An election like no other
"Ford is building a $2.5 billion plant in Mexico," he roared to a packed auditorium in Birch Run, Michigan, and 2,000 voices responded with lusty boos. "I’ll actually give them a good idea. Why don’t we just let the illegals drive the cars and trucks right into our country?"
The real estate developer and former reality TV star boasted that "President Trump" won’t let Ford move jobs to Mexico and will convince the automaker's Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields to bring jobs back to the United States.
"I would say, the deal is not going to be approved, I won’t allow it. I want that plant in the United States, preferably here," he said, as the crowd rose to its feet, chanting "U.S.A.," punctuated by a woman shouting "Detroit."
Now that is the kind of thing people have been waiting to hear. I actually don't know whether the President has the power to "approve" or block US companies from moving jobs overseas or not, and I don't believe Trump himself knows that either. But at a time when we can't even get our mainstream Democratic politicians to take a firm stand against the TPP, any candidate who promises to use the Presidency's considerable powers of pressure for the right ends is going to get serious consideration from a broad cross-section of people. Hell, one more speech like that and I might consider voting for the $#!^%@& myself.
Well, actually, no. He's an arrogant, vulgar, abusive, misogynistic, hypocritical, global-warming-denying, thin-skinned hothead whose temperament, if nothing else, is wholly unsuited to the Presidency. What's more, he's changed positions on several major issues -- who knows how far his promises about what he'd do in office can be trusted? (His own Trump brand clothing line is made in Mexico.) So no, I haven't forgotten that he's a master showman, and I won't be voting for him. But I want to see Hillary making speeches like that.
Speaking of which, there was a startling development yesterday on the Democratic side of the race. A poll of New Hampshire Democrats showed Bernie ahead of Hillary by 7 points, 43.6% to 36.5%. Yes, she's still far ahead nationally, and yes, New Hampshire is a neighbor of his home state, but it's increasingly apparent that we could have a serious contest here. One of Bernie's biggest problems has been that his message, heavily weighted toward strictly economic issues, has had less appeal to the minority voters who make up such a big part of our base. But now that he's come out in support of police body cams (something Hillary has long advocated), steps to make voting easier, and other such measures, that weakness too may begin to fade.
as I explained here, Hillary has a critical advantage -- voters trust her on national security far more than they trust the Democratic party in general. I feel confident that she could beat whomever the Republicans nominate. I'm a lot less confident that the broad mass of the electorate will put an avowed socialist into office. Nominating Bernie would carry the risk of defeat and the catastrophe of one of their flaming right-wing nutballs (it hardly matters which one) wielding executive authority, choosing several Supreme Court justices, and threatening the lives of thousands of American troops and hundreds of thousands of innocent Middle Easterners with some deranged new Bushian military adventure. We can't take that chance.
But what if it starts looking like Bernie, too, could win? A few polls have shown him beating at least some of the Republican contenders. This conservative comment thread suggests that at least some conservative voters might be receptive to parts of his message. I've long observed that when the specific elements of socialism are put before Americans, they win broad support, often majority support -- it's just the word "socialism" that people have been trained to recoil from. What if Bernie's the guy who can finally overcome that?
And I remember that there was a time, some years ago, when I was against the push for gay marriage. It was too radical, I thought, too much too soon. It would provoke a backlash, endanger lesser but more winnable goals. Well, as we all know now, I was wrong and those who pushed for the bolder vision were right.
But it would be a hell of a gamble. We'd be betting everything on one roll of the dice -- with defeat meaning a theocrat in the most powerful office on the planet.
I'm not trying to suggest a parallel between Trump and Sanders. The two are not comparable. But these two insurgent candidacies do make this an election like no other. What if they both won their parties' nominations? A Sanders-Trump race would offer the country a stark choice -- the avowed socialist vs. the epitome of the capitalist ruling class. It's commonly said that Americans don't like extremes and that the candidate closest to the center usually wins. But it's also commonly said that people are fed up with politics as usual. Perhaps they're ready to make that stark choice.
What I do know is, whether it's Hillary or Bernie, I'm going to be doing my damnedest for our nominee, with every word and dollar I can offer. There's too much to lose -- and to win -- to do any less.