In Search of a New Political Slogan

President Trump has had so much success with “Make America Great Again” — which I never fully understood, since I was convinced that the USA was pretty great already, but which I have to admit is continually effective in how it drives some people beyond crazy — that I started thinking I might need a new slogan for my ongoing “Anti-Campaign.”

(For those unfamiliar with the Anti-Candidate’s Anti-Campaign, we offer two musical introductions: “I Think I’ll Run for Congress” and “The Anti-Candidate Song”.)

My first thought was to copy the “MAGA” formula exactly, and one early contender in that vein was “Make America Gray’s Again” — but that seemed too “arrogant and megalomaniacal” even for me ūüėÉ. (If you’re not sure about the “arrogant and megalomaniacal” references, you definitely need to listen to the musical introductions above.) Plus, it would need to be somewhat different so as not to confuse people too much.

Anyway, following the “Make America [Something]” structure, we could have things like:

  • MABA — Make America Barbaric Again (for fans of Walt Whitman’s “barbaric yawp” and the rough-and-tumble days of the frontier), though in some respects we’ve crossed that bridge and burned it behind us; alternately, Make America Brave Again might be more appropriate
  • MACA — Make America Confederate Again (since some progressives seem ready to ditch the current Constitution, maybe we should revert to the Articles of Confederation — or did you think I meant a different confederacy?), though it would probably be better to Make America Constitutional Again
  • MADA — Make America Disciples Again (for those of a missionary or Dominionist bent)
  • MAHA — Make America Harmonious Again (for the “I’d like to teach the world to sing” crowd)
  • MAMA — Make America Magnificent Again (maybe too close, thematically, to MAGA … wouldn’t want any copyright infringement issues), but could also be Make America Megalomaniacal & Arrogant¬†ūüėĀ
  • MANA — Make America Neutral Again (admit it: you thought it might say “nice” or “native” again, didn’t you?)
  • MAPA — Make America Proud Again (since, as we learned a few years ago, some people don’t have a lot of pride in the USA)
  • MARA — Make America Righteous Again (another one for the evangelicals, and particularly the fundamentalists)
  • MASA — Make America Serious Again (on second thought …¬†naaah)
  • MATA — Make America Trustworthy Again (i.e., a country with integrity: the best friend and worst enemy another country could ever have)

None of those really fit the bill, though, do they?¬†Maybe this is one reason why I wouldn’t be very well-suited to politics.

I’m sure if I were at all serious about running for office, I would bring some smart people into a room and come up with something. But at the moment, if I were serious, I might just turn things around and have my campaign be about GAMA: Giving America Meaning Again.

What do I mean by that? Reminding us that the USA was “brought forth on this continent” for freedom, and that the steps we’ve been taking toward statist control are anathema to freedom. Reminding us what “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” mean — and what they don’t mean. Reminding us what government is supposed to do — and what it’s not supposed to do.¬†If, that is, anyone would ever want to listen to another voice crying in the wilderness.

So, if you were an adviser to the Anti-Candidate, or on the Anti-Campaign team, what would you suggest as a good slogan?

___

Don’t forget: As noted here, I’ve been running a series of giveaways for Audible downloads of the Walking on the Sea of Clouds audiobook, and the last drawings will be held this Monday, the 15th of April. Sign up at this link!

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Political vs. Personal Priorities

(Another in the continuing “Monday Morning Insight” series of quotes to start the week.)

It’s been said that “politics makes strange bedfellows,” and over the last few years we’ve been treated to some evidence of that. It’s also been said that “power tends to corrupt,” or (if you prefer) that power “is magnetic to the corruptible,” and I daresay that’s been evident from time to time as well — on both ends of the political spectrum.

But no matter where we are on that spectrum¬†— left, right, or center — it seems prudent to remind ourselves that politicians’ priorities rarely match ours. As Thomas Sowell said,

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems — of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

Can you think of very many politicians who pursue causes that are independent of their reelection prospects? How many would risk losing their positions in order to achieve something on behalf of someone else?

(Not The Anti-Candidate, that’s for sure.)

