To Trump or not to Trump

That is the question: Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the presidency of Hillary Clinton, or by voting Trump risk the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? Aye. That is the rub.

But it’s actually a series of much bigger questions: Should we be noble or practical? Should we vote out of anger or out of duty? Should we see electing a president as a moral statement or a pragmatic one? It gets down to this – What is the true nature of politics?

What is politics? We can say it is dangerous business. It combines some very combustible elements: greed – for both money and power, altruism – or the appearance thereof, necessary work, and both military and judicial force. This brew can produce massive corruption --  a palm-greasing, back rubbing incestuous sliminess that would shock even Iago, but it can also, in the right hands, produce safety and prosperity for the entire world – theoretically; we haven’t seen that for a spell now.

Politics is a practical, existential business. When it goes wrong, people die. I know there are those who like to imagine that human society is possible without government, but I’ve lived long enough to be sure mankind doesn’t have the capacity for that much freedom. He barely has enough to handle what little we have right now. Man’s tendencies to run amuck need curbing, both internationally and domestically. The question is how much curbing is required? When is enough, enough?

A large proportion of the American people have had enough – are sure that we’re way over that line, dangerously so and I agree. After all, those curbing our activities are no better than we are. But how do we undo what’s been done without such violent disturbances that render America as desolate as Syria?

Sound of trumpets and -- enter Sir Donald, seated high on his white horse, armor clanking and sword swinging, come to slay the government, the GOP stuffed shirts, and misery in general. Obviously a lot of Americans welcome his appearance on the scene.

But here we are, we Republicans, the party of the purists, the party of the Constitution, the party of morality, “family values,” and the Bible, yet we have as our standard bearer a man who appears to know little about the Constitution, even less about the Bible, and whose vast fortune is based, at least partially, on less-than-moral endeavors. What are we church-going folk going to do? We believe in our hearts that our nation’s demise is largely due to the decline of a Christian moral stance – so then we choose as our candidate a man whose philandering is public knowledge, who has been married three times, who doesn’t seem particularly concerned about abortion?

There’s the dilemma: to Trump or not to Trump? Many are stamping angry feet and screaming, “Never Trump!” The rest of us are taking a deep, disappointed breath and looking the future right in the face – and that face looks frighteningly like Hillary.

OK. Enough background. How are we to think about this? Allow me to propose an approach:

--- Let’s first scrape all the tar and feathers off the issue and get back to the purpose of all this: we need government and government requires a leader.

--- Given that, then what must a leader be? What must he/she be prepared to do? He or she must be able to:
    Handle power well. (i.e. Walk softly, but carry a big stick.)
    Shoulder responsibility honestly and graciously.
    Delegate power to capable and trustworthy people.
    Stand tall and demonstrate resolve and dependability.
    Inspire the rest of us.

--- That’s what I want.
I want a candidate who is not at war with me, with my country, or with my religion.
I want a candidate who has tremendous energy – enough to fight his way through a ferocious election and still have the stamina left to launch a thousand more government skirmishes and win them all. Win.
I want a candidate who can.

You see, that’s what politics is. Winning. As a democratic republic America inserted two new elements into governance: a constitution that limits that governance, and a chance to choose our leaders and therefore the policies that govern the nation. That last part is politics. And where choice is involved there are two options – winning and losing. There is no high moral ground here – we either win or we lose.

Imagine three people being stranded on a mountaintop. We’ll call them James, George, and Henry. They haven’t eaten in three weeks. Rescue is still off in the distant future, Henry has just died, and James is fading fast. What should George do here? It’s morally repugnant to think in terms of eating Henry, but if he doesn’t prepare some of that flesh and feed it to James, James will have no chance of holding out until rescue, and George will be left up there alone.

In that scenario George has to choose between pure morality and pure practicality. We like life a lot better when those choices don’t happen. I would like it much more if Ted Cruz was our candidate, but he’s not. Just as it would do James and George no good to take the moral high ground and refuse to eat Henry, it will do us no good to lift our honorable noses in the air and refuse to go vote.

Granted the analogy falls apart pretty fast, so I’ll venture a more direct approach:
We have a duty to vote – that isn’t a political choice; it’s our civic duty.  This is something all good citizens do; to sit out an election because we’re too lazy to go vote is, practically speaking, exactly the same as staying home because neither candidate pleases our moral sensitivities.

I don’t much like the Donald. I don’t like his brashness. I don’t like his vagueness, his vacillations on important policies, his pie-in-the-sky promises. I don’t like his three marriages, his gambling casinos. I don’t like his hair. But none of that is the point.

The question isn’t whether or not I like him. I’m not moving in with the man. I just want him to get the damn skunks our from under the house. The question isn’t even whether or not he’d make a great president. (Most of us feel that it will take a great president to undo the damage Obama has done.) The time to address that issue is over. That doesn’t mean, however, that we should pack up our toys in a huff and go home. It means we have to realize that the choice has changed.

The question now is which candidate would best discharge the following-- will he or she:
    Handle power well.
    Shoulder responsibility honestly and graciously.
    Delegate power to capable and trustworthy people.
    Stand tall and demonstrate resolve and dependability.
    Inspire the rest of us.
Note, I didn’t ask which would perfectly, or profoundly, or historically perform those essential functions. The question is just between these two admittedly flawed individuals. Ideology and high principles are not, right now, the issue. They will be again if we gain a foothold in the Oval Office, but if Hillary wins, the issue of principle will be gone, and in all likelihood, forever. There’s nothing noble about that, so I’ve decided that I’d rather vote against our sea of troubles, and by opposing end them.