The Worst Choices Ever?

The 2016 presidential election has been called “The Worst Choices Ever.”  Is it really?

I looked back for two or more major candidates who may have been thought of as undesirable at the time of the election. Hindsight must be eliminated as much as possible. Certainly Richard Nixon looks like a poor choice in 1972 but when the election took place, he was relatively popular and defeated Edmund Muskie in a landslide.  Watergate broke later.

James Buchanan vs. John Fremont vs. Millard Fillmore in 1856 today looks like a nightmare on paper. Buchanan won and is thought to be one of the worst presidents for essentially ignoring the growing problem of slavery and succession that resulted in the Civil War. Fremont while previously serving in the west was convicted of mutiny, disobeying a superior and misconduct. Fillmore became the 13th president when Zachary Taylor died in office. He was the last candidate of the dying Whig party. However going into that election Fremont was seen as a fresh choice of the newly formed Republican Party, Fillmore had the experience of being president previously and Buchanan had served in both the House and the Senate, was Minister to Russia, an ambassador to the UK and was Secretary of State under President James Polk.

A nod to Wikipedia for providing a nice list:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_candidates

So, is Clinton-Trump truly the worst choices ever?

1848: Zachary Taylor (Whig) vs. Lewis Cass (Democratic) vs. Martin Van Buren (Free Soil)

Zachary Taylor was a Mexican War hero who had little interest in politics. He was convinced by the Whig party to run despite not having any clear political views. Lewis Cass served in the war of 1812, was territorial governor of Michigan and was Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of War, involved in implementing Jackson’s Indian removal policies.  Of course at the time, relocating natives from their lands was seen as a necessity.  Martin Van Buren was trying to get back into the White House as an anti-slavery candidate after serving as the 8th president and was largely thought of as being a poor president. Taylor won and died a year and a half later.

1860: Stephen Douglas (Democrat) vs. Abraham Lincoln (Republican) vs. John Breckenridge (Southern Democrat) vs. John Bell (Constitutional Union)

With the nation in crisis over the rising abolitionist movement in the north and the south’s threats to succeed to protect their “peculiar institution” of slavery; these four were the nation’s choices. Douglass and Breckenridge were the best known. Douglass was a powerful Illinois Senator who was a strong proponent of “popular sovereignty” – the concept that allowed for new states’ residents to decide if they would allow slavery or not. Breckenridge was James Buchanan’s vice president. Bell was previously Speaker of the House from Tennessee and served as Secretary of War under William Henry Harrison.  Lincoln was relatively unknown to the nation. He had served in Congress and was defeated in an attempt to become Senator from Illinois by Douglass. Democrat voters split their votes between Douglass and Breckenridge, Bell was a minor factor and Lincoln of course became president but failed to win 40% of the popular vote and none of the southern states. His election was the final straw for the south and South Carolina seceded soon after the election.

1876: Rutherford Hayes (Republican) vs. Samuel Tilden (Democrat)

Hayes was a Civil War veteran, Congressman and three term governor of Ohio. Tilden was governor of New York. While their qualifications were solid, clearly neither one was overwhelmingly popular with voters. Tilden won the popular vote but Hayes became president after a post-election mess that ended with a compromise- Hayes was given the presidency in exchange for an agreement to pull Northern troops out of the south, thus ending the Reconstruction period which ushered in Jim Crow laws.

1920: Warren Harding (Republican) vs. James Cox (Democrat)

With WWI in over and President Woodrow Wilson considering a third term, despite suffering a stroke and not being able to speak, workers striking in the cities, and the economy in recession, the nation was given these underwhelming choices. Harding and Cox were both newspaper publishers. They had similar political philosophies. They were both from Ohio.  Harding was not his party’s obvious choice; he became the candidate after rumors of back-room deals at the Republican convention in Chicago. Cox was a three term governor in Ohio, he supported Wilson’s controversial League of Nations plan and chose the current Secretary of the Navy as running mate: Franklin Delano Roosevelt. After Harding was nominated, a New York newspaper called Harding a “week and mediocre” man who  “never had an original idea.” Cox backed a law that prohibited teaching German in schools; he said that is was, “a distinct menace to Americanism, and part of a plot formed by the German government to make the school children loyal to it.” Harding became very popular and won one of the largest landslide victories ever. Cox’s media business continues today. Socialist Eugene Debs won 3% of the vote.

