I’ve told myself I’d never write about politics in this column, but such unusual times beg me to break my own rule.
By all appearances, it’ll be Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump facing off this November. Surprise, surprise! Six months ago, many said Trump was a flash in the pan and Hillary would be indicted.
“If Trump wins, I’m moving to Canada,” celebrities say. “I’ll help you pack. Anybody but Hillary!” others say.
Few saw this death match coming, but then few of us saw such a quirky election cycle as this one.
Welcome to the world of American politics. Hold your nose and dive in. We’re choosing a president, not a pastor, and this year perhaps more than any other, both candidates have some serious clay feet. Ultimately, you and I the voters will determine which feet move into the White House, not the news media or foreign leaders or the NRA or other special interests.
The media vetting process—the anything-goes reportage of tax records, academic transcripts, birth records, indiscretions–eliminates many qualified candidates who don’t care to have their dirty laundry aired. That’s been true for decades. Any part of one’s personal life is fair game, as are one’s spouse and family. If you don’t believe it, ask the Carters. Anybody remember Billy Beer?
But Donald Trump is such a showman, a schoolyard bully—unfit to govern if you ask Mitt Romney. And Hillary is just a third term for Barack Obama—a bad choice if you think the country’s heading in the wrong direction, if you ask Bernie Sanders.
Candidates on both sides like to wax nostalgic about the good old Reagan days, but those with long memories know that in 1980 Ronald Reagan was regarded as a two-bit B movie actor, unworthy to be issued keys to the Oval Office much less access nuclear codes. Reagan was “too old” to govern at age 69. Yet Clinton will be 69 this year; Trump will be 70. Second runner-up Bernie Sanders, the young voters’ favorite, will be 75. We aren’t hearing much about old age this time around.
Conventional wisdom says one must have a law degree to serve as president, yet our most revered chief executives weren’t lawyers. Not George Washington, not Andrew Jackson, not Dwight Eisenhower or Harry Truman or Ronald Reagan. FDR and Teddy Roosevelt, among the top five all-time presidents, attended Columbia Law School but never graduated.
Washington, Jackson and Lincoln never spent a day in college, but then neither did most Americans of their day. In fact there are no educational requirements to be President.
The ultimate decision belongs to the voters, and this year they’re fighting mad. More Americans may cast ballots this year than have done so in a long time. Women who want to “make history with Hillary” are steamed up, and Trump supporters are on fire.
Meanwhile, it’s time to do our homework. There’s no shortage of material—books, blogs, interviews and more about each candidate. There’s all spring, summer and half the fall to check them out. Become your own “Snopes” truth detector. You’ll be a far better informed voter.
In the end, vote like your future depends on it. It always does. It always will.