When it comes to politics, I’ve always felt more than a bit guilty I haven’t raised my political IQ more over time.
To be honest, my interests lie more with the personal, as in my loved ones, and with the superficial, as in wondering why my Yankees farm system can’t seem to produce a bumper crop of home-grown talent like the core five of Pettitte, Williams, Rivera, Posada and Jeter once upon a time.
However, as we begin the last full month and summer with both conventions wrapped up, I thought I’d take a look at this whole presidential pursuit business in evenhanded fashion.
Like many of you, I think, much of my political awareness comes largely from the commentators on CNN, MSNBC and Fox, who gives us their spin on all things Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and are paid handsomely to do so.
It seems to me when it comes to this year’s race for the top rung on the political ladder that my question is the same as the one I hear so often when I talk to my fellow Americans, some version of, “Just what exactly are we supposed to do?”
When it comes to the nominees of both major parties, there really does appear to be so many issues involving honesty, transparency, prudence and propriety, enough to fill several baskets.
At times the news on the candidates so often prompts a feeling of confusion and helplessness as we march toward our civic duty in a few short weeks. Whether you lean toward the left and want free everything for everybody, somehow ignoring the nearly $20 trillion national debt, or lean to the Grand Old Party’s right, you surely must know your gal or your guy has major warts.
Last month’s revelation that somehow, and don’t ask me how, FBI Director James Comey didn’t recommend charges be filed against someone whose irresponsible and mid-numbingly cavalier use of an unsecured server for highly sensitive material that involved national safety when others most certainly would have faced dire consequences had they done the same thing leaves me, using the texting parlance of our times, SMH (as in shaking my head).
Similarly, I’ve also been left slack-jawed about the other candidate, who showed such a dearth of judgment that he didn’t immediately repudiate an endorsement by the former head of the Ku Klux Klan and who sometimes is seemingly so victimized by his own bombast that I’m left saying to myself, surely he’s not suggesting that …
Given the shortcomings of the two, I got to thinking about whether America has ever had candidates this flawed seeking the highest office in the land.
As for the fringe parties, of course, there have been several terrible choices. In 1948, Southern delegates were so angered by the pro-civil rights stance adopted by the Democratic Party that they broke off and formed their own party called the States’ Rights Democrats and chose the South Carolina governor, Strom Thurmond, using the motto, “Segregation Forever.”
As for the mainstream parties, once upon a time Republicans dropped their heads in shame after they pushed Barry Goldwater to the GOP front to oppose Lyndon Johnson in the ’64 election, especially after hearing BG’s casual comments that perhaps the nation would be better off if we could saw off the Eastern Seaboard and allow it to float out to sea, and an even more notoriously incendiary remark that maybe we should lob an atomic weapon into a Kremlin restroom. Not surprisingly, he was trounced in the election, winning just six states, none of which, by the way, were on the Eastern Seaboard.
As for the Dems, few can forget the poster child of blowout losses, George McGovern. Besides me, who received my very first presidential vote in 1972 during my college years at Miami University, I can’t find anyone else willing to admit he or she voted for him. A red flag surely should have been the fact that his initial choice as vice president was Thomas Eagleton, who suffered bouts of depression severe enough to hospitalize him several times. For some reason, I suppose, some combination of youthful naiveté and way too much 3.2 beer, I didn’t see that as much of a concern.
Surely, we’ve had poor choices before, but two at the same time? So, while those credit card spokesfolks Samuel L. and Jennifer Garner pop up frequently on our TVs asking, “What’s in your wallet?” for the rest of us, our own depressing rhetorical question runs on a continuous loop, as in “What’s the choice when, seemingly, there’s no good choice?”
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.