Building on my most recent piece, I want to explore further the current climate within the electorate. Without a doubt, the last two (and soon to be three) election cycles for president are no longer about record. We are not interested in the most qualified, either. We don’t care about experience or integrity. All we care about is which candidate is going to make us feel something.
When I say “we,” I mean a rising majority of those who even bother to vote. Personally, I still hold tight to the belief that record and consistency matter. I dislike identifying with a party, often choosing to describe my views as either Constitutionalist or Originalist. Whenever the government wants to do something, I ask, where does the Constitution provide for that? What was the intent of the Founding Fathers as it relates to such an idea? We have volumes of writings (the Federalist Papers) that provide the context of every word in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If anyone wants to take time to read their words, you will immediately know how they felt about the role of government.
Regardless of how someone looks, whether they are short or tall, male or female, black or white (or any other shade), I care only about the content of their character. Do they follow through on their word? Are they honest? Do they conduct themselves as though they understand they are a civil servant and not a lord over their own personal fiefdom? If their position on any given subject has changed, can they identify the moment when new knowledge or experiences helped to reshape their views?
In some ways, it’s similar to choosing a mate. I love my wife. Though it started with feelings we had for each other, we didn’t base our relationship on just those. We stayed together and grew stronger because of so many shared views and interests. But, she is not a clone of me, nor I of her. As shocking as this may sound, we don’t agree with each other 100% of the time. We can rub each other the wrong way. We each have our own interests that are less appealing to the other. Yet, she is my best friend in the whole world. I love her intellect, her wit and her sarcasm. Our incompatibilities far out-weight any dissimilarities, but it took time and effort to dig deep to make sure we were basing our future on a rock solid foundation.
We all know or have experienced relationships built only on a shallow view of the other person. Whenever we have opted to put importance on the physical (or the monetary), those relationships disappoint and fall apart. The halls of family courts across the nation are littered with couples separating over “irreconcilable difference.” How many of them realized only after getting married that they really didn’t have enough in common to build a life around? They didn’t take the time to look at their situation logically and reasonably. I’m not saying emotion or passion isn’t a factor, it just shouldn’t be the only one!
In 2008, we saw the first case of this phenomenon in politics when a young, naive and relatively unknown junior senator was able to capture the imagination of the electorate and rocket to the presidency without any in-depth vetting or qualifications. Barack Obama was young, articulate and exciting. We heard over and over about how historic it would be to elect the first black president in the United States. We put looks over substance and it was exciting! Record voter turn-out showed the country was caught up in the euphoria of such a candidate. He became as much a celebrity as he did the leader of the free world. He based his campaign on hope and change and the masses loved how that made them feel.
Enter the seven-year itch.
The electorate has soured on the surface layer fluff and no longer has any excitement for their chosen mate. The problems of seven years ago are either still in place or are much worse. The national debt has doubled from a little over $9 trillion to almost $19 trillion, the workforce participation race hasn’t been this low in over 30 years and 45% of those who do work are not even paying a dime in federal income tax. We are speeding headlong into a complete collapse of the healthcare system due to the exchanges going bankrupt because of the failed ponzi scheme that is the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). Illegals pour into our nation unfettered, loan wolf attacks from terrorists are rising and civil unrest in many cities is reminiscent to what led to the riots of the 60s.
That’s when the next “looker” catches our eye from across the room. And just like seven years ago, the electorate is glomming onto the candidate who most makes them feel something. Instead of hope and change, we now just want to make America great again. Fueled by massive unpopularity for anyone else considered to be a career politician, the celebrity candidate, who also happens to be an outsider, is like the bright colored bauble hypnotizing the glee-faced toddler. It doesn’t matter what positions Donald Trump has held in the past, it only matters what he says he’s going to do. And contrary to some pundits out there, he is building a huge coalition of followers across several key demographics who themselves want to feel great again.
I have no crystal ball. Should Trump win the nomination and then go on to win the presidency, he may turn out to be exactly what this country needs to pull out of the socialism dive and get back to the tenents of the Constitution. Or he may turn out to be the accelerant that brings our nation crashing to its knees. There is no way to know for sure.
But we are not increasing the odds of a successful relationship by never going beyond the superficial. Trump followers are in the infatuation stage. It’s how our brains are wired. The reward pathways increase our excitement and joy when stimulated. The better something or someone makes us feel, the more we want it. Like lab rats, we will keep pressing the lever that releases the pellet for as long as the reward is delivered.
Make America great again! Who doesn’t feel a sense of pride at that slogan? We don’t care if the answers for how he will make that happen are shallow and superficial. It feels good and it feels like winning and we all like to win. George Patton once said, “When you were kids, you all admired the champion marble shooter, the fastest runner, the big league ball players, the toughest boxers … Americans love a winner and will not tolerate a loser. Americans play to win all the time. I wouldn’t give a hoot in Hell for a man who lost and laughed.”
Well, we’ve watched Obama laugh (bow, fold, cave, lead-from-behind) and we don’t like it. We want to win. But Obama once made everyone feel like we could all experience hope and change in our lives. Now we are trading that slogan in for the new one because we want to be great…again! The underlying driver of this year’s primary is the same as in 2008. It’s two sides of the same coin.
What no one really knows is whether or not we are playing heads they win, tails we lose.