When Republican candidate Jeb Bush recently left the presidential sweepstakes following defeat in the South Carolina primary, the race lost a high-quality, but perhaps not a modern leader. We voters are left now with fewer options, and the leading choices of both political parties are dismal.
Politics today has suffered a massive head injury. It demands honor and dignity. What we have thought were necessary presidential qualities for two centuries still should be, but instead we see frontrunners exhibiting unacceptable behaviors and policies: one a Democratic socialist with plans for a larger federal government offering citizens additional free services; the other a dishonest politician advocating for more invasive Obama public policies. The third is a bombastic, rude, name-calling showman with intentionally vague public policies.
With about 30 percent of the fed-up electorate sewn up, the elitist Republican frontrunner can almost say and do anything he likes without diminishing his dominant status. But on March 3, Donald Trump crossed the line of crudeness. More problematic for him will be the general election, when discerning voters participate. Chances are, the "Make America Great Again" slogan, without details, will be a hard sell for voters in our complicated world who demand specific answers to policy questions — something the current Republican frontrunner doesn't have.
Traditional candidates, such as governors Bush, Scott Walker, Rick Perry, George Pataki, Bobby Jindal, Jim Gilmore and Chris Christie, offered experience, records of problem-solving ability and conservatism, but none ever caught on. Ohio's Governor John Kasich, still politically alive, has so far been mostly unsuccessful with his "compassionate conservative' message.
So far, contrarianism rules the day for Republicans, but simply being contrary doesn't lead to public policy resolution. Voters today apparently want to destroy the existing political system after being understandably dismayed with Washington, D.C., gridlock, the adoption of staggering national indebtedness and the worsening of societal problems that some citizens expect federal resources to solve. For Democrats, the choices are bigger government and dishonesty or just bigger government, neither option very attractive to a culture with a successful 240-year history that has produced economic growth, perpetuated a free society and acted as a bulwark against foreign aggression.
Those successes, though imperfect, have offered opportunity and freedom to Americans. They're also the reason the United States builds fences to keep people out, not to keep people in.
So what's the political prognosis for America's future?
First, the rejection of Donald Trump's candidacy will spare America the embarrassment of an elitist Trump presidency and further political polarization.
Second, Trump supporters rally to him because they're so disillusioned with the current state of political affairs, thinking that a Trump presidency couldn't be any worse than what we have. But it would be worse.
Third, officeholders of both political parties should be wary: The public is intolerant of the way government is behaving, so public officials should regain trust by reducing national indebtedness, lessening the intrusions of the federal government and showing compassion for all segments of society.
Rudeness to foreign leaders, threatening financial retaliation against nations we compete with internationally and a lack of compassion for the masses who aren't rich would result in destroying the American tradition of benevolence to others and perpetuation of our successful constitutional system. It would also further disillusion Republicans. If the Democratic socialist candidate becomes president, unrest at the expanding size and scope of government would increase; if the other Democratic candidate prevails, the American public would be unable to trust in the Commander in Chief's word. Either option would be bad for America.
Hopefully, voter disillusionment with "establishment" figures will ebb, and there will be a place in government for the experience and wisdom offered by some of the candidates who have been rejected this year. While voters may now be seeking a president whom they can trust to return the U.S. to predictable policies and responsible government, they also need a president who's been tested in some fashion and is honorable, as many prior presidents have been.
Fresh political faces are valuable and can achieve results, but the best political faces are those who are dignified and honest, those who are experienced and those who understand how government works so they can fix it (if only they will).
Then, voters will not have taken an unnecessary risk with their political choices, and will have been discerning enough not to make our already coarse culture even more so. And they will avoid losing all hope that anyone can effectively perpetuate the enjoyment and freedoms offered by our Constitution.
Much is at stake in 2016, and voters must elect a responsible president.♦