Political Guide
Instead of “new ideas,” I think “different ideas” would be more fitting, but in general this seems to hold true for many people, much of the time.¬†(Image: “Political Guide,” by Jason Nelms, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

If Mr. Sowell is correct, and the evidence suggests that he is, maybe we’re better off taking care of our own priorities ourselves, and helping our friends and neighbors with their priorities when we can, instead of entrusting them to and relying on politicians who clearly have priorities of their own.

Something to think about. Hope you have a great week!

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A Wish, in Iambic Pentameter

I wrote this quatrain on Tuesday evening, before the election results were known, because I knew whatever the result many people would blow up in either indignation or celebration and, as a consequence, drive even bigger wedges between us. I shared the little verse on the Book of Faces, and thought I’d inscribe it (virtually, that is) here as well:

I Wish …

That we might preen and posture somewhat less,
Account ourselves without regard to pride,
Fret not upon disaster or distress –
A humble, hopeful star our constant guide.

(Image: “Wish,” by Jessica Tam, on Wikimedia Commons.)

 

And as always, I wish you the best.

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Monday Morning Insight: My Country, Right or Wrong

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Since the week starts with Election Day Eve, I thought this 1872 quote from U.S. Senator Carl Schurz (2 March 1829 – 14 May 1906) would be appropriate:

My country, right or wrong; if right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.

When we vote, we either vote to keep the country right or to set the country right. It depends on our point of view, whether we think the country is or isn’t moving in the right direction.

But the work goes on after we vote, too.

(Image: “2016,” by Gordon Johnson, on Pixabay under Creative Commons.)

 

Every day we have the chance to keep our little corner of the country right, or to set it right if it begins to go wrong. It’s harder work than voting (when we vote, we delegate the work to others), but it’s more direct.

And if more of us did the work, it would be far more effective.

The trouble is, recently so many people have put so much effort into tearing down each other, a lot of work needs to be done no matter who wins the election. I hope we’re up to it.

But, have a great week, no matter what happens tomorrow!

___
P.S. Don’t forget, if you’re not already sure who you want to vote for, you’re welcome to write in yours truly for any office, anywhere.

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Third-Party Voting, and Baseball

Or, more precisely, third-party voting and the World Series.

I get it: a lot of us are sick of politics, and in particular of one or the other or both of the major party candidates. As a result, many of us who would normally vote along with one of the major parties are thinking and talking about voting for a third-party candidate.

I’m not sure I can do that.

The way I see it, a usually reliably major-party voter opting for a third-party candidate is equivalent to pulling for the White Sox or the Reds in this year’s World Series.

(In case you missed last night’s Game 1, or you’re not much of a sports fan, only the Cubs and the Indians are actually playing in the Series.)

In other words, I feel that if I voted third-party, it would be like cheering for a team — any team — that’s not even on the field. It certainly wouldn’t be cheering on the winner, helping them to victory, and it wouldn’t even effectively be cheering against whichever of the two teams I’d rather see lose.

Image: “The great national game — last match of the season to be decided Nov. 11th 1884.” Macbrair & Sons Lithograph, from the Library of Congress online collection, showing “a sandlot baseball game of presidential hopefuls with James G. Blaine pitching to Chester A. Arthur, with Samuel J. Tilden behind the plate and Roscoe Conkling as umpire, at first base is Benjamin F. Butler with a handgun in his belt, at second base is John A. Logan holding Ulysses S. Grant close to the bag, at shortstop is John Kelly, and at third base is Sereno E. Payne, in left field is John Sherman and in centerfield is Samuel J. Randall. They are playing on a field labeled “Potomac Flats” with the Potomac River in the background.” (Click here for a larger image.)

 

Maybe your third-party vote is more clear-cut. Maybe you believe in the values represented by the Libertarian Party or the Green Party or whatever, and consider yourself affiliated with them. Maybe you’re an Independent, and have no history with either the Democrats or the Republicans (and certainly no loyalty to either). If so, more power to you on your third-party selection.

