"There was music in the café at night
And revolution in the air."
I don't know about you, but I have had a surfeit of politicians, pundits and pollsters! Their nattering is Muzak to my ears. Blah, blah, blah. It's been 12 long months of tumult and tweets. No small irony that we now find ourselves with two, imperfect candidates. One is rich and secretive. The other is a rich buffoon. Neither has Barack Obama's oratorical skill. Both provide fodder for fact-checkers and opposition researchers. Trailing the two like a pack of hyenas are the pundits who take turns with Anderson Cooper, Sean Hannity and their ilk. They bloviate. They argue loudly. They interrupt each other. They serve up specious "analysis" for hours on end. Where is Jon Stewart in this hour of need?
Perhaps the din of politics is more intrusive this year because the 2016 election is such a watershed moment. Besides the whiff of revolution in the air, an ideological realignment of the Supreme Court hangs in the balance. Each candidate promises to appoint great justices while steering the country to greatness. But most campaign promises have the half-life of a fad diet. Moreover, plenty of liberals mistrust Hillary, and a lot of conservatives loathe Trump. Only the party platforms have managed to reach consensus. At 50-plus pages each, the platforms are short on data but long on self-aggrandizement and patriotic tropes. Each criticizes the other. Taken together, they provide a sharply divided view of what needs to be done to achieve greatness—a noun defined differently by each party. Here are some extracts:
Campaign Finance Reform
D: We will fight for real campaign finance reform. Big money is drowning out the voices of everyday Americans.
R: We support repeal of federal restrictions on political parties ... raising or repealing contribution limits, protecting the political speech of advocacy groups, corporations ...
D: We will abolish the death penalty. The application of the death penalty is arbitrary and unjust. The cost to taxpayers far exceeds that of life imprisonment.
R: The constitutionality of the death penalty is firmly settled by its explicit mention in the Fifth Amendment. With the murder rate soaring in our great cities, we condemn the Supreme Court's erosion of the right of the people to enact capital punishment in their states.
Public Health Exigencies
D: Gun violence is a public-health issue.
R: Pornography is a public-health crisis.
D: Keep weapons of war—such as assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines—off our streets.
R: We oppose ill-conceived laws that would restrict magazine capacity or ban the sale of the most popular and common modern rifle. We support constitutional-carry statutes
D: Lead the fight against climate change around the world, ensure no Americans are left out or left behind as we accelerate the transition to a clean-energy economy, and be responsible stewards of our natural resources and our public lands and waters.
R: Climate change is far from this nation's most pressing national security issue. This is the triumph of extremism over common sense.
D: We applaud last year's decision by the Supreme Court that recognized that LGBT people—like other Americans—have the right to marry the person they love.
R: Traditional marriage and family, based on marriage between one man and one woman, is the foundation for a free society and has for millennia been entrusted with rearing children and instilling cultural values. We condemn the Supreme Court's ruling in ... United States v. Windsor.
D: We will ensure those at the top contribute to our country's future by establishing a multimillionaire surtax to ensure millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share.
R: We oppose tax policies that deliberately divide Americans or promote class warfare.
D: We need policies and investments that will keep America's public lands public, strengthen protections for our natural and cultural resources, increase access to parks and public lands ... protect native species and wildlife, and harness the immense economic and social potential of our public lands and waters.
R: Congress should give authority to state regulators to manage energy resources on federally controlled public lands.
And so it goes. The devil is in the details, and there are plenty of them. The contrast between the platforms is stark. I found only two areas of agreement—support for Glass-Steagall-style bank regulation and funding for NASA. Both platforms do address the coming changes in the Supreme Court, however. Given the ages of the justices—two are in their 80s—the next president might fill as many as four vacancies. I believe the lesson of Citizens United is that we can't abide any more ultra-conservative jurists like Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Confronting a Hobson's choice, then, you have to vote for Hillary. That's a tough call in Utah. Republicans despise the Clintons, but they share Mitt Romney's dislike of Trump. As they twist in the revolutionary wind, I hope they are mulling Ted Cruz's calculated advice: Vote your conscience.