Slumping to the Occasion in 2016

 

Hillary Clinton and Donald TrumpAs we roll into the summer of discontent this presidential election year, it seems the stakes have never been higher. We say that every time, don’t we? “This is the most important presidential election of my lifetime. The Supreme Court hangs in the balance!” In these high-stakes moments — when it seems that one more presidential term is all it will take to irreversibly place our nation in a death spiral — we somehow find a way not to rise to the occasion. You might even say that instead of rising to it, we slump to the occasion. Consider the last two presidential elections.

In 2008 with the economy circling the drain and a war-weary nation ready to focus on anything but Iraq, we nominated war hero who was more hawkish than the unpopular incumbent. To run against the least-experienced presidential candidate in modern history, a half-term junior Senator from Illinois who openly talked about making our electric bills skyrocket and bankrupting entire industries, we nominated a man who couldn’t manage to articulate a coherent economic thought and admitted to having a poor grasp of economics. The challenges for our nation were substantial but we slumped to the occasion; John McCain was not the man for the hour.

In 2012 with an unpopular incumbent president who had shoved an increasingly unpopular semi-nationalization of the healthcare industry down the throats of an unwilling population on a party-line vote, it seemed there was a real chance to make President Obama a one-term wonder and to reverse some of his disastrous policies. We responded by nominating the one candidate who could legitimately be called the “father of Obamacare” and consequently could not channel anti-Obamacare sentiment into electoral victory. We are very good at this slumping to the occasion business; Mitt Romney was not the man for the hour.

Now it’s 2016 and once again we are calling this the most consequential election of our lifetimes. Yeah, yeah, we’ve heard all of that before. Yet, somehow, it seems more real this time. It rings true that this is the most consequential presidential election of my lifetime, at least on domestic policy issues. The domestic problems facing our nation have never seemed more dire and the need to solve them never more urgent. This is to say nothing of foreign affairs, which are also looking rather dicey at best. To put things in perspective, here is a rundown of a few of the great challenges we face on the home front.

The Supreme Court literally hangs in the balance with a vacancy that will likely be filled by our next President. The vacancy, when filled, will tip the balance of the court one way or the other for a very long time. There will likely be more vacancies of equal consequence in the next presidential term. It seems likely that the ideological makeup of the court will be decided for the next generation by the occupant of the Oval Office between 2017-2021.

As health insurance premiums spike across the country and affordable insurance options dwindle thanks to President Obama’s innovative “Affordable Care Act,” we finally have a Congress willing to repeal that law but we need a President who will sign the bill. If we don’t guard the down-ballot races we may not have such a Congress in 2017 no matter who becomes President.

We have almost no checks and balances in government as Congress has ceded much of its power to the executive and has refused to exercise its constitutional authority to rein in rogue agencies. This may be one of the biggest problems facing our nation and few people spend much time thinking about it. We have a runaway executive branch that makes up its own laws by executive order, the bureaucratic rule-making process, dear colleague letters, and flat out refusing to enforce existing laws as passed by the legislative branch. This is a constitutional crisis and it’s largely flying under the radar.

The legislature has done a masterful job of slumping to the occasion by refusing to pass meaningful legislation to curb the executive, by declining to use the power of the purse in a meaningful way, by conducting showy hearings and investigations that yield no results, render no accountability, remove no corrupt officials from power, and most certainly send no one to prison.

We have out-of-control federal agencies that know full well they are unaccountable to Congress and can generally do whatever they please. They ignore congressional subpoenas to testify before Congress. They withhold and destroy evidence subpoenaed by Congress. They flout the laws of the land, make their own laws, run roughshod over the states, intimidate private businesses, harass property owners, cause environmental disasters they would imprison mere citizens for causing, and allow their corrupt employees to stay on the job and even be promoted. Congress does nothing to stop them.

