Politics

Regular readers know that I do not care for politics.  This will be my only such post this year.

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Bah and Humbug

Every morning, I wake up brimming with hope: Will this be the day when we learn that at least one of our two deeply flawed presidential candidates has dropped out?

Then I fire up the computer and look at the news, and every day I am disappointed.

My hope springs eternal, but we have less than three months left.

Let’s review how we got these two candidates:

–The Republicans had many candidates and while the field sorted itself out, CNN and other news outlets gave the reality-show star Donald Trump five times as much coverage as all the other competitors put together.

— The Clintons raised a $2 billion “charitable” foundation, staffed it with hangers-on going back to the 1990s and effectively dared any credible Democrat to run against that kind of money and clout. It worked, but still Hillary Clinton nearly lost to an underfunded 74-year-old socialist.

None of this speaks well for the candidates or our media, but it is where we are. Now we have two very unappealing people running for president, and voters are having to decide which candidate they hate least when choosing how to vote. (As I have hinted, if at least one of the candidates isn’t replaced, I’ll vote third-party or not at all.)

If either candidate wanted to advance the policies of his or her party’s platform, he or she would remove his or her name from the race. The party could run a different candidate — say its vice-presidential nominee — who lacked all the negatives and win the election in a landslide.

Since both candidates are holding on even as their remarkably high negatives drag down enthusiasm nationwide, my assumption is that both are motivated more by personal ego than by any commitment to the good of party or the country.

During the 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, there were personal slurs thrown by partisans against both parties’ candidates. But in the main, those candidates were honest, careful individuals. They held different political views but were decent people who had lived honorable lives. Not so this year.

Very unfortunate.

 
Other Election Thoughts

1. More Parties?

Our electoral parties are riven now by internal factions. The Democratic Party has a strong social democratic wing. The Republican candidate has drawn new people to the party who have little interest in its traditional platforms.

Nothing in the U.S. Constitution says our elections must involve only two parties, but neither party wants to relinquish its claim to approximately half the electorate or to open the presidential debates to candidates nominated by the Greens or the Libertarians.

At times in the past, our two parties absorbed disparate factions by incorporating at least some of the factions’ concerns. At the moment this process feels strained; I’m not sure Bernie Sanders supporters are very happy with Hillary or traditional Republicans are comfortable in the Party of Trump.

A young mathematician friend says that in game theory, all multi-variate decision processes boil down eventually to two alternatives. This may be what we have here.

But as people differentiate themselves by disparate group identities and affiliations, I wonder sometimes whether explicitly negotiated trade-offs at the congressional level might lead to better policy than the mud-slinging and low-brow arguments that are part of our electoral campaigns.

 

2. The Executive Branch

Each of the last two presidents has faced a divided Congress and has substituted broad administrative decision-making for the difficult task of working with the legislature.

Effectively, presidents have co-opted the legislative function and dared the courts to say no. I know that partisans in each party will say, “The other guys did it first,” but I’m getting tired of it.

Theoretically, the job of the presidency is to manage the executive branch. This is a pretty big job in itself, and it’s fair to argue that it should receive more presidential attention.

In the last 16 years, we have had stinging critiques of crisis management in New Orleans, the Internal Revenue Service playing political favorites and the Veterans Administration covering up its failings in medical care for sick soldiers.

I can’t recall a presidential candidate of either party talking about managing the nation’s business better, but that is what executive leaders are supposed to do.

In fact, people are not pleased with what they see of the federal bureaucracy. Here are the least-respected organizations in the country, as ranked by respondents in a Gallup poll this summer.

 

Worst-Rated U.S. Business Sectors — Net-Negative Ratings

For each of the following business sectors in the United States, please say whether your overall view of it is very positive, somewhat positive, neutral, somewhat negative or very negative.

Total positive Neutral Total negative Net positive
% % % pct. pts.
Oil and gas industry 37 17 44 -7
The legal field 31 28 39 -8
Healthcare industry 34 12 54 -20
Pharmaceutical industry 28 19 51 -23
The federal government 28 16 55 -27
GALLUP, AUG. 3-7, 2016

 

As you can see, the federal government comes in dead last.

You’d think that a candidate running to be the chief executive might want to make the case that he or she could do a better job of it.

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