinton, I will support him. Like so many others, I like the fact that Trump does not mince words. He seems to say what he believes, without regard to the fact that many may react disapprovingly. I don’t agree with all of his ideas, but he strikes me as authentic. Perhaps this is a product of his money and privilege. And yet, I cannot overlook his success in business. I admire the way that, in a recent debate, he deflected criticisms of his multiple business bankruptcies by retorting that there is no reason for him not to take advantage of the protections offered by the laws of the land. That, of course, is how a successful business is run: You make the most of the resources at your disposal. I think we can do worse than to run the country like a business. As I said, Carly, I’m listening.
As widely disparate as their approaches are, I believe that both Sanders and Trump are committed to creating maximum opportunity for the greatest number of people. Sanders wants all of us to have access to health care and a college degree. Trump says he wants all of us to have the opportunity to become rich like he is. In some respects, they are taking different roads to get to the same destination.
So if the campaigns of Jeb and Marco, Ben and Carly, John and Chris implode in the coming months, I’ll be voting for Mr. Trump.
Unless, of course, Bernie Sanders pulls off the Vermont Miracle.
Tomorrow: So I’m a vegan. How do I explain this to my niece?