Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Observations on the Political Circus

I’m not interested in hearing any more about Donald Trump’s sex drive during Wednesday night’s presidential debate. I don’t need to hear him deny the allegations of some dozen women or dismiss his X-rated talk on the bus with Billy Bush as mere “locker room” banter.

I’m more interested in having moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News press Trump for details and hard evidence as to why he repeatedly is suggesting the election is rigged and that voter fraud will occur, especially in light of a study by Loyola University law professor Justin Levitt that only 31 of more than 1 billion votes from 2000 to 2014 were fraudulent. 

Trump’s claims sow doubt into our democratic process, while his call for supporters to monitor polling places in “certain areas,” such as Philadelphia, is a not too subtle reference to minority districts, as well as an inference of voter intimidation. 

Since many states allow “open carry” of firearms (at least until December 3 when a new restriction by the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives goes into effect), are we going to see armed men and women patrolling areas outside polling stations? You might recall that in 2008 Black Panthers carrying billy clubs were arrested for allegedly intimidating white voters in Philadelphia.

Trump is arguing that the media is conspiring with Hillary Clinton to win her the election. Instead of focusing on her email leaks, the media is preoccupied with his alleged sexual assaults, he says. 

One would think Trump would be eager to seize an opportunity to communicate directly to some 38 million members of AARP, the lobbying group for those 50 years and older, a cohort that is among the most active voters in any election. 

Yet, Trump largely ignored AARP’s request for responses to 13 questions it would print in the association’s October membership newspaper. It hoped for a face-to-face interview, a request Clinton honored. 

Trump, however, did not meet face-to-face with AARP and responded in writing to just six of the questions. In its October election coverage issue, AARP, in an attempt to be impartial, had to resort to printing information from his website, recent speeches and a response to AARP in June on Social Security. 

Clearly, Trump did not take AARP’s opportunity seriously as his written answers were short and perfunctory compared to Clinton’s more detailed responses and the material AARP culled from his printed material. 

Who’s the Lucky One? It is accepted wisdom that Clinton is lucky she is running against Trump. The corollary also is true: Trump is lucky to be running against Clinton. Such is the state of our flawed choices (let’s not even get started on the trouble with Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and the Green Party’s Jill Stein).  

That said, it is amazing that after more than a year and a half of campaigning there remain some undecided voters. I was surprised to hear on NPR Tuesday an undecided voter wanting to know what type of justice Clinton would nominate to the Supreme Court. Did he not listen to her answer during the second debate? 

“I want to appoint Supreme Court justices who understand the way the world really works, who have real-life experience, who have not just been in a big law firm and maybe clerked for a judge and then gotten on the bench, but maybe they tried more cases,” Clinton said. 

She wants justices who would preserve Roe v. Wade, would reverse the Citizens United decision on campaign financing, would safeguard voting rights and marriage equality. 

Whether she will get her choices through a Republican-controlled Senate is highly unlikely given comments by Senators John McCain of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah. They said they would block any of her nominees.

Apparently they are willing to gamble the health and welfare of the Supreme Court against the health of aging liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer. If they should leave the bench and not be replaced, conservative-leaning justices might become the majority (assuming none of them also exit).

Thus, just as Trump has challenged the legitimacy, first of President Barack Obama and, second, of the electoral process of his successor, Republican senators are readying an assault on the Supreme Court and the duties of the Senate to advise and consent presidential nominations. 

The simple solution to this potential attack is to elect a Democratic majority in the Senate.

Speaking of threats to our democracy, anyone who has listened to the rhetoric of the election campaign cannot help but be worried about the future of our republic.

A corollary: Anyone who has not paid attention to the election should give us pause about the future of our democracy. 

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