But maybe, like me, you usually vote for a particular party. (If it matters that you know, I usually vote primarily Republican, though I don’t recall ever voting a straight ticket.) And since I usually ally with one of the major parties, I see voting third-party as a de-facto vote against my usual party.

If I vote third-party, it will not send any kind of message to the Republican leadership. It might clear my conscience or assuage my guilt by giving me the ability to say “I didn’t vote for X” when they try to implement some ill-considered policy. (Talk about self-interest in politics. I could achieve the same result by simply not voting.)

Heinlein had it right when he pointed out that if we have nothing or no one we want to vote for we can surely find something to vote against. Voting third-party may feel good, as if I’m voting against both of the major parties, but it seems like a damn ineffective way of doing so because it cannot prevent the side I find most disagreeable from winning.

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Some ‘Anti-Candidate’ Post-Debate Thoughts

First, a confession: I didn’t watch all of Monday night’s debate. I missed¬†about the last half hour, I think.

Second, an evaluation: Mrs. Clinton looked poised and was better prepared than Mr. Trump, though that seems a fairly low bar to clear. Mr. Trump’s failure to take what would have been some fairly easy shots at Mrs. Clinton seemed almost deliberately contradictory to his usual “attack dog” style. (Yes, people have pointed out Mr. Trump’s interrupting Mrs. Clinton and the unfortunate moderator, but Mr. Trump seemed mild-mannered and deferential compared to his performances in the primary debates. Whether that was intentional, I cannot say, though I have seen speculation that it was calculated to make him seem less intimidating to voters.)

Now, some more specific observations:

  • Both candidates talked a bit about the National Debt. Mr. Trump made the point about how large it is now, without driving home the point that it is much larger now than it was eight years ago. Mrs. Clinton made the point that Mr. Trump’s proposed tax cuts would add to the debt, without explaining whether her proposed tax increases would actually reduce it. But the moderator missed an opportunity to ask them one simple question: Are you going to balance the Federal budget every year? Because if not, then you’re not going to reduce the National Debt.
  • Mrs. Clinton scored some points with the “Trumped Up Trickle-Down” phrase, and she praised her husband with respect to the booming economy we enjoyed during his Presidency. Then, however, she made the curious statement that trickle-down economics led to or was responsible for the recent recession. I found that curious because trickle-down economics was not a hallmark of George W. Bush’s 2001-09 term; it was a hallmark of Ronald Reagan’s 1981-89 term. If trickle-down economics lasted until the 2008 recession, then, that would imply that the economic policies of the intermediate terms didn’t count for much.
  • Mrs. Clinton also scored points by pressing Mr. Trump about his company’s failure to pay suppliers for services rendered. I would like to know the story behind that, and the terms of the agreements that were violated — or that were negotiated so strongly in favor of the Trump conglomerate.
  • Just once I would like to see a debate in which one of the candidates actually takes a moment to explain what is and is not the President’s job. With respect to economics, for instance, to explain a bit how the budget process works (I’m not sure Mr. Trump knows very much about that). With respect to military matters, instead of sniping at each other about who has a plan to defeat ISIS/ISIL/Daesh/whatever the Islamofascist quasi-Caliphate is calling itself today, it would be refreshing to have a candidate say, “No, I don’t have a plan because that’s not the Commander-in-Chief’s job. That’s why we have a Secretary of Defense; that’s why we have Combatant Commanders; that’s why we have the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will give them direction, they will recommend courses of action, and I will make the decision. Next question.”
  • The two of them had a lot to say about policing, but policing is a local issue rather than a Federal one. It would have been nice to have them discuss whether they think the Executive Branch has a role in local matters, and if so what that particular role might be, rather than hearing about whether “stop and frisk” was or was not effective when it was in place in New York City.
  • The crime and gun control portion¬†was one of Mr. Trump’s missed opportunities. A simple question that he could have asked: How many criminals and gang members have ever gone through a background check in order to purchase a firearm legally?
  • The question about cybersecurity was another missed opportunity. Mr. Trump certainly did not display any sort of killer instinct, or he would’ve pointed out the irony of someone trying to come across as knowledgeable about security who could not recognize that paragraph markings in a message denoted classified content; alternately,¬†he could’ve asked about how increased cybersecurity might have protected mishandled emails that, it turns out, included very highly classified information.
  • Also on my list of things I wish Presidential candidates would talk about in order to show that they understand or at least appreciate National Security and military-related issues: the DIME:¬†the instruments of National power.

