The first Presidential election that I remember being aware of as a child was in 1968. It was between Richard Nixon for the R’s and Hubert Humphrey for the D’s, but it also included in his third attempt to run for President and first attempt as an Independent, George Corely Wallace Jr. This was also the first Presidential contest to bring hate front and center, and foreshadowed what we are seeing today.
George Wallace started his political career as a southern Democrat, and was actually endorsed by the NAACP in his first failed run for Governor of Alabama. He was beaten by John Malcolm Patterson, who ran with the enthusiastic support of the KKK.
The lesson was not lost on Wallace. He immediately switched to a hard-line racist message, and began using segregationist positions to strengthen his support among white voters. He is quoted as defending this change by saying, “You know, I tried to talk about good roads and good schools and all these things that have been part of my career, and nobody listened. And then I began talking about niggers, and they stomped the floor.”*
He continued this strategy for most of his career, using fear and hate of blacks first, then later “hippies”, to continue to attract alienated white voters. This success was noted by the GOP, and was a big reason the “southern strategy” was adopted by first Nixon, then Reagan and even W. Bush. Although they toned down the anti-race message, they still played on fears of white blue-collar voters.
Does any of this sound familiar? Here we are again in America with a candidate using blatant hate and racism to get alienated voters to rally around him. This time, it is the representative of one of the two major parties, rather than an Independent, which is of course even more disturbing. We have Mexicans and Muslims getting most of the hate treatment, but in spite of the plea for black voters, there is still the suggestion that we are seeing the beginning of a race war that only Trump can prevent.
I have never seen an election cycle where more venomous hate and lies were being thrown around with such little consequence from fact-checkers. When W was trashing McCain during the primaries in South Carolina in the lead up to the 2000 election, allowing operatives to spread the rumor that McCain had a black child, that was bad. Partly of course because it wasn’t true, but also because so what if it was true? What has been going on this year on an almost daily basis is reprehensible.
Has Trump made any substantive policy statements on what he will do on any particular issue, including how to pay for it? The only thing that comes close is his ridiculous assertion that he will “build a wall” and “Mexico will pay for it”. All that comes from the campaign are bombastic statements (I’ll be the best foreign policy president ever), outright lies (crime is up everywhere in America), and tweets about whoever he is pissed off about at any given time.
The Clinton campaign, while at least maintaining one foot in reality, is not providing much of an alternative either. There we see a consummate politician, the ultimate policy weathervane, shifting her stance on issues based on how the political winds blow at whatever event she happens to be attending. Unlike Trump, she makes plenty of policy statements – too many, and sometimes contradictory. The only principal stand that we know Secretary Clinton is 100% unwavering on, is that it is her turn to be President, damn it!
But again, how does the Trump gang respond to this lack of clear vision? With their own detailed policy statements? With withering analysis of her political positions? Of course not – instead we see articles and pundits claiming that Clinton is suffering from brain damage, Parkinson’s, or some other neurological disease. We hear that she has had dozens of people killed who disagreed with her, and maintains a powerful grip on news media outlets and public figures, who are afraid to cross her.
In other words, she manages at the same time to be a tottering, sickly, frail old woman who could collapse any minute; and some kind of powerful mastermind Bond-villian in a pants suit.
We seem to be stuck with an impossible choice. If we elect Trump, we turn loose a hate-monger to create his version of white America, kicking people out and closing the borders. The best we could hope for would be a Congress that manages to stop most of his proposed actions. If we elect Clinton, we have a leader that is hated by a large portion of the electorate. In fact, the groundwork is already being laid to declare her victory “stolen” by fake results. Unless there are big changes in Congress, we can expect any initiatives she brings up to be thwarted.
So that’s it. Either a pure political animal, blocked by hate and spite – or a unqualified loon, hopefully blocked by fear and reason.
On October 27th, 2004, the Comedy Central classic program “South Park” aired a commentary on that year’s election called “Douche and Turd”. In a thinly veiled parody, the kids were involved in a struggle over a closely fought election, and had to choose between voting for either a Giant Douche or a Turd Sandwich.
Would that our choices were so clear!
- “George Wallace: Settin’ the Woods on Fire: Wallace Quotes”.The American Experience. Public Broadcasting Service. 2000. Retrieved 2006-09-05.