Tuesday, August 9, 2016

255. Unconditional political support in dangerous

One of the most remarkable comments I have ever heard from a political candidate was what Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said about the loyalty of his voters.

He said, “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”

There are two things that stand out to me about this statement: First, he is right, his fan base is such that he could do nearly anything and it would still support him, and two, that he completely recognizes this unconditional support to the point that he would feeling comfortable saying that out loud.

Political passion can run deep and influence even the most objective and reasonable among us. An attack on a candidate we support can feel like an attack on us, which often fosters a defensive posture, even “digging in” beyond reason. The discussion should be about policies, experience, and integrity but emotion often rules the moment. This emotion triggers unreasonable justifications, nonsensical arguments and silly conspiracy theories — often more for your peace of mind than to win the disagreement.

For example, it was nearly flabbergasting to hear the excuses, justifications, and pure denial that came out of the Trump camp after Melania Trump plagiarized Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech. And if you don’t like Clinton and feel Trump would be a better president, that’s fine but don’t embarrass yourself by trying to defend such an obvious case of plagiarism.

It’s that kind of stuff, and politicians on both sides do it, that causes reasonable people to lose faith in politics. We ask, “do they really think we are that stupid?” Rather than come up with some ridiculous excuse, just admit your mistake, apologize, and move on. This dedication to spin every negative aspect of a campaign only matters to the disciples anyway, those who dare not see their candidate ever make a mistake.

Unconditional support, or lack thereof in this case, was the topic of discussion after Ted Cruz gave his convention speech. Stopping short of endorsing Trump, despite pledging to support the Republican candidate if he lost, Cruz made a bold statement himself to the party. Cruz said he couldn’t support Trump because of the comments Trump made about his father and wife. Cruz said his support is not a “blanket commitment.”

There is a difference between being a good loser (which we all should be) and supporting someone just because he or she is a member of your political party. Support and loyalty should go to those who deserve it, not to those who demand it.

Furthermore, unconditional support is dangerous. Everyone, and particularly the president of the United States, should be objectively held to the consequences, or potential consequences, of his or her actions. When we lose objectiveness, we hand power — dictatorial-type power — to the individual in charge.

As most know, I was a supporter of Bernie Sanders. When he lost to Hillary Clinton in the primary, many expected that I would just fall in line and support Clinton. While given the choice between Clinton and Trump in November, I will probably choose Clinton but I feel no sense of commitment, loyalty, or reason to endorse her.

For me, the concerns I had about her when she battled Sanders still exist. I thought she should have been more responsible in handling her email, I don’t support her close ties to Wall Street — to the extent she was paid hundreds of thousands to give speeches — and I don’t feel she is particularly principled. I am not going to pretend these things don’t matter just because she represents the party I am most affiliated with.

So my support is such that, “despite my several concerns about Clinton, I still feel that she is more sophisticated and more experienced to serve as president than her opponent.”

While I don’t share many ideologies with Ted Cruz, I respect him for standing by his principles. He is not willing to forgive someone who ridiculed his family just because that person is now at the head of his party. For him, it was a deal-breaker.

Many others, like Chris Christie and Scott Walker, have embarrassed themselves and those things they stand for as they now gush over Trump. Cruz stood tall and firm, and I respect him for that.

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