Prepping the debate

(Image: “Prepping the debate,” by Leigh Blackall, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

In the end, I was disappointed that the smaller-party candidates had not crossed the threshold of making it onto the debate stage. That might have been more entertaining, and almost certainly more enlightening.

It is easier, of course, to talk about playing the game than it is to play the game: to analyze the debate afterward than to participate in it in real time. It may be that if I had the chance to debate I would not have fared any better. Then again … I think if I had a team of people to help prepare me and quiz me, I would be able to hold my own.

Put me in, Coach. I’d love to take a swing at it.

___
P.S. I’m the Anti-Candidate, and I approved this blog post.

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Monday Morning Insight: the Educated Electorate

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

It may do little to improve your Monday to remind you that tonight is the first Presidential debate of the 2016 election. Here’s something to think about as the debate looms, from a letter written this week in 1820 by Thomas Jefferson:

I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education. This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.

undecided

A photographer spotted this bus in Australia. I feel as if I’m riding it to the end of the line. (Image: “undecided,” by Vanessa Pike-Russell, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

In other words, YOU and I are the “safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society” in which we live. Our government is not, because everyone can point to one or another excess of the government in which it abused its power and curtailed citizens’ liberties. As individuals, we have much less power and inclination to interfere in the lives of our fellow citizens; our government, on the other hand, seems to have little better to do than to interfere in all our lives.

For us to exercise our control over the government and the powers we grant to it — “with wholesome discretion,” as Jefferson wrote — we need to educate ourselves. And if we fail to do so, and allow the government to abuse its power further and so erode ours, then we have ourselves to blame.

Enjoy the debate!

___
P.S. If anyone is interested, I’ll try to compile a post or two about how I would answer tonight’s debate questions.

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There, but for the Grace of God …

I found myself thinking, as the second major party convention came to a close, about the twists and turns our lives take, about how remarkable it is that anyone rises to fame or prominence, and about how the major party candidates got started on their journeys.

Athletes, for instance, may be gifted physically but they put in long hours of training and practice and preparation before competing, and the competition at higher and higher levels is so fierce that only a tiny fraction of all who ever played the game — whatever game it might be — will make it to the professional ranks. Artistic pursuits are much the same — whatever natural gifts we may have still need to be nurtured and developed, and only a very few professional (as in, making a living from the pursuit) writers, painters, actors, or musicians will ever emerge from the vast numbers of people who have dabbled from time to time in the creative arts.

In each case, the transition from amateur to professional to world-renowned is based on the performance, the output of all the work, as evaluated by the audience.

Can the same be said for politics?

Some politicians have natural gifts of charisma, charm, and attractiveness, and many of them “train” long and hard by networking, developing positions on issues, communicating with partisans (and opponents), and raising money. But political performance seems to be measured by intentions rather than results, promises rather than productivity, and politics is a game in which the influence of others plays a much bigger role than in other areas of life.

The influence of others may be natural to the political game. The intent for the candidate is not to appeal to everyone but to just enough people to get elected — for the party, not to attract everyone but to attract enough to get enough of its candidates elected to enact its preferred policies — so patrons and pathfinders and big-time players who can lend their own influence to a potential candidate become very important to success. Not so in other fields, where a player touted by a superstar must still perform on the court or an artist mentored by a master must still paint something worthy of recognition: in politics, notoriety and the right connections seem to be far more important than doing the actual work of governing or legislating. (Were actual voting records and accomplishments important, ineffective incumbents would be voted out far more often and certainly not be advanced to higher offices.)