1976: Jimmy Carter (Democrat) vs. Gerald Ford (Republican)

Carter was a relatively unknown southern governor who owned a peanut farm. Ford had become president after Richard Nixon resigned following the Watergate scandal. Ford was a respectable congressman from Michigan and former House Minority Leader. He became vice president after Spiro Agnew resigned amid accusations of accepting bribes when he was Maryland governor and tax evasion. Ford became president when Nixon resigned and is generally given credit for his steady hand seeing the nation through the aftermath of Watergate. While Carter wasn’t all that inspiring to many, the nation was ready to wash its hands of Watergate and Carter won narrowly.

It is hard to look at the 2016 election to-be with the same eye as the ones above. Twenty years from now it will be clearer as most things are rather than reacting without contemplation and historical context.  But looking at it as objectively as currently possible, it doesn’t look good.  Trump bullied his way to the nomination by calling opponents names and feuding with the media. He made broad, shallow statements that appealed to conservatives who were frustrated by the lack of progress made by Republican majorities in Congress in opposing the agenda of Barack Obama. He has continued this pattern after winning the nomination with a seemingly rudderless and disorganized campaign thus far. It remains to be seen if he will find his way and make a race out of it. Hillary Clinton faced a tougher than thought challenge from Bernie Sanders but won the nomination as expected. She brings a long line scandals and alleged corruption along with her that dates back to her husband’s time in Arkansas as governor in the 80’s to as recently as having to answer questions about her conduct as Secretary of State under Obama. They both have record high unfavorable numbers among voters and yet seemingly one of them will become president. Looking back it appears that this is indeed the worst choices for president that American voters have ever had.

ELECTION 2016…

2016 is right around the corner. It will be an election year. I will have to make a choice. What has transpired thus far has been interesting to say the least. I am an independent; therefore my vote is more important than those who vote party lines. That line has raised eyebrows and ire in some when made among others. It is true however. Roughly 40% of the nation will vote for the democrat regardless of who he or she is. Another roughly 40% will do the same for the republican. That leaves us, me, the independents to decide who becomes the 45th president. It isn’t quite that simple of course but it is for the most part factual. Evidence is that the candidates will run to the right or left to secure the nomination and once that is done they will veer back to the center to try and capture the “middle” or the independents. Like me. I used to vote party line- GOP. Then in 2008 I held my nose and voted for John McCain. It wasn’t that McCain was so bad; I actually wished he would have won the nomination in 2000. It was that I just felt like he wasn’t the best choice at that point and I felt like I wasted my vote. I vowed at that point that I would no longer vote party-line. I voted for a third party candidate in 2012 and felt much better about it. With this in mind I fear that neither the dems or GOP will put forth a reasonable candidate once again but I am hoping I am wrong.

Hillary has more things going for her than most. More than many candidates have in U.S. history. Eight years in the WH seeing and being involved in how things go. As a US senator who knows how the legislative branch works. And as secretary of state who knows her way around US foreign policy. Yet… she just isn’t very trustworthy to me and she is a scandal waiting to happen. Of course it depends on who she runs against. Donald Trump is a joke. It wouldn’t surprise me if he turns this campaign into a TV reality show when it is all over. It puzzles me how he maintains a lead in the polls however, there have been no votes cast yet. I suspect that when GOP voters actually have to check a box, he won’t be on top. If he does win the nomination he will lose by double-digits to Hillary. Ted Cruz is scary. He also would be bashed by Hillary. Talking tough is different than actually leading and governing. He has burned so many bridges in his own party I think that they would find a way to sabotage his chances. Ben Carson is just plain weird. He is in way over his head and will fade. Marco Rubio is a VP candidate. He isn’t ready to be president- maybe down the road. Fiorina as well but I don’t think she will appear again. The only candidates on the GOP side that I would think would be viable are Bush, Kasich or Christie. They all have been or are governors so they know how to lead and conduct themselves. They are not too extreme and would appeal to moderates, independents and right-leaning dems. The problem for them is they are not too extreme and would appeal to moderates, independents and right-leaning dems. They will struggle to gain the nomination because of the far-right’s grasp on the primary and caucus process in the states. This is not to say I will vote for any of these folks. I think that any/all of these (except the bomb throwers- Cruz and Trump) are essentially the same candidate. Six of one, half-a-dozen of the other, Pepsi or Coke- not much difference. Bernie Sanders or Rand Paul on the other hand represent some real change. Neither of them will win because their respective parties won’t let it happen. That is too bad. The real power in Washington is held by the legislative branch, as it should. It would serve our country well to have a president with some very different, even radical, ideas.

I will steadfastly hold on to my independent vote and watch the drama unfold. I will vote for who I think will do the best job and I do not care if that candidate doesn’t project to win. If all voters had that attitude we would see some meaningful change. I think the “R” or “D” after candidates’ names should be eliminated so as to force voters to see what each person is all about as opposed to voting for them because they are of a particular party. That won’t happen of course but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it on my own. So can you.

