The debates are tonight, and I’m confused. I’ve been following this election closely for a year, and it just doesn’t make sense. Why the Democrats nominated Hillary is a puzzle, and why the Republicans nominated Donald is a mystery.
Hillary Clinton is entirely unappealing, but not crazy. Donald Trump probably isn’t crazy either, although he is working very hard to appear as if he were. It should be a no-brainer. People should be holding their noses and voting for Clinton, or voting for a third party, or refusing to vote at all. But that isn’t happening.
I have a theory. Actually I have three, that came to me after months of head scratching.
First, let’s look at two philosophical positions, beginning with belief in the zero sum game. In sports, which are supposed to mirror life, there are winners and losers. Ties happen, but they are an aberration. We have overtime, and double overtime, and photo-actuated timers that measure to the hundredth of a second, all to avoid ties.
If you believe in the zero sum game, then if America is losing, it’s our own fault – or more accurately, the fault of those in power – and it doesn’t matter who starts to lose when we begin to win again. As Donald said, “I am a winner; I like winners.” He does not say, “To hell with the losers,” but it is implied.
The other position is laid out in the notion that, “A rising tide floats all boats.” That is, if we do things right, everyone can come out better. Despite ten thousand kindergarten teachers pushing cooperation, this is not a position most Americans are comfortable with. Those who have won think it’s stupid. Those who have lost think it doesn’t work.
Hilary said, “We are stronger together.” I personally prefer that position, but I can fully understand how voters being rubbed up against the hard edges of America would see it as fluff.
Will those who favor the zero sum game support a self-proclaimed strong man, hoping to hold on to what they have at the rest of the world’s expense? And hoping that Donald won’t simply take for himself what little they have left?
And what of those who favor the rising tide? Will they, if they lose faith, go running, crawling, gagging to the master of the deal?
Is it simply a matter of fear vs. faith, with fear winning?
Theory number two is everybody’s theory. For the farmers, auto mechanics, and truck drivers I grew up among, Donald wins the “who would you rather have a beer with” contest. Just look at him on the campaign trail, the impish smart-ass that you can never pin down in an argument. Everybody who has lived his life among working men, knows many Donalds. They are the life of the party in every beer joint, ignorant but unflappable. Now look at Hillary on the campaign trail. Her face looks like the reason they all came to the beer joint in the first place. Everywhere she goes, Hillary plays the woman card; grumpy old men silently counter with the ex-wife card.
Prejudicial argument? Certainly, but we all live with images in our heads, and when those images match up with the faces we see on TV, it is a strain to keep logic from flying out the window.
So much for men of my age. Theory three deals for young voters, for whom the candidates look like father-image and mother-image. (And Bernie looks like the wise old grandfather you can trust when your parents are going squirrelly.)
Donald looks like the father who will bluster and foam at the mouth, then give in and let you do what you please. Hilary looks like the mother who will stand over you until you eat all your vegetables.
It is a terrible thing to realize what images we carry. I hope we Americans can get beyond them and vote for substance.
Doing what the voices in your head tell you, is never a good idea.