We have agencies that take away private land for seemingly no other reason than because they can. We have agencies that coerce state and local governments into adopting federal policies by attaching strings to federal funding. We have agencies that raise the cost of vehicles to absurd prices by mandating fuel efficiency levels and useless features that consumers neither want nor need but which must be included and priced into the product. We have agencies that ban useful products and cause people to have to either deal with useless regulatory-compliant products or figure out some workaround to make them work like they did before the government intervened.

We have agencies that are supposed to be apolitical but instead use their power to bully critics of the current administration and advance a partisan political agenda. This may be among the most dangerous aspects of executive overreach because it accelerates the erosion of trust in the institutions of government.

We have a Veterans Administration that seems not to care for veterans, is rife with corruption, uses fake waiting lists to deny healthcare to veterans, and is unwilling or unable to hold those responsible to account. Our veterans deserve better but neither the President, the agency itself, or the Congress seem interested in doing anything more than blow smoke about it.

We have a Department of Education that demands universities deny basic due process rights to students accused of wrongdoing, threatens to withhold funding from public schools that refuse to allow boys to use girls’ locker rooms, and increases the cost of education while decreasing immigrant assimilation by demanding that students be taught in their native language and assisted in maintaining their native culture and customs.

We have a debt crisis that poses a very real threat to the nation. When President Obama took office, the national debt was $10.6 trillion. As of this writing, the debt is $19.2 trillion and analysts project that by the time the president leaves office the debt will surpass $20 trillion — nearly double what it was the day he took office.

In November we will elect an awful, terrible, no good president who will be smaller than this historic moment requires and wholly inadequate to the challenges at hand. We know this because we will either elect Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and we can be fairly certain neither of them is equal to the task. Once again, we have slumped to the occasion and guaranteed ourselves another President who will do the same.

The question before us is not which candidate would fix these problems if elected, but which would make these problems worse. In an election where both viable candidates are virtually certain to be bad on most or all of the major challenges facing our nation, the choice is about which one would be less bad than the other.

It has been a long time since the situation looked so dire for supporters of limited government, individual liberty, and free markets. The job of Congress for the next four years will be to contain the next President to make sure that he or she does the least damage possible. I believe that Congress will be able to more effectively contain President Trump than President Clinton which is why I cannot join the #NeverTrump team and why I will likely vote for Trump in November. In my next article I will expand on the idea of presidential containment and defend my position that Trump is more containable than Clinton.

There are 22 comments.

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  1. Clavius Thatcher
    Clavius
    @Clavius

    Well written.  And I agree with you.  Trump is a better option than Clinton.

    • #1
  2. DocJay Inactive
    DocJay
    @DocJay

    Good choice.

    • #2
  3. Ann Inactive
    Ann
    @Ann

    Yup, you pretty much covered it.

    People have gotten to used to their handouts and lost their self reliance so I don’t know if we will ever see limited government, liberty and free markets again.

    That was the nice thing about the primary. You could at least dream for a couple of months that it might be different this time.

    • #3
  4. Quinn the Eskimo Member
    Quinn the Eskimo
    @

    Things aren’t nearly bad enough for people to feel that they have to rise to the challenge.  It’s not even like we would have to fall that far for people to freak out.  Gasoline shortages.  Permanent diminished Internet service.  You don’t nearly have to hit bottom like subsistence farming.

    On the other hand, although Americans have risen to their various challenges in the previous times, past performance is no guarantee of future returns.

    • #4
  5. WI Con Member
    WI Con
    @WICon

    Terrific post and points, well argued Nathaniel. Looks as if the citizenry isn’t up to the moment as well – I we’d been, we wouldn’t have this excruciating choice. I too, have come to believe that Trump will cause the least damage and the GOP’s contempt for the man is a plus in keeping him in check. Who knows, they may prompt each other to perform as he’s largely the result of their fecklessness and the Base’s disgust with them.

    Looking forward to your additional thoughts.