Election 2014 Post-Observations…

Posted by a friend on one of those social media things after the election last week:

Colorado shot it’s self in the foot like the rest of America voting red WTF……..America is really wanting a return to the days of the GOP..? Get ready for the jobs market to get worse and the stock market to go down, the US back in a full scale war in the middle east…making money for the GOP friends..cut taxes for the rich and put everything on the back of the working man…Americans never learn from the past..Women can kiss reproductive rights good bye…I need a Cuba Libre!

My friend is obviously a liberal and a democrat to the core. I love the guy like a brother and respect his position and more so his passion for his causes. We used to squabble a bit over politics when it came up although we mostly tried to avoid it because I was pretty much a right wing/red state/ liberals-are-idiots type. But I have changed. It isn’t so much that I have changed my ideas, it is more about coming to the realization that this political game we play in our country is bullshit.

The change came for me during the W. Bush administration. When we invaded Iraq I went along with the right’s version that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the U.S. and he was harboring “weapons of mass destruction” and aiding terrorist and whatnot. That lasted about half a day. I finally had to admit that it was absurd that we were going to turn a just invasion of Afghanistan into an occupation of a nearby county because it just seemed right. If it was a board game (OK… a video game) then it would be cool but knowing that young Americans would die there “for their country” was just too much. I began to question why I followed the party line and trusted the GOP. I realized pretty quickly that I did so because the right-wing media told me to and because I figured anything that was opposite of what democrats did was a good thing.

This however did not turn me into a tree-hugging, Save the Gay Whales for Jesus, granola-eating, pot-smoking, screaming-at-the-injustice-of-it-all liberal. Not even close. What it did allow me to do is take one big step back and realize that the entire banter between left and right is really silly.

This step back was immensely liberating. I felt like I was free from the shackles of having to toe the party line even when it was uncomfortable. I began to look at politics as an observer rather than a participant. It was like watching a really good basketball game between two teams that I really didn’t care about. I watched the game for the game’s sake, without worrying about the winner. Politics can be tremendously entertaining. I stopped listening to the right-wing radio shows; I stopped growling at democrat pundits who once made me angry. I began to see the hypocrisy on both sides. I began to play a fun little game. I would listen to a point made by the democrat senator from whatever state on a Sunday morning news show and then hit mute and give the GOP reply myself-.or the other way around. It was very easy. You simply disagree with whatever they said by ignoring the point being made and spinning into some kind of non-related attack on a big issue that the other side holds dear. It was fun until I realized that in a case of war, people died.

At that point I turned it off. I listened to sports or music in the car, read more history and classic fiction and basically shut out the world of politics. I would check in occasionally but found that nothing changed. I now sit comfortably somewhere in the middle- or maybe on the outside. I don’t really know and don’t really care. When elections roll around, I do what I think all of us should do. I look at candidates and issues on their own merit. I ignore the R or the D by their name or if it is proposed by the right or the left. I don’t care.

My friend’s rant is respectfully silly. It is clear that people are not happy with the current administration’s path. They voted for the other side. Republicans don’t have the all the answers. People didn’t vote for them because they think the GOP is going to solve their problems. They voted for them because they are tired of democrats. This will happen again when there is a republican president during a mid-term election. It happens nearly every time. The problem is that there is no real difference between the two.

I am open to third party candidates. I know some of them are wacko but I am willing to listen. I held my nose when I voted for president in 2008 and felt so dirty about it I said never again. I decided to vote for who I thought is best in all elections regardless of their party. There would be no more “lesser of two evils” votes for me. In 2012 I voted for a third party candidate for president. He had no chance and I did not care even the slightest. It was the most satisfying vote I ever had.

I will continue to look at issues and candidates without regard to party and will encourage those around me to do so as well. I think this is the only way we can free ourselves from the shackles that the democrat and republican parties have held us in for so long. I will also occasionally peek and listen in on the political crap-slinging that that goes on on the cable news shows and talk-radio- for entertainment purposes only. However when it comes to make a vote, I will research and read and discuss and think and make a vote that is informed and I absolutely refuse to be told how to vote by some person on the radio or TV who pretends to know what is up. I am better than that. So are you.

