We’re all sick of this, but here I go: I’m not happy with either major party presidential candidate. Hillary Clinton voted in favor of invading Iraq, which was a terrible mistake, ill-advised according to Pentagon leadership, and further destabilized the Middle East. As I’ve written before, she is too intelligent, educated, and experienced to have bought the Bush administration’s line that Iraq was somehow behind the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. But she did buy that reasoning or she went along to get along.
I cannot blame Hillary Clinton for her husband’s policies or behavior any more than I can take responsibility for my husband’s eccentric manner of dressing. For those of you who haven’t seen him out and about, he dresses like a latter-day hippie, wearing more colors than in a painter’s pallet. But that’s him, it isn’t me.
I believe Hillary Clinton has a long record of working for policies in the area of healthcare reform, in particular, but was not able to martial a coalition strong enough to offset the power of the medical insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies. In this respect, she was ahead of her time.
Someone who is not ahead of his time is Donald Trump. I’m old enough to remember the 1950s, and that’s where Donald Trump wants to take us — back to an era when females always wore skirts, no matter how blustery the weather, when Marilyn Monroe was the ideal woman, where actual women seemed to only be housewives, and men ruled the roost, whether they were thoughtful, kind, or had the intellectual skills to make the decisions — being male was all the authority needed.
Growing up in small towns in the Oregon coast range, I never encountered a person who wasn’t white, yet my mom was a fan of Nat King Cole and the Ink Spots. Later in life, lesbians and gay men emerged among my mom’s friends from high school, but they were never labeled as such. In spite of my very white, heterosexual identity, I never felt truly acceptable during that era. Perhaps it was merely being one of the most intelligent students in all my classes and, as a female, unacceptably competent.
That could be part of Hillary Clinton’s problem: Unacceptably competent.
Mr. Trump, on the other hand, may be quite competent about acquiring wealth, including not paying taxes or paying his debts through various bankruptcies, but he appears to have no concern about anyone’s well-being except his own. His simplistic and repetitive statements about how he’ll “make America great again” provide no pragmatic approaches. His willingness to ridicule large swaths of the America population are unfortunately reminiscent of the great demagogues of the twentieth century, and this makes me very uneasy about having a person of his temperament as president.
We just finished watching a 20-episode television documentary, “The Unknown War: WWII and the Epic Battles of the Russian Front,” which was produced in 1978, but pulled from broadcast when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan. We learned about the extent of Soviet involvement in stopping the German Nazis not only from invading and controlling the USSR, but much of Europe and the Far East.
Both Germany and the USSR invaded Poland in 1939 and hundreds of Poland’s officer corps, an elite group, well educated and highly skilled, were captured and executed. Whether it was the Germans who executed them (as claimed by the Soviets) or the Soviets (as claimed by the Germans), neither Hitler nor Stalin wanted independent thinking, smart leadership to survive in Poland, potentially creating political and military resistance.
Both Hitler and Stalin are examples of the “cult of personality,” defined in Wikipedia as when “an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized, heroic, and at times, worshipful image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise.” This is the danger in Mr. Trump’s candidacy, as evidenced by his behavior. He is too quick to demonize portions of the American population, too quick to say he alone has all the answers, too ready to punish any detractors.
Recently I read a statement that the U.S. is becoming a “banana republic,” where democracy is a veneer, where focused economic interests control the commonwealth of the country by cutting deals with the government. This may be true. A candidate who is prickly about criticism, takes it all personally, suggests “locking up” anyone who opposes him, is no respecter of our rights under the Constitution’s First Amendment. This makes Trump a far more alarming prospect than a “merely” self-aggrandizing politician like Hillary Clinton.
Victoria Stoppiello is a long-time Observer commentator. You can reach her at email@example.com.