    • #5
  6. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Insightful summary of the issues at stake, both the public and the more sub rosa ones.  I just don’t buy your conclusion that Congress will better contain President Trump.  He’s expressed even more contempt for the limits of the power of the presidency than Obama who, as we all know, has made disregarding those limits — and loudly so as to discredit them in the process — a centerpiece of his presidency.  Moreover I anticipate that at least the House (inshallah) will remain in republican hands and be more likely to obstruct Hillary.

    • #6
  7. Petty Boozswha Inactive
    Petty Boozswha
    @PettyBoozswha

    Per the latest poll Trump is already down 12 points to Leona Helmsley despite whatever bump he should have gotten from the terror incident. His rallys that used to be full now look like a Yoko Ono concert. We still have time to change the nominee to either Romney or, possibly, Scott Walker. The only reason I have not yet resigned from the Republican Party is because I’m hoping against hope that our “leadership” will come to it’s senses and expel this demagogue. Voting for Trump will guarantee a Dem Senate, probably a Dem House, and a mandate for the crook of LBJ/Reagan proportions. Please let’s join together while we still have a chance.

    • #7
  8. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Nathanael Ferguson: As we roll into the summer of discontent this presidential election year, it seems the stakes have never been higher. We say that every time, don’t we?

    Because every time, we win or lose but do nothing to correct the myriad problems we face.

    Next cycle: Dang, now this hole is really deep–the stakes have never been higher!!

    • #8
  9. TKC1101 Inactive
    TKC1101
    @TKC1101

    Blaming the citizenry is a tad precious, folks.

    We are where we are for a simple reason. Trump grabbed issues which resonate with  voters.

    The issues were there for Walker, Perry, Cruz, Rubio and  Fiorina to grab, but no one came forward and took them.

    I suspect all were heavily influenced by the GOP Donors, or you can prefer to believe they were totally incompetent politicians.

    This is a battle of people versus globalists. It has been from the beginning.

    Right now, Ryan and McConnell are moving to Hillary to maintain cred with the donor base. Never trump did not work, now I expect some money is flowing to Gary Johnson.

    We are also in a season where polls can be rigged to get headlines, since the results are months away. Watch the makeup of polls for imbalances in selection. Polls are used now to drive voters, not to inform.

    In the end It will be Voters versus the Donors with the Media trying to tilt the playing field.

    • #9
  10. Robert Dammers Thatcher
    Robert Dammers
    @RobertDammers

    Polls being used to drive voters is the way you ended up with a choice between bad and a mad Democrat.

    Bill Clinton really knew what he was doing when he urged Trump to run.

    • #10
  11. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    I don’t count on Congress to control Trump.  If he seeks to spend more, Congress will log roll for it’s constituents.  If he moves towards trade restrictions, Congress will clamor for industry protection for its constituents.  Congress is the thrust of both spending and protectionist sentiment.  That is why protectionism is always harmful and wise spending  impossible.    Controls, in the absence of self control and personal principles and knowledge will come from  the cabinet and other appointments as they always do.  We know what kind of people Hillary will appoint, progressives, minorities, especially minority women, and people from politically useful groups.  We don’t know who Trump will appoint and the Republican insiders seem more worried about his political correctness than his appointments.   What Republican insiders are showing us is that they are still driven by fear of liberal media rather than principles or an understanding of the problems we face.

    • #11
  12. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Cato Rand:Insightful summary of the issues at stake, both the public and the more sub rosa ones. I just don’t buy your conclusion that Congress will better contain President Trump. He’s expressed even more contempt for the limits of the power of the presidency than Obama who, as we all know, has made disregarding those limits — and loudly so as to discredit them in the process — a centerpiece of his presidency. Moreover I anticipate that at least the House (inshallah) will remain in republican hands and be more likely to obstruct Hillary.

    Hey…welcome back to Thunderdome, Cato!

    • #12
  13. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Deleted…wrong thread.

