Sam Smith – One of the reasons I don’t fit into a politically correct role is because I have lived around corruption for so much of my life. I got started in politics as a 13 year old stuffing envelopes in a successful campaign to end 69 years of Republican rule in Philadelphia. I was a student journalist covering the Cambridge Massachusetts city council at the end of notorious Boston mayor Curley’s life. I helped get Marion Barry underway only to find him a huge disappointment. And I spent 45 years covering not only corruption at the national level but in local DC government. Contrary to what some of my friends think, I’m not a cynic but just an accidental historian of things that have gone wrong.
But because politics – thanks in no small part to television replacing its former community based roots – has become a fantasy game often devoid of all logic, much of what someone like me says can seem disloyal, unvirtuous and unacceptable. I’m sorry but I know no other course.
Growing up in a somewhat dysfunctional family, I early became aware that even the highest principles have to be modified in the interest of survival. Virtue may be your mentor and guide, but reality best determines the next step.
The reality of this campaign finds that supporters of the leaders in both major parties have created role models that make Chance the gardener seem logical. In one party we have a top candidate who has a painting in his house of Jesus standing behind him with his hand on his shoulder and, in the other, we have a candidate who gets up to 60% of the party’s support yet 60% of the public finds her untrustworthy. Add in the assorted meglamania and incompetence of the GOP pack and you have a campaign overwhelmingly dependent on the question of which falsehoods will be found most reliable.
Consider one recent poll that found Hillary Clinton doing best against the Republican’s most experienced candidate, John Kasich, while in a statistical tie with the totally flimsy and incompetent Ben Carson.
Or consider that HRC is so weak politically that TV’s Good Wife – ranked 97% by fans on Rotten Tomatoes – has Alicia’s husband actually running against Clinton for president.
So what is the best course for survival in such a dysfunctional time?
First, ignore the fantasy – including all sentences from Donald Trump that begin with “I will” and all fake giggles and false assertions from Hillary Clinton.
Second, view corruption as secondary to its effects. Corrupt politicians used to serve as feudal lords. Yes, they took favors but they did something in return. Now, most them just take the checks and ignore the people. For example, Marion Barry was mayor of DC when Bill Clinton was governor of Arkansas. They both used cocaine. One went to prison for it, the other went to the White House. Yet Barry did far more for DC than Clinton did for Arkansas. We no longer have actual records to judge corrupt candidates by, we have to judge the probabilities of their future course.
Third, vote for the party not for the candidate. Yes, Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein would be the best choices in a righteous world. But if reality won’t permit it, then chose the best result and do so based not on the faults and virtues of the candidates but on the predictable results of having their party in power. By this logical standard, Bernie Madoff, running as a Democrat, would be better then any of the Republicans. You just have to pick a good vice president for when he gets impeached.
I wouldn’t lend Hillary Clinton my car keys. I consider her corrupt, dishonest and unreliable. but I don’t want the Republicans killing large numbers of Americans with their disasterous policies or destroying our republic through the Supreme Court.
Politics is not religion. It is not about how virtuous you or I are or what we want to believe. It is about making the best of a bad situation. I voted for Obama even though I knew he was not the person he pretended to be. And I would do the same with Clinton if I have to.
In fact, there is a exceptional chance that Hillary Clinton will end up in more big trouble and that we may find ourselves trying to get Martin O’Malley up to speed or getting someone else in the race. I have never seen a leading Democrat presidential candidate carrying so much bad baggage and being such a risk to her party.
But that’s part of the dysfunctional time we live in. Just put faith, dreams and virtue aside for now and figure out how to survive.