I need a Cuba Libre…

Mountain Thirst

Spent four days in Leavenworth (Washington) recently… Leavenworth is an interesting place. The Great Northern Railroad once went through it and it became a flourishing town in the late 1800s, but then the railroad was re-routed and Leavenworth began a slow decline. In the 1960s town leaders came up with an idea in hopes of saving their home from becoming a ghost town. Thus the current Bavarian-theme that rules today. It is an odd little tourist town in the middle of the mountains where even the gas stations and McDonalds has old-time Bavarian-style lettering on their signs. The census in 2010 says Leavenworth has only 1,900 residents however the city claims that more than two million tourists come annually. It is very popular in the winter when the snows give it a Bavarian ski-town feel and there are few places that do up Christmas like Leavenworth. People come and shop for silly trinkets and t-shirts, eat bratwurst and sauerkraut and drink beer. I was surprised to see a number of wine shops as well but I was there to sample the beer. Beer is an important part of German culture and this being the Northwest where craft beers are king- I thought this would be a perfect place to quaff some interesting and excellent brews. I hate to say it but I was disappointed. I went to three establishments that made their own beer. Mostly I sipped weak, thin lagers that had little going for them other than being wet and cold. I had a pint of Dunkel from a popular restaurant that had an odd cinnamon and sweetness to it that made me think they got their lager recipe mixed up with a Christmas stout of some kind. Later in the trip my wife gave me a corner of her Rueben sandwich and the bread had that same sweet taste. Those are flavors I like, maybe on a cinnamon roll or a hot cider but not in a lager or a Rueben! I am not a German beer expert but I don’t recall those flavors being part of their plan… The next day I visited the Icicle Brewery. It was very hot and I was eager to slake my thirst. My wife and I ordered the sampler. Good thing we shared it! It was six- eight once servings. Typically in a sampler you get four or six ounce servings. We were walking so I wasn’t concerned but it did cross my mind that this wasn’t very responsible on the part of the brewery to offer a sampler like this- people usually don’t share these things. Three pints isn’t probably overdoing it for some but with varying alcohol levels of the sampler it struck me as excessive. The beers were OK. The best one I had was the pale ale but it wasn’t anything to get excited about. Their IPA, which is usually a brewery’s best and most popular beer, was lacking in body and depth and balance which is what IPAs are all about! Overall- the Icicle Creek brews were like all of the local beers I had- thin and either boozed up or lacking in any interesting flavors. I admit that I have become something of a beer snob but it is hard not to here in the PNW. There are fantastic beers everywhere. It doesn’t take much to be able to tell the difference between a well-made craft brew and one that seems slapped together to just get in on the craze. My final stop was at a place outside of Leavenworth called Milepost 111 Brewing. It was a cool warehouse place on the river with the large shop doors open to the outside. The rolling hills and river made a fabulous setting. The beer list was long and interesting, listing several breweries that I had not heard of. I of course wanted to try the place’s own beers however. I was shocked when the waitress said that they didn’t have any of their own beer… I stared at the gleaming kettles in the back and the bags of grains on the shelves and didn’t know what to say. I chose a stout on nitro from Rouge Brewing which was very nice however I was told that that was the last pint of it. I then asked about the other beer on nitro which was called XPA. I spaced on it and asked who made it and the waitress said Elysian out of Seattle… Of course XPA is from Deschutes Brewing in Bend! I was disappointed with Milepost 111 even though the XPA on nitro was amazing (does Deschutes do anything wrong?)
I enjoyed my trip to Leavenworth. It is a beautiful place in the hills and the town is funky and cool despite all the tourist trappings. I will go back. I will not plan it as a beer-drinking destination though. Or a culinary one either- the restaurants were average at best. I will admit that it is too bad that a place that prides itself on its Bavarian/German thing doesn’t do a better job in the beer department. Next time I’ll try the wines.

Reading…

I don’t read much fiction. I find the “truth” much more fascinating. At least the truth as told by those who claim to be telling the truth… that is another story. But (sorry to get off on a tangent but the dog just started lapping my beer… she seems to have a taste for Sierra Nevada Pale Ale… now what? Do I drink it? Dogs lick their butts… but it is nearly a full pint… what a dilemma…) occasionally I desire a break from my usual choices of history/biography/culture/politics. I decided about a year ago that if I was going to delve into fiction here and there I would at least try and read something considered classic. I decided to work my way, “A to Z” through Steinbeck. The first book I read by Steinbeck years ago was “East of Eden. It was suggested by a friend and I enjoyed it. Tonight I just finished In Dubious Battle. I am actually reading my way chronologically, staring with his first book, written in 1929, Cup of Gold. I have a long ways to go but I am in no hurry. I plan on reading a book about the forgotten adventurer John Ledyard next so Steinbeck’s, Of Mice and Men will have to wait. Cup of Gold was fun- I always fall for a good pirate story. But all of his stories have such senseless tragedy. Even Tortilla Flat, which is basically a comedy about drinking, carousing and friendship, has a part where a baby dies- for no apparent reason. I am not sure why I am attracted to Steinbeck’s books.  All of the stories have dark and disturbing parts. He will describe the landscape with such clarity and there will be heroic parts where a person overcomes great odds and then BAM- the guy will die or commit suicide or lose a loved one or something else wrong or sick. I think it is the writing that gets me. The writing is superb. He could write about a pile of dirty clothes and make it seem interesting and relevant. In Dubious Battle is about a fruit pickers strike led by a couple of communist sympathizers. It is odd and disturbing and weird and of course there is senseless tragedy and death yet I couldn’t put it down. I guess that is what makes a good author. I purposely do not read any synopsizes or review of any books I pick up because I want to make my own judgments. Had I known this book was about a strike led by commies I would have never bothered. So it is… the journey and adventure of reading is something that is endlessly fascinating, pleasurable and enlightening… ( I drank the beer- what the hell)