Presidential Election Results 2016

Seems reasonable. (Image: “Presidential Election Results 2016,” by KAZ Vorpal, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

With that in mind, I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have heard of Hillary Rodham — if she would ever have been on a trajectory to being a candidate for the presidency — had she not married Bill Clinton, or had he been satisfied with remaining the governor of Arkansas rather than running for President himself. In the same way I can’t help but wonder if we would ever have heard of Donald Trump if his father had not been a real estate developer and provided him with seed capital and connections to start dealing in New York real estate and to branch out into other enterprises. Would they both be spectators had their paths not been paved by others?

Which brings up a more interesting question: which of us, with the right connections or having gained some degree of notoriety or power, might have found ourselves on such a stage? Why them, and not you, for instance?

Perhaps “there, but for the grace of God,” go we.

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Monday Morning Insight: The Government We Deserve

(Another in the continuing series of quotes to start the week.)

 

Something to think about with the Republicans’ national convention over and the Democrats’ national convention just getting started, a quote from the Sardinian — though considered French — political philosopher Joseph de Maistre (1753-1821):

Every nation has the government it deserves.

I heard a version of this quote back in the late 1980s, in a graduate management course at Edwards AFB taught by Rob Gray: “Management gets the union it deserves.” It makes sense in that context, since benevolent and enlightened corporate leadership may succeed in forming lasting partnerships with workers and any unions that represent them, while exploitative management is more likely to¬†anger workers and encourage confrontations with their unions.

Only much later did I find the Maistre quote, the political quote, which I also think makes sense.

Maistre lived in a period of great political upheaval, and following the French Revolution he became a counter-revolutionary and supported a return to monarchy. He believed in the divine right of kings to rule, and perhaps in this quote he had in mind that nations with beneficent rulers deserve them while nations with despots likewise deserve their rulers. He was a devout Catholic, and may have considered it part of God’s favor or disfavor of a given nation.

I think his quote to apply to democratic nations as well, and accounts for natural consequences as much or more than any divine discipline.

Consider our current political climate in the U.S. We are fractious, self-absorbed, and fearful, and we have given ourselves a government that frequently acts to benefit select few, but which few depends on whim, caprice and political calculation; a government that we seem content to let grow without limit so long as we get what we want from it, though in the process it will eventually consume all we produce; a government that appears to view its own citizenry with suspicion and disdain, and thereby seems less and less disposed to acquiesce to the will of the people but continually asks the people to acquiesce to its will.

My wallpaper in tribute to its author

I like this as a metaphor for the 2016 campaign: D. Trump and H. Clinton contending for the Presidency. (Image: “My wallpaper in tribute to its author” by JP Freethinker, from Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

Would you say we have the government we deserve? I’m afraid I would, and I wish we governed ourselves such that we deserved better.

Moreover, I’m afraid that no matter how the campaigns run or what the election results are¬†in November, we will still have the government we deserve — and many of us won’t like it.

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A Serious Question for Trump Supporters

I’m not going to ask you why you’re a Trump supporter. I’m not sure I want to know the answer.

Donald Trump Backyard Photo Sign at Night - West Des Moines, Iowa
(Image: “Donald Trump Backyard Photo Sign at Night – West Des Moines, Iowa,” by Tony Webster, on Flickr under Creative Commons.)

 

I will ask this, since it’s been reported that he’s unlikely to show up to the Fox News Channel debate:

Since Trump postures and preens and presents himself as a hard-nosed negotiator, a savvy dealmaker, and a “uniter,” how can he be unwilling to face a particular female reporter (Megyn Kelly) as the moderator of a debate?

Note that I didn’t say he was unable to face her, nor did I say he was afraid to face her — although it does appear that way despite his campaign’s protestations to the contrary. But at the moment he certainly appears unwilling to face her. In addition, he has been rather vocal in the past about not liking the way she asked him questions, even though it’s her job to ask questions and most reporters who take their jobs seriously ask tough questions. How does his unwillingness — or even his complaining about her being one of the moderators — show him as anything but weak, and petulant, and maybe a little pathetic?

Oh, hell, I will ask the question anyway. In all seriousness, how can you support Trump?

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