Race To The Bottom Yields No Winners

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Over the weekend there was quite a shakeup in the political landscape. An eleven-year-old video of Donald Trump surfaced that is yet another straw on an overloaded camel’s back.

Many who have been holding their nose to support him can no longer stand the accumulated stench. There are now more elected members of Congress and Governors breaking with the party’s nominee than when Goldwater held the nomination.

Donald Trump’s comments about assaulting women he finds attractive are indefensible. They go beyond “locker room talk.” And yet, many treat politics as a war game. As such, in the middle of battle, many if not most will ignore a decade old statement from the top general while fighting the battle of the day.

One of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked during this campaign cycle (and quite frequently over the weekend) is “How can anyone still be supporting Donald Trump after this?” This question generally comes from Democrats and independents.

Republicans and independents have a similar question with almost similar frequency. “How can anyone support Hillary Clinton after _______?” There are a litany of issues that fill in that blank. From lying about Benghazi and blaming a known terrorist action on a YouTube video, to lying to the American public about emails with constantly changing answers that were quickly adjusted to meet facts as they were grudgingly revealed, voters have many reasons to distrust what Hillary Clinton would do with the power of the highest office in the land.

This is not an exercise of false equivalence. Unfortunately, it is quite an exercise of equivalence that neither side wants to play to its logical conclusion.

Partisan Democrats and Republicans alike have long since ceded political debate and battles from one of intellectual rigor to one of moral superiority. This process has largely depended on disqualifying the candidate from the other side as fit or worthy to hold office.

Partisans have gotten quite good at constructing arguments that highlight the negatives of their opposition. They then conclude that because they have summarized that the opposition candidate is horrible that you must vote for their favored candidate. This allows a full sidestep of the negative issues of their own candidate, in favor of righteous indignation over their opponent.

Disqualifying the opposition is not the same as qualifying your candidate. It’s logically possible that both candidates are unfit for office. For 2016, this is our reality.

This is the usual point of an argument where the Libertarians are chomping at the bit to say “but we have a third option! We’ve worked long and hard to give you ‘none of the above’ and if everyone just voted that way we would have unlimited prosperity and end all wars!”  The problem with this is that the Libertarians, and their candidates, are completely unserious.

Their candidates are entirely uninterested in foreign policy and defense issues. Believing that if we don’t take an interest in foreign affairs that they won’t take an interest in us is as disqualifying as the issues surrounding Clinton and Trump.

Libertarians have had their best shot in a generation, and they’ve have blown it. They should not be rewarded with a protest vote.

Republicans best option at this point is to focus on holding the House and Senate, though these are now cast with renewed doubt. As such, Republicans who have concluded they cannot in good conscience support the nominee had better get comfortable with a fallback strategy of divided government. When Checks and balances are all you have, then voting is even more important.

For those in Georgia that want their vote to count, but agree that the choices given are unacceptable, Evan McMullin has qualified as an official write in candidate. He has virtually no chance to win the Presidency, but is at least someone that conservatives won’t have to be apologizing for longer than NBC can keep vulgar videos hidden.

Politics, mirroring much of modern society, has become a race to the bottom. The 2016 Presidential contest is a small microcosm of much bigger issues. Our country and society needs healing and reconciliation. Our current politics offers further divisiveness and destruction.

The problem with the race to the bottom is that there are no winners. We are all losers in this race.

For there to be a change, we must figure out how to build coalitions built on shared goals and persuasion of others. That won’t happen in 2016.

America has had trials and tribulations throughout our great history. We’ve survived them, and we can survive whoever is elected next month. Our biggest choice now is to resolve if we want more of the same, or if we’re willing to change in order to leave this race to the bottom.

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gcp
gcp

This years democrat nominee was preordained.

Many incorrectly blame the Republican Party for this years republican nominee. I don’t blame the party, I blame voters that voted for him in the primary, particularly the small number (perhaps 20%) that coalesced early in the process. They wanted an entertainer and they got an entertainer.

An interesting alternative was David French, a former write-in candidate. Unfortunately French dropped out of the race.