Thanksgiving

I am thankful that due to the sacrifice of many who came before me, I live in a free country.

I am thankful that I get four days off to celebrate being thankful in late November.

I am thankful that turkeys give their lives for our pleasure.

I am thankful for online shopping so I do not have to spend time in malls.

I am thankful that I am free to put up a Christmas tree or not, to put up a cross or a skull, that I can read the Bible or 50 Shades of Grey, that I can chose to worship God or no god or 20 gods as long as it doesn’t bother anyone else.

I am thankful for the remote control- especially the power off button.

I am thankful that Portland will not be playing for the MLS Cup.

 I am thankful that there are still a few streams left with trout in them.

I am thankful for clean, cool days with spectacular views of Mt. Rainier as we have had the past few days.

I am thankful for safe tap water, clean underpants, hand sanitizer and functioning city sewer systems.

I am thankful for public libraries.

I am thankful no one drafted Russell Wilson in the first or second round.

I am thankful for public schools.

I am thankful for Herodotus, Thucydides, Polybius, Plutarch, Suetonius, Arrian, Edward Gibbon, Henry Adams, Benard DeVoto, Samuel Morison, Alexis deTocqueville, Daniel Boorstin, Shelby Foote, David McCullough, William Manchester, James McPherson and Michael Wood.

I am thankful for the 21st amendment.

I am thankful for Gutenberg.

I am thankful for egg nog and that it is not sold year- around.

I am thankful for caffeine.

I am thankful that my country accepted a black man as president and that we agree or disagree with him based on policy and not on skin color.

I am thankful for public schools.

I am thankful for popcorn.

I am thankful for oil change shops.

I am thankful for conservation organizations.

I am thankful for Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Polk, Lincoln, Grant, Garfield, Roosevelt, Coolidge, Eisenhower and Reagan.

I am thankful that WordPress provides this service for free.

I am thankful for my family.

November Lament

Alas, I take break from writing about my abject failures to address something pressing. Rather, something itching. It is November, which among other things means not shaving. We are thirteen days into No-Shave November and it is certainly beginning to show around my workplace. Luckily there are several others who have joined. There is a brotherhood among the ugly. The key aspect to this particular year is the institution of something I dubbed, “Clean On Halloween.” There were several men who have sported some type of facial hair growth for many years. It certainly is not fair for them to simply continue along as they always have. Therefore, those that are truly committed to fuzz for frivolity shaved their faces clean in preparation for November. There are few who are pansies and kept their little goatees and are just allowing their jaws to accumulate additional whiskers. They will be buying the first round, and maybe a second near the end of the month when we go out for beers to celebrate manliness and facial hair. It is kind of too bad in a way that the growing of a beard is such a big deal. God after all intended men to be bearded. Otherwise we would be like women and not have to be concerned with it. My problem is that whilst the hair upon my head remains dark and pure, my face sprouts grey. I begin to look a lot older than my years as the chin comes in. Again, it is after all what God intended me to look like, but… I find it a bit insincere to dye that chin but I tried it the other day in an effort to take the edge off the incoming tide of grey. Whatever is in that box of Just For Men however didn’t sit well with me and my face broke out in a red swarm of ooze, pain and finally itching. Of course I did not pay heed to the instructions about testing the product on my arm first to see if I had an allergic reaction to it, I just rubbed it on and figured I would be looking dapper and dark and young. Mistake.  So now I am inflicted not only with the two week itch of regular beard growth but I have this lingering red scratching pad underneath it all. I however endure. I could shave. I could go to work and blame it on the wife. I could say I have Christmas pictures with the family. But no… I will tough it out- as any almost-bearded man half-way through No-Shave November should.