Troy Marshall

August 11, 2016

5 Min Read
This presidential election is surreal in some of the most real ways imaginable

This election season can only be described as surreal, but the implications will be anything but. I wish I was smart enough to understand the dynamics of what is happening and all the implications. But like the rest of you, I’ll just have to muddle along as best I can.

This presidential election has very little to do with ideology, at least in the general election. The runner-ups on both sides represented the most virulent strains of their respective parties’ conservatism and liberalism. Ted Cruz is a full-blown constitutional conservative who is both fiscally and socially conservative, and Bernie Sanders is a full-blown socialist. 

Trump, however, is a populist and isolationist. And Hillary? Well, she is whatever is expedient to garner power and avoid prison. This election has been billed as the choice between crook and crazy, but whatever it is, it isn’t a choice between conservatism and liberalism. 

The notable exception is the Supreme Court; whoever is elected president will likely determine the makeup of the court for the next 30 years. On this basis alone, true conservatives will vote for Trump, true liberals will vote for Hillary. The Supreme Court is the one area where ideology seems clear cut and certain.

Hillary is actually far more conservative than Trump when it comes to foreign policy and trade. She’s slightly more liberal on social issues and way more so in her view of the role of government. 

There are certainly substantive policy differences, but if we’re honest, this is simply a personality contest between the two most negatively perceived presidential candidates of modern time. As one commentator stated, the only person Hillary could beat for president is the one person that Republicans nominated. The same could be said for Trump. Most believe he has a chance, for the simple reason that he is up against Hillary Clinton.  

With that said, while this may be the most untraditional of elections, the implications long term may be the longest lasting. The long-term impacts extend beyond the Supreme Court to the Electoral College in general. The large population base in a few states decide presidential elections and the math will become increasingly difficult to overcome for Republicans, as the demographics are trending away from the party and their core constituencies. 

Four more years on the same course and the number of people reliant on government will reach a point where the Republican Party will have to re-create itself if it wants to win a national election or be content with being a minority, regional party that plays in the South and the middle of the country, but has little impact on either coast. 

But it isn’t all rosy for the Democrats either. Will key constituencies continue to support them if they continue to only be given lip service and no discernible positive results? Will the socialism fervor ignited by Sanders become a legitimate player? And with America just behind Europe and the former Soviet Union on the march to socialism and then bankruptcy, how will the Democrats respond to the exploding debt and stagnant growth that leads to the downward spiral in standards of living that socialism has delivered everywhere? 

It is ironic that the general election has scarcely mentioned policy let alone addressed the significant issues of this country, and instead has been focused on the politics of personal destruction? That trend may actually be confirming a radical shift in our direction. 

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It has been interesting reading the thought leaders of the progressive movement. They argue that I’m a dinosaur; as a white male and a Christian, I represent all that is wrong with America and I should accept my declining role and influence as my political and social positions move from dominance to insignificance in America. 

Conversely, they are increasingly worried about the disenfranchised that their revolution will inevitably create. They will take care of corporations and the billionaires and keep them in the fold with continued preferential treatment. But interestingly, those who have not achieved the American dream or have felt shut out will continue to embrace the progressive agenda that has claimed the environmental movement, climate change, African Americans, Hispanics, etc., as their own. 

The problem is the middle class that will see their economic and social future continue to erode. Progressives openly talk about more armed insurrections and civil disobedience by the new disenfranchised, and perhaps it is not so far-fetched – America is more divided and the average American is more frustrated than ever. 

And then we have this election, which is simply a referendum on which candidate is the least dangerous. If the election is about Donald Trump, Hillary wins. If the election is about Hillary, then Donald wins. With both sides accusing the other of subverting the election, we may find ourselves more divided than ever after the voting dust settles.

It is surreal because, while the average American is sick of the status quo, wants change and understands that the country is at a turning point, it is evident that the system failed them and the result is not only a growing concern about the candidates themselves but the process in general. 

 It is surreal because, with America facing so many incredibly pressing problems, the debate is not about solutions and correcting our national direction. Instead it is about integrity and competence. 

What does it say about America that its two major parties nominated two candidates who make these questions truly legitimate? The people want to be heard; they just don’t know how to get the message to Washington.  

It is interesting to see that the Republicans have responded to this dilemma by turning against themselves and expressing rage and ideology above winning elections while Democrats have taken the other tack, willing to promise everything for electoral victories. Sadly, moral victories and shallow victories won’t solve the serious issues we face.

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