JACKSON — Well, yet another presidential election has rolled around and I can no longer put off writing about presidential politics. I do this about once every four years.
I’m reluctant for reasons. There is no shortage of opinions on presidential politics. My opinion would be vastly redundant. And after 45 years in journalism, I have become somewhat jaded about the whole affair.
I seem to be in the minority. Most people get hot and bothered about presidential politics. I fear they will blow a gasket. I am more blase. This battle has been going on for thousands of years.
Julius Caesar was born a patrician. He did an end run around the senators of the Roman republic by appealing directly to the masses with bread and circus. The republic fell and a dictatorship ensued. That was 2,000 years ago.
Everybody talks about how mean and vicious politics has become. News Flash: Politics has always been mean and vicious.
If we go back 200 years to the presidential race between Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in 1828, Wikipedia writes: “The campaign was marked by large amounts of nasty ‘mudslinging.’ Jackson’s marriage, for example, came in for vicious attack. When Jackson married his wife Rachel in 1791, the couple believed that she was divorced, however the divorce was not yet finalized, so he had to remarry her once the legal papers were complete. In the Adams campaign’s hands, this became a scandal. Charles Hammond, in his Cincinnati Gazette, asked: ‘Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?’ Jackson also came under heavy attack as a slave trader who bought and sold slaves and moved them about in defiance of modern standards of morality (he was not attacked for merely owning slaves used in plantation work). The Coffin Handbills attacked Jackson for his courts-martial, execution of deserters and massacres of Indian villages, and also his habit of dueling.” Andrew Jackson won.
Mudslinging and politics have always lived side by side and this will never change.
My daughter Ruth and I recently had a conversation about the election. I asked her what she thought was the main issue. She discussed the candidates’ personalities.
I disagreed. “Ruth, it is and always has been mainly about money and who gets to keep it. The Republicans are more likely to let you keep your money. The Democrats are more likely to take your money and give it to someone else. That’s what the fighting is mainly about.
“If you have money and want to keep it, you are more likely to vote Republican. If you don’t have money and want the government to give you some, you are more likely to vote Democratic.”
It is no coincidence that about half of Americans pay very little federal tax. It’s designed that way. In the two-party system, you need 50% of the vote plus one. This provides a perfect equilibrium between the tax-paying Republicans and the tax-receiving Democrats.
Of course, ideology and ideas play a role for some. And there are many other issues involved. But by and large, politics is about economic self interest.
As Margaret Thatcher said, “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.”
When that happens, more people get taxed, the Democrats lose their majority and the Republicans win.
Same thing with the Republicans. If their policies create too much concentration of wealth, too many people are left out and the Republicans lose their majority and the Democrats win. It’s perfectly balanced. That’s the stability of our two-party system.
A byproduct of the two-party system is nobody gets everything they want. Politics makes strange bedfellows. You have to stitch together an odd assortment of ideas and constituencies to get to 51%. It’s all about compromise.
For instance, isn’t it odd that the Republicans, who profess love of the free market and individual liberties, are socially conservative while the Democrats, who are more prone to government regulations, tend to be socially liberal. It’s backwards!
I am not a big fan of Trump’s personality. His openness and honesty can be refreshing, but he often displays boorish behavior.
Advisors have suggested he change. I can imagine Trump’s thoughts during such occasions. “OK. I’m a multi-billionaire. I golf at the most beautiful resorts all around the world which, by the way, I own. I have a gorgeous wife, beautiful, smart children and, on top of that, happen to be the most powerful man in the world. Wealth, fame and power. And you want me to change my act? I don’t think so.”
In tennis there is a rule, never change a winning strategy. Say what you will, Trump’s personality seems to be working.
Will he win? The polls don’t think so, but they were wrong the last time. Trump is drawing huge crowds all around the country, which can’t be a bad sign. And he is the incumbent.
Americans usually vote for the most interesting and charismatic of the two candidates. If that’s the case, look for Trump to be re-elected.
Trump has done some good things. He lowered corporate taxes. This was long overdue. Our corporate tax rates were some of the highest in the world and it was driving huge companies out of our country.
Trump has nominated strong, conservative judges to our U.S. Supreme Court. Our highest court is not supposed to be a legislative body. It is supposed to interpret the law as it was written.
Trump has done a good job with criminal justice reform.
Before COVID, the Trump economy was humming along. He took deregulation seriously. That’s another big credit in my book. I’m not a big fan of trade wars, but it probably was time to draw some lines with China.
I agree with Trump’s approach that we must learn to live with COVID rather than shut down the economy. The disease can’t be worse than the cure. I don’t believe global warming is going to destroy the world, so that’s another Trump plus in my book.
The biggest failure of Trump has been his failure to reign in the national deficit. Ever since we opened the spigots after the financial crisis, there is a prevailing attitude that money is free and endless. I sure hope all of these economics professors know what they’re doing. If not, there will be hell to pay. As bad as Trump has done on fiscal conservatism, the Democrats would do worse.
I also think the Ukrainian Burisma deal with Biden’s son stinks to high heaven. Just like last time, it’s the jerk versus the crook.
I don’t like political parties and I am not a Republican. I believe free market solutions are generally better than government controls, so I tend to vote for Republicans.
There, I said it. I’ll be voting for Trump. Let the hate mail begin!
But I won’t be losing any sleep if Biden wins. Our republic is strong as a rock and will not fail.
Emmerich is editor and publisher of The Northside Sun in Jackson and president of Emmerich Newspapers.