As we watch one of only two true threats for the US presidency implode, I can’t help but wonder where the future of that nation lies.
The promise of Barack Obama, the first black president, and of a younger generation to boot, has been largely unmet, though it’s hard to point the finger directly at him. A vicious response from Republican senators and congressmen had a clear theme—better the US fail than Obama succeed. The country is hopelessly divided and it has taken a cartoon caricature of a man in Donald Trump to erode diehard Republican support.
Now I don’t think that Hillary Clinton is by any stretch a superb candidate. But she is the first female candidate who appears able to break another barrier to the office, just as Obama did eight years ago. And I joked with family members recently about how pathetic the Republican lineup was when someone like Jeb Bush actually looked to be among the more credible possibilities.
Clinton is another in a long line of politicians who methodically rise through the ranks—if you can ignore her marriage to an effective and popular (at least until his own ego and sexual indiscretions took over) president. She seems to have performed well and often admirably in every aspect of her political career, and in the legal career before that.
But does she offer much hope for change, which is what so many Americans seem to be craving? I doubt it. She is of the generation and mindset that sold American jobs down the river with no plan to replace them. Trade agreements, I believe, will be looked back on in history as short-sighted, creating no net benefits to those who opened their borders to cheaper goods and contributing spectacularly to climate change and, quite likely, population increases.
What Clinton has going for her is stability, and that has become a major commodity throughout the campaign, as her opponent spews venom, promotes division among races and beliefs, belittles entire ethnic groups and genders and lies with astonishing regularity. Does anyone fear that as president she would jump into a nuclear war? Of course not. No one can say that about someone like Trump, who has built a reputation on bullying his way to the top of whatever particular endeavor he is involved in at the time.
If there is a common thread to how civility and the concept of public service are being abandoned, I think one need not look further than the role media, and particularly social media, play in today’s world. If we look at the US presidential campaign and wonder where the really bright lights of the country are—and there has to be many, doesn’t there?—we are left to conclude that they are simply too smart to want to expose themselves to the world like Clinton and Trump and their ilk choose to do. Comments from the distant past are taken out of context and transmitted at an unfathomable speed. Lies are said, and repeated and shared and retweeted so fast they become accepted as facts in the blink of an eye.
There are jobs out there that I have often described as so unappealing that anyone who wants them should be automatically be disqualified from getting them. They would have to have more than one screw loose, right? Such is the US presidency. What decent, thoughtful promoter of change—other than Bernie Sanders, who never really had a chance—would want the job and all of the limitless headaches that go with it. Would a fantastically successful and influential person like Warren Buffett have traded his relatively private life for the public spotlight? Not a chance. What we get now (Canada is not nearly as bad, but the pressure is growing) are people with massive egos who crave attention. They might have good ideas, but they are often incapable of working with others with different perspectives. If Barack Obama was God herself, he would not have been able to work with the clowns who populate the Senate and Congress.
I think there are a lot of good things happening in this world on many different levels. But darned if I can find any in today’s American political climate. I am happy to be a Canadian, but when someone like Donald Trump can aspire to the presidency I am less comfortable living so close to the border.