    • #13
  14. Abu Daniel Member
    Abu Daniel
    @AbuDaniel

    Victor Hugo addressed our current situation in chapter 20 of Les Misérables: “A nation is illustrious; it tastes the ideal; then it bites the filth, and finds it good; and if we ask why it abandons Socrates for Falstaff, it answers: ‘Because I love statesmen.'”

    • #14
  15. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    Cato Rand: I just don’t buy your conclusion that Congress will better contain President Trump.

    I suspect you are not alone in that. I’ll argue the point in my followup piece and see if I can persuade you.

    • #15
  16. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    Petty Boozswha: Per the latest poll Trump is already down 12 points to Leona Helmsley despite whatever bump he should have gotten from the terror incident. His rallys that used to be full now look like a Yoko Ono concert. We still have time to change the nominee to either Romney or, possibly, Scott Walker. The only reason I have not yet resigned from the Republican Party is because I’m hoping against hope that our “leadership” will come to it’s senses and expel this demagogue. Voting for Trump will guarantee a Dem Senate, probably a Dem House, and a mandate for the crook of LBJ/Reagan proportions. Please let’s join together while we still have a chance.

    If we were able to somehow supplant Trump at the convention I would be thrilled to support his replacement. Since that seems extraordinarily unlikely, and since it also seems unlikely that a third party or independent candidate would have a realistic shot at doing anything other than guaranteeing a Clinton win, my analysis is filtered through the view that Clinton and Trump are the only viable candidates going forward and that one of them will be president whether I like it or not.

    • #16
  17. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    Boss Mongo:Because every time, we win or lose but do nothing to correct the myriad problems we face.

    Next cycle: Dang, now this hole is really deep–the stakes have never been higher!!

    Truth!

    • #17
  18. Fricosis Guy Listener
    Fricosis Guy
    @FricosisGuy

    Nathanael Ferguson:

    Cato Rand: I just don’t buy your conclusion that Congress will better contain President Trump.

    I suspect you are not alone in that. I’ll argue the point in my followup piece and see if I can persuade you.

    I believe it is obvious the GOP will work hard to contain Trump. He’s a Republican, right?

    • #18
  19. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    Nathanael Ferguson: If we were able to somehow supplant Trump at the convention I would be thrilled to support his replacement. Since that seems extraordinarily unlikely, and since it also seems unlikely that a third party or independent candidate would have a realistic shot at doing anything other than guaranteeing a Clinton win, my analysis is filtered through the view that Clinton and Trump are the only viable candidates going forward and that one of them will be president whether I like it or not.

    I like the idea of replacing Trump, but reality bites.  A lot of Trump supporters are normal, apolitical people who just want the country to get better.  Their hearts are in the right place, even if their choice (in the primary) was a mistake.

    The Trump replacers would have to explain their actions in a way that is persuasive to normal people. Anyone want to bet on their ability to do that?

    • #19
  20. BastiatJunior Member
    BastiatJunior
    @BastiatJunior

    accidental double post

    • #20
  21. Cato Rand Inactive
    Cato Rand
    @CatoRand

    Nathanael Ferguson:

    Cato Rand: I just don’t buy your conclusion that Congress will better contain President Trump.

    I suspect you are not alone in that. I’ll argue the point in my followup piece and see if I can persuade you.

    That will be interesting.  Unless you assume Trump is going to cost us both houses of Congress (a possibility that’s irritatingly hard to dismiss), I’m not sure how that’s possible.  But I’ll read it with interest.

    • #21
  22. Nathanael Ferguson Contributor
    Nathanael Ferguson
    @NathanaelFerguson

    That will be interesting. Unless you assume Trump is going to cost us both houses of Congress (a possibility that’s irritatingly hard to dismiss), I’m not sure how that’s possible. But I’ll read it with interest.

    Thought I would have a followup post today but had some unplanned detours in my day so I won’t be able to get it posted until tomorrow.

    • #22

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