Bart
Bart

gcp, How is the GOP exempt from blame? They created the desire within the ranks for an outsider like Trump by failing on so many occasions to fulfill their push card promises. Thus the voters who you falsely blame got collectively pissed off then found an avenue to vent their frustrations. To make matters worse, the same GOPers who have been failing for 2 decades jumped ship Friday and Saturday adding more outrage to collective frustration of a large swath of GOP voters. These same poltroons have had years to take on the Clintons. But they didn’t because they are… Read more »

gcp
gcp

“an avenue to vent their frustrations” or show their ignorance. I say it’s the latter.

We had several decent republican candidates this cycle yet voters chose an unaccomplished, reality tv star that knows little about public policy.

Bart
Bart

So you join with Hillary casting Trump voters as ‘ignorant’ or deplorable in her case. Exactly what I’m talking about. Your arrogance along with many others in the GOP is the reason for Trump. Y’all just keep digging.

Benevolus
Benevolus

So how would you characterize Trump supporters? If not ignorant, then what? Frustrated? Almost all of us are.
Fed up? Who isn’t.
Broke? Join the club.
Scared? Welcome to the new millennium.

No, there must be something else that distinguishes Trump supporters.

Davo65
Davo65

White.

Bertha
Bertha

Eww. I’m white and do NOT want to be associated with Trump. Try again.

Bart
Bart

“So how would you characterize Trump supporters?”

All of the above. The difference being many/most Trump voters decided they would vote for a non-pol as a means to change the status quo. Those like yourself feeling the same frustrations, etc. choose to keep voting for the same professional politicians that got us here hoping they will somehow change course.

Benevolus
Benevolus

There were other outsiders running this time that showed at least a minimal level of competence; Fiorina, Rand Paul, and y’all didn’t choose them, so it’s not really the outsider thing either.

Bart
Bart

I wrote ‘non-pol’, both of the failed candidates you mention had political experience.

If it makes you feel good, just call all of us who support Trump unredeemable ignorant deplorables. No reason to dance around.

Benevolus
Benevolus

Actually my opinion is that many Trump supporters picked him because of the entertainment value. Unfortunate criteria for a president.

Benevolus
Benevolus

Ben Carson?

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

Voting for a non-pol or someone with little experience in government makes more sense when you’re voting for the house of representatives, though. Or even the senate. The presidency really isn’t the place for inexperience. You could argue that Trump has business experience but he really doesn’t. He has sales experience, and it’s a tad shady at that.

gcp
gcp

I will make a distinction. The 20% I mentioned above that coalesced early are ignorant. Others that will vote for the republican nominee in the general election are voting because he is less bad than the democrat nominee. I do understand their reasoning.

Gregs
Gregs

“Every country has the government it deserves” Joseph Marie d Maistre. We as a nation must find a way to stop the complete destruction of people (politicians) with whom we disagree. The polarization in America has crippled this country. We can barely agree on funding something as basic as Zika without protracted and vitriolic debates. Many people would rather see the government shut down than to cede an inch of territory in the battle. It doesn’t matter which party is in power, no one can govern the ungovernable. This nation will not be brought down by the Islamic State or… Read more »

Davo65
Davo65

Too late. The next 4-8 years will be a repeat of the last…GOP obstructionism on every level. This is all they know how to do now. They no longer represent conservative principles or any principles for that matter. Charlie talks about the race to the bottom like it was a joint effort. It was not. Lee Atwater started this and they have used this playbook ever since.

Republicans are unfit to govern. And because they won’t moderate or even show up the Dems and America will gradually move more to the left ala Bernie Sanders.

Gregs
Gregs

Its not too late. There are people of goodwill in both parties and enough of them to right the ship. However, the problem is that anyone who emerges from the sensible center is shouted down or attacked as a traitor to the “cause.” The majority who are tired of this “race to the bottom” need to become as vocal as the extremist who are currently in vogue. I don’t identify as a Republican but I applaud what men of goodwill like Paul Ryan and John McCain have done. But…watch as they gets torn from limb to limb by both sides.… Read more »

FreeDuck
FreeDuck

“This is not an exercise of false equivalence. Unfortunately, it is quite an exercise of equivalence that neither side wants to play to its logical conclusion.” It’s really not, unless you are holding one candidate to a higher standard than the other. To illustrate this, try swapping the accusations. Imagine that Hillary Clinton had an uncredited university which collected very high fees and delivered very little value, and was under investigation by at least one State AG. And that she took money from her charitable foundation to donate to the political campaign of an AG in a different state who… Read more »

Sally Forth
Sally Forth

Good, thoughtful column, Charlie. Kudos.