As Middle America passes from denial to anger with the 2016 presidential election, let's reflect briefly on what has been lost in this contest between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
As a starting point, let's take the Scout Law: A Scout is Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean, and Reverent. Boy Scouts since 1908; Girl Scouts since 1912. As much as anything else, this encapsulated the personality ideals of America for a century. John Wayne was a fan; scouts were frequently found among Norman Rockwell's iconic paintings. In recent years the Scouts have been under political correctness pressure - gays; religion - but the components of the Scout Law have not been overtly challenged. Until we nominated Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Trustworthy - A Scout tells the truth. He is honest, and he keeps his promises. People can depend on him. Hillary is the antithesis - as reflected in the corruption of the Clinton Foundation, the e-mail saga, and a lifetime extending back to her firing from the Watergate Commission. The Wikileaks disclosures should expunge any doubt by even the most ardent supporters; the inaccurate and demoralizing excuse by true-blue Democrats that "everybody does it" says nothing about respect for our political system or belief in the goodness of the American people.
Helpful; Friendly; Courteous; Kind; Reverent - the antithesis of Trump. For the past year he has gone out of his way to be the opposite - from his criticism of John McCain's war service, to his insults of the other Republican candidates, to his tirades against Gold Star parents and his threats against judges and politicians who oppose him. Policy aside, he deserves to lose
Thrifty. Trump's business empire is built on conspicuous consumption. The Clinton life-style is no less profligate, while funded by donors. Neither has shown any concern about the $20 trillion of national debt; neither addresses the looming bankruptcy of entitlement programs; Hillary would add new entitlements - free college and child care. Trump combines free child care with large tax cuts. This is not just a matter of bad economics, it is a matter of non-Scout attitudes about spending, debt, and passing on burdens to the next generation.
In terms of party response, the race to the bottom has been decidedly unequal. It is very difficult to find a Democrat at any level who has expressed outrage over the corruption of Hillary Clinton; there is no refusal to endorse, even with the Wikileaks discussions of double dealing by the party leaders and clear "pay to play" use of the Clinton Foundation. Republicans, on the other hand, are fractured. For most of the elected leaders and party functionaries it is a difficult political calculation, but for large swaths of the party and leaders such as Mitt Romney and John Kasich abandonment of Trump is a matter of principle - he is just too far from the national ideals, even if he is, for the moment, the captain of the team. Maybe the partisan difference about accepting the candidate's character flaws comes from the presence of evangelicals in the Republican DNA; maybe it is something else, but the tolerance level for corruption among Democrats is stunning.
So, where will that leave us after the dust clears?
1. With apologies to those relying on prayer chains, bumper-sticker counts, or the silent majority, most respected objective observers - Nate Silver; Charlie Cook; Stu Rothenberg among them - concur that the presidential race is essentially over.
2. The Republicans will have a difficult internal discussion. After Romney's loss in 2012, the Republican National Committee conducted a post-mortem which concluded that the party needed to be more focused on problem solving and private sector economic growth and less on social issues, more open to Hispanics, and more efficient in how the presidential candidate was selected (fewer debates; earlier convention; more delegates selected in open primaries.) Most conclusions are still appropriate - plus something on how debates are managed.
3. Democrats would like to paint a Trump defeat as repudiation of the Tea Party. Charlie Cook refers to "the consequences of handing over their party’s car keys to the tea-party movement and watching as the quintessential tea partier, Donald Trump, drove the car over a cliff." How wrong can one be - Trump is anything but a constitutional, small government, traditional American values conservative of the type that will dominate Paul Ryan's House. In fact, Trump is far from the Tea Party, but he has captured a populist wave - anti-establishment; strong borders; America First - which will survive long past the demise of a flawed messenger.
4. A Clinton presidency will be the least legitimate in generations. The Justice Department and the FBI have been totally compromised. Rewards will be many - for the Clinton Foundation donors, for the Wall Street donors, for the public employee unions (except for the police and the border guards). Julian Assange and Trump Enterprises had best have good lawyers.
More broadly, for those looking for a ray of hope, relatively few will have voted for Hillary Clinton. Millenials and immigrants will undoubtedly have somewhat different ideals than traditional middle class America, but it is hard to believe that they will take the Clinton Foundation over the Scout Law. And much of the detritus of Barack Obama - Obamacare, the Syria disaster, open borders, racial animus - will be in the rear view mirror.
For those in need of a bit of a rant, this video of Lou Dobbs will not disappoint.
bill bowen - 10/28/16