Don Rogers: No elephant in this race
Oh, boy. The first debate, fascinating in its way. Tempted to change your vote? Me neither.
The Republicans put up the only candidate Hillary Clinton could beat. And the Democrats nominated the only candidate Donald Trump could beat. There’s a takeaway we already had.
Monday night’s show did confirm what I had begun to suspect about this presidential campaign, though. Well, besides who’d a thunk even Democrats would look back at George W. Bush’s presidency with a sort of longing nostalgia?
Trump’s pitch mainlines right to the limbic system. He’s all about the amygdala, our lizard brain. Pure fear and the promise Daddy will take care of it all. He’s actually quite persuasive, nearly pitch perfect.
I understand completely why he’s doing so well.
And I understand why Democrats are so frustrated. Clinton should be mopping the floor with this guy. His falsehoods, repeated over and over, invite semi-trailer rigs to drive through them. Not that his core supporters care a whit about inconvenient facts, a billionaire who suddenly seems to be on their side, whose religious values get a pass, who has conservatives finding their own core values negotiable.
He may not feel their pain, but he certainly expresses it.
Clinton is coolly logical, making points over a lot of Americans’ heads, full of policy and laden with facts no one really wants to look up. And surely she’s hiding things. Has to be. So what if Republican oversight committees can’t dig anything up, or prosecutors come up with a case?
She’s all prefrontal cortex, basically. And conventionally Democrat. A career politician with long service as secretary of state, senator, president and governor’s wife, social justice attorney.
If you used your rational mind, Clinton crushed The Donald in their first debate. He blustered but couldn’t ruffle his well-prepared opponent, who easily got under his skin. He sniffed but missed lots of opportunities and as usual couldn’t keep his facts straight or remember what he’s said or not said in the past.
But presidential races are not decided so much with the higher functions of the brain.
Many of us do think through our votes and what the candidates might mean for the economy mainly, but also home security, our understanding of a more perfect union, and maybe even a little about our place in the world.
Let’s not fool ourselves, though. Candidates win on the gut level stuff: trust, likeability, outlook like ours, strength. This is why you see people crying at party gatherings, talking about whether they’d like having a beer with a candidate, bending like pretzels to rationalize their chosen one’s double speak, flip flops and other flaws.
Emotions rule. The mind makes something up to go along. This is why Trump’s supporters don’t care if he was exposed as a fool in Monday’s debate, if his policies, where he’s supposed to be strong, are objectively nutty, and that he’s not a conservative socially or fiscally.
Clinton’s problem isn’t that she’s the Democratic answer to Richard Nixon. Her email issues are dumb but hardly criminal. Republicans themselves have tacitly exonerated her of the accusations against her regarding Benghazi. They poked for years in congressional hearings dominated by politicians trying to find something, anything, to hang on her rhetorically if they couldn’t unearth real evidence. They dug up exactly nothin’.
No, her real problem is she’s boring. She’s a plodder, a wonk, an icon of same ol’ same ol’. Never mind if we’re slowly but surely recovering from the Great Recession with different policies and decisions than what led to it in the first place. Never mind that Trump would revert right back to what crushed the nation.
Surely this is only coincidence, but have you noticed that the more interesting character has won the presidency in each election going back at least to Reagan?
Romney was vanilla compared to Obama, McCain conventional. Kerry deadly droningly dull to Bush. Gore a wonky smarty pants. Dole over the hill to Clinton. The first Bush distantly competent to Clinton. Dukakis, incredibly, even duller than Bush. Reagan just a lot funnier and folksier than anyone who ran against him.
If this holds, Trump will win. Appalling as he may be on practically every measure involving rationality, you have to admit he is one fascinating character.
Hillary Clinton, not so much.
But I have to say boring sounds pretty good right now. There are no elephants in the race anyway.
Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at email@example.com or 477-4299.
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“There is a cult of ignorance in this country … nurtured by the false notion that ‘my ignorance is as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov, 1980.