You think the 2016 contest for the presidency is a freak show?
You built this, America. Most of you did, at least.
Consider the things you have demanded of politicians over the last 10 or 20 years. These demands were sent loud and clear, election after election. They’re mixed and contradictory messages.
“Balance the budget; cut spending. But do not cut programs. Not my programs. Not programs I like.”
“Make health care flexible, rational and affordable. Give us freedom of choice. But don’t deregulate the market. Don’t tamper with Medicare or Medicaid.”
“Give us free health care; but give us excellent health care.”
“Lower taxes on everyone but the one percent; soak the one percent. Who cares about them? And expect the economy to grow anyway. In fact, make it grow better than ever. Who needs the rich? Wealth is cool; but the wealthy are passé.”
“Cut the military. The more cuts, the better. Defend us, protect us. Make love, not war. Stop those terrorist attacks; stop them now! Another beheading? Another blown up subway? Do something! I don’t care how. Do it somehow! Peace through strength. But don’t you dare harm a civilian or start a war.”
“Make the government more accountable and responsible. What? Pay for my own kids’ education? Are you crazy? Choice yes; but pay? No way! Give me the best education for my child the world has ever known. Do it with my taxes. And make those teachers as accountable and competent as if they weren’t government employees backed by unions who will never let us fire anyone. I hate Common Core. But government education? Give me more!”
“Give us more jobs. Impose more taxes and regulations on business. Higher minimum wage? You bet. Make fewer people dependent on the dole, on welfare. Cut welfare? What are you? Inhuman?”
“Save the environment. Cut down fossil fuels. In my gas tank? No way. I want my freedom. But for the world in general … absolutely cut fossil fuels. Look at me, I’m an environmentalist. I care about the environment. I recycle. I buy green and organic products (whatever that means). I support Hollywood celebrities and whatever they say, yes, I go for that. I’m cool. But don’t you dare raise my energy costs. Don’t tamper with my vacations, my lifestyle or my entitlement as an American to enjoy whatever I want. Free Internet for all? Of course. It’s a God-given right. Why is my connectivity so expensive? Greed and capitalism again!”
“Social Security and Medicare? Don’t you dare touch them. Bankrupt, you say? I don’t want to hear it. Keep these programs coming. Expand them. Make them cheaper. Let the one percent pay for them. I don’t care how; make it happen somehow. Don’t bother me about it. Fix it! My grandparents were told this was a right, and it’s a right forever more. Even Trump says so.”
“Socialism? Yes! What’s socialism? I have no idea. I know that I love economic improvement and growth. I want – indeed, I expect as right – that my children will have better lives than my own. I certainly want to keep what I own. But that’s not socialism, is it? Socialism means just being nice. And fair. So bring on the socialism. But make sure we’re wealthier with each passing generation. Make sure I get to keep what I own. As for the one percent, screw them; they have no rights. Go Bernie Sanders! Bring back Ronald Reagan!”
These are the messages the majority of voters have been sending, via the ballot box, for the last 20 plus years. That’s why we had the Republican “revolution” of the 1990s, combined with the Bill Clinton and George W. Bush years of massive tax and spend (more taxing with Clinton, more spending with Bush). That’s why we had the Tea Party landslides of 2010 and 2014, combined with the Obama-Boehner-Ryan policies of unrestrained tax, spend, borrow and regulate. The swings are getting wilder and wilder, as the contradictions and evasions grow more profound. Republicans finally gave up, which is why their party is officially dead and subject to takeover only by an outsider perceived as credible.
The kind of candidates who will not confront the voters on their own ridiculous and absurd contradictions are the kind of candidates you see winning today. If they seem less and less like credible forces for “change,” then look back in the mirror, Americans. Look at yourselves.
You built these candidates, and it’s all on you. Until you change your minds, your leaders will get more and more grotesque. Self-deception is hard on a psyche, and collectively it’s hard on a nation. Stop complaining, and start changing your minds. Decide what you want: Freedom or coercion. It’s one or the other, and you can’t have it both ways.
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