Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Come Let Us Reason Together

Back in August I shared my post-convention thoughts about Clinton and Trump (
I was wrong. I did not think Trump could win if he stayed down and dirty. I said that in order to win the national election he needed to rise above the rhetoric that got him the nomination. As it turns out he did, in fact, come up short on the nation’s total vote count. But he won where it counted and Clinton did not. My sense is that the Obama/Clinton coalition got complacent, failed to mobilize enough of their core in key swing states, and thus ended up snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Electoral College system is once again an issue. There are several things to consider. First of all, one cannot assume that the vote count would have been the same if we had a popular vote, winner-take all system. The Electoral College system forces the candidates to invest a disproportionate amount of time and money into a few key swing states. In a national popularity contest, candidates would focus on maximizing their vote counts and might actually spend more time in those regions where they are most likely to get a lot of votes. So we don’t really know what would happen if we did not have the electoral college. The same could be said if we moved election day to Saturday and/or made it easier for people to vote. If campaign financing regulations were different? If there were more debates, or fewer debates or better debates? If the process for selecting candidates in the first place was different (better)? And if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a Merry Christmas.

But, I am worried about America. I have serious doubts that Trump is the answer. And Clinton was certainly not. What we have now is a country split down the middle. I am not hearing anything from Trump that makes me feel any better about fiscal responsibility. More spending and reducing taxes doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. Whoever had won the election was going to have to fix Obamacare. I’m not sure how you define “fix”. But don’t expect your costs and coverage to return to pre-Obamacare levels under any circumstances. The issues in healthcare are systemic.

Immigration reform is another slippery slope. Do we need tighter border security? No question. Do we have issues with a criminal element that is here illegally? Yep and we need to address that. Do we have of lot of law-abiding hard-working folks who are here illegally just trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. Absolutely. And rounding them up, destroying families and sending them back to wherever they came from might be the correct legal option, but it’s the wrong moral choice. Not to mention that we need this labor force to keep things going. They aren’t many citizens who can or would take on the work illegals are taking, even if the pay were doubled. So fixing the immigration problem isn’t going to be easy.

And then there is Terrorism. More specifically Radical Islamic Terrorism. Muslims are not the problem. We are talking about a specific group that have a twisted view of Islam and are committed to holy war and re-establishing the Muslim Caliphate in the Middle East and beyond. Trump may get rid of ISIS but he’s not going to get rid of the problem. This problem is here to stay for a long time. All we can do is be prepared and fight it as it comes. And ultimately, it’s not a problem that will be solved militarily. I don’t know what the answer is other the Divine Intervention, but that’s another conversation.

And trade is not going to be resolved by slapping high tariffs on imports. Should we be negotiating better trade deals? Of course. Have we been taken advantage of in world markets? I think so. Deals are being made for political reasons, not economic reasons. We need to be honest about the real costs of those decisions and figure out what to do about the jobs that are lost when politicians give them away. But globalization is here to stay. We have to compete in a global market and “we” means every one of us. The 50s and 60s are gone. Ozzie and Harriet aren’t coming back. Technology and globalization have changed the game and it’s going to keep on changing ever faster. Get on board or get run over.

It seems to me that both sides of the political debate have missed the mark. The answer is not some quasi-socialist dreamland where the playing field is leveled and no one has too much and no one has too little and the government defines what is too much and what is too little. Nor is it unrestrained, capitalist dog-eat dog-ism where the free market will decide how much we can abuse ourselves, each other and our environment. Fortunately, I think the vast majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle. Some lean right and some lean left, but for the most part we want a lot of the same things and are willing to work together. We can’t let the extremists on either side take America away from us.

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