Sorry, no apocalypse today or tomorrow

By David T. Jones on May 29, 2016

Washington, DC - The lack of perspective among political and/or foreign policy commentators is remarkable.  One would sometimes believe that their sense of history when they awaken in the morning is limited to when they went to sleep.

Even when appreciating the imperatives of the 24-hour news cycle and the imperatives that reporters must serve the Twitter/Tweet/Social Media gods while attempting to provide stories, their absence of historical perspective ranges from amusing to pathetic.

Thus one would believe that the current U.S. presidential primary competition is somehow uniquely horrid in its political atmospherics and prospective consequences.  

It was particularly amusing reading and listening to the grave pronouncements that the Republican Party must prevent Donald Trump from gaining its presidential nomination.  That these ponderous pontifications emanated from individuals and media organizations that would have sacrificed their first born rather than support a Republican left cynics with head-shaking smiles.  For such media/commentators, the only “good Republican” would be one indistinguishable from a Democrat.  

The reality remains that Donald Trump defeated a “grade A,” blue ribbon cast of competitors.  The other 16 candidates included a full range of incumbent and previous governors and senators, a renowned medical expert, and a respected female CEO.  For the most part, they were well regarded personally and politically, adequately financed, and strongly endorsed.  But Trump defeated them all.  As one after another dropped out, mainstream media became more and more desperate about finding an “anybody but Trump” candidate.  Each alternative was propped up—and swatted down by Trump who attracted massive crowds and won the overwhelming majority of the primaries, garnering more votes than any previous Republican primary candidate.

And, until recently, Trump did so without the much fibrillated against “big money” contributions to finance his campaign.  To be sure, it helps to be a billionaire.  

But even more important, it is vital to realize that U.S. politics are not badminton.  A sense of history returns us to 1968.  During that campaign year:

--The incumbent president (Lyndon Johnson) declined to run for a second term; his nebbish Vice President Hubert Humphrey became his surrogate;

-- The Vietnam War was in violent fury with the ancillary requirement for a draftee army to fight it roiling university campuses with “Hell, no we won’t go” resistance to the draft;

-- In April Martin Luther King was assassinated.  Immediately following were bloody and destructive riots in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Kansas City, Newark, and Washington, DC in which cities burned and 46 people died;

--In June, following a California primary victory, Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated, clearing the path for a Humphrey presidential nomination;

-- In August at the Chicago Democratic presidential convention, police violently suppressed anti-war demonstrators, injuring hundreds;

-- In October unreconstructed, racist Alabama governor George Wallace pushed his third party campaign by nominating “bomb them back to the Stone Age” former Air Force General Curtis LeMay as his VP.  Wallace eventually got 13.5 percent of the vote and won five states.

(In passing, internationally, as well as the war in Southeast Asia, there were massive student riots/demonstrations in Paris April-May, the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August, and Mexican police/military killing hundreds of protesters in Mexico City in October.)

Consequently, the 2016 hissy-fit slanging matches and offenses against League of Women Voters or Amy Vanderbilt schools of etiquette are sandbox exercises in comparison.   The blunt talk and ad hominem insult is closer to day-to-day reality than artificial debate parameters.  

More defining, however, the issues raised by Trump are of existential concern for many U.S. citizens.  USG inability to control illegal immigration and cope with the millions of illegals poisons our position as a sovereign state.  And job loss associated with trade agreements that disadvantage lower/middle class U.S. workers leave millions at a loss for their fiscal/economic futures.

Nor is there any serious likelihood that the projected Apocalypse for the Republican Party has any factual historical foundation.  One might recall that Democrats Senator George McGovern and former VP Walter Mondale lost 49 of 50 states respectively in 1972 and 1984.  And Democrats recovered handily to win presidential elections in 1976 and 1992.  

No comparable Republican annihilation is anticipated for November 2016.  Even assuming that Trump will be defeated (by no matter a foregone conclusion considering the personal/political limitations of the prospective Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton), there is a reasonable chance Republicans will hold at least one house of Congress and continue to exercise political leverage.

If not quite “politics as usual,” 2016 is hardly apocalyptic.


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