Well, here we are. It’s about to be Election Day. FiveThirtyEight.com will soon be publishing its final predictions. The candidates are almost done with their final rallies. The Slate team is getting ready to try out their new ‘calling the election based off exit polls’ project, VoteCastr.
Like many people, I’ve been weirdly obsessed with following this election. My podcast feed has been thoroughly saturated for months: NPR Politics and Slate’s Political Gabfest and FiveThirtyEight’s Elections Podcast and Ezra Klein and so so many once-off episodes. Here’s a broad-brush list of things I now know too much about:
- Party delegates
- Swing States
- Polling (SO MUCH ABOUT POLLING)
- October surprises
- Private email servers
I confess that I actually know more about American politics than I do about my own local politics – which in some ways is weird, and in other ways, is entirely appropriate. The world of economics and finance is already swinging heavily on the potential outcome of this election. If we’re honest, this election will have a greater impact on the South African economy than any local matter would.
And at this point in the game, I have a final reflection to make.
Real Change Takes Time
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the brain chemistry of bipartisan supporters – at which point a lot of people accused me of not understanding the real reasons that people would vote for Donald Trump.
Here’s why I would support Donald (if I were American and voting):
- The US political establishment is a maze of special interests;
- The US political establishment is so caught up in being partisan that it no longer does anything well. Obamacare is a shadow of what it should be – it was rushed into law ahead of the Democrats losing control of the House and the Senate in the 2010 mid-term elections. This is madness. People deserve better laws than desperate last-minute compromises.
- The US system of business regulations is extremely complicated. I mean, why should beauty therapist have to be licenced in order to do someone’s nails? Some regulation is fine – too much of it is something else entirely.
- The US tax system has some serious anachronistic flaws in it. For example, in an age of multinationals, you shouldn’t have tax penalties that encourage American corporations to leave their foreign earnings in Ireland. That benefits no one (not even Ireland).
- US trade negotiations are bizarre – many of the new trade deals are conducted behind closed doors, without the knowledge or approval of elected representatives.
- US military power seems…diminished. Russia has annexed the Crimea and intervened in the war in Syria. The US, on the other hand, seems to be doing nothing – and instead allowing the balance of military influence to shift eastward unchallenged.
Those are some pretty solid reasons to want change.
But is Donald Trump actually going to bring about that change?
I don’t have to support either Hillary or Barack to agree with their criticism of the Donald. He can be baited by a tweet. He is vindictive. His grasp of truth is less than tenuous (even small and insignificant truths, like declaring Obama’s defence of a Trump supporter to be a disgraceful attack). And his policy positions appear to be nothing more than his emotional read of the crowd that he’s speaking to that afternoon.
Here’s an analogy for this: if Americans are hungry for change, then Donald Trump is a poisonous toadstool.
And here’s a related question: if you’re really hungry, should you literally eat just anything even if it kills you?
Personally, I think that defeats the point.
I’d take my cue from history here. When Barry Goldwater ran as the Republican Nominee for president in the 1964 election, he was also seen as the divisive ‘change’ candidate who leaned too far right. He was very anti-communist, and he had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was also endorsed by the KKK. He was also less concerned with the use of nuclear weapons than he was with just winning (in his case, the war in Vietnam). And Barry Goldwater was also seen as mentally unfit to be president.
He lost, and the world got Lyndon B. Johnson.
However to quote Goldwater’s successor in the Senate, Senator John McCain (yes, him):
“[Barry Goldwater] transformed the Republican Party from an Eastern elitist organization to the breeding ground for the election of Ronald Reagan.”
Donald Trump has done the same thing. I don’t think that he should be president – but he has already created the breeding ground for a different kind of Republican president.
And hopefully, he/she will be worth waiting for.
PS: I made no mention of the Islamophobia and xenophobia and racism and misogynist tendencies. I don’t believe those are valid reasons for change. Those are deplorable reasons for change, and #ImWithHerOnThoseOnes