What matters in a president?
While it may be foolish to look to our political system for solutions to our problems, it is arguable that who is president at any given time matters. I used to be less certain about this. I had come to the view that any president was basically a spokes-model for the 1%, and hence the military industrial complex, Wall Street, the establishment, the oligarchy, etc. I had become inured to the notion that even 'good' presidents could do very little to change the god-awful trajectory of a nation driven mad by greed. Now, having seen the wreckage a horrible president can wreak on a helpless nation, I'm starting to re-question why none of the 'good' presidents ever had much impact. They had the same power to do good as he has to do evil. I'm starting to think they didn't want to change anything. Or were paid not to. (Shocking, I know.)
Yeah, I'm starting to think they all bamboozled us, promising change and justice, but with forked tongues as they blithely went about the business of the 1% and the great American war machine. Our government has been for many years a playground for lobbyists and profiteers, who often write their own laws. The government may seem dysfunctional, but it's just serving a purpose other than the well-being of the American people - and certainly not the well-being of the rest of the world.
I'm beginning to think it does matter who's president – you know, assuming we could ever have one who wasn't a turn-key functionary of the 1%. Even if they could get no support or cooperation from congress, four years of a true anti-Trump in the bully pulpit couldn't hurt. We need much more of course, but that alone would be manna from heaven at this point.
So assuming the presidency matters, I am endlessly perplexed by the criteria by which people decide which candidates to support. I am especially agog at how many people are single issue voters – people who vote for someone because of their race, ethnicity, gender, religion, geographic origin, appearance or a better-than-average ability to speak the language. If you vote for a presidential candidate for dumb reasons, you may well end up with a dumb president. Res ipsa loquitur.
Presumably, everyone wants a composed, well spoken president, one that can conduct him or herself with a trace of grace, some modicum of decorum, one who won't embarrass us every time they speak or try to close an umbrella. Being nice looking also matters since we have to look at this person a great deal more than we really want. A good smile, nice teeth, real hair; all of that matters – to some extent. Just not all that much. An attractive appearance and a suave command of the language actually guarantees very little. If anything such characteristics have the potential to conceal deep flaws and questionable actions and policies. Glib good-looking people get away with a lot of crap.
I'm often struck by how little people question these things. Or just how incurious they can be. Many people seem to be on some kind of weird cultural auto-pilot, cruising through daily life, checking all the boxes, meeting expectations, not questioning anything too rigorously, settling for simplistic propaganda because the truth these days seems so hard. I mean who has the time to go rooting about?
I sympathize really. It can be the devil to find untainted news. And the world is awash in corporate bullshit.
One of the few things the American people agree on is that the mainstream media is woefully inadequate. According to a 2016 Gallup poll, only about 20 percent of Americans have confidence in the television news and in newspapers. Donald Trump effectively harnessed this distrust during his campaign, and still attacks the media before his fans when he wants to prompt applause.
Americans recognize that the media does not represent their views, and media consolidation is largely to blame. It depends how you count, but, today, about six corporations control around 90 percent of our broadcast and print news — down from 50 corporations in the early 1980s
Six giant, billionaire-owned corporations control 90 percent of the information that gets disseminated. They decide what merits attention and what doesn't, and they decide how it is framed and spun. That amounts to a massive domination of the public conversation and a dastardly manipulation of the public mind.
So little is actually what it seems, especially in the present environment, that intellectual caution and a certain minimum rigor would seem well advised. It's important to be skeptical. It can be astonishing how quick people are to jump to conclusions. It's baffling how dead certain so many people are – even on the most complex and nuanced subjects. As a society, we perhaps failed to teach people how to think things through, how to be rigorously critical, how to respect logic and reason, how to appreciate nuance and complexity.
The dumbing down of society has had some alarming consequences. The buy-in of the public to the national mythology is a fait accompli and it's hard to get anyone to question it. It's as if they sense that picking at the threads could unravel the whole thing, then where would we be?
Decades of Madison Avenue social programming have led to a culture where it is commonly believed (generalizing of course) that: as much as possible, everything should be easy, convenient and affordable (preferably on sale); for every problem there is a solution available at Amazon; for every ill a pill; for every need an instant fix.
It's as if we are meant to snuggle up to our TV-land dream world, consume mindlessly and be milked dry by capitalist predators at every step of the way through both life and death – as opposed to thinking hard about what we're doing: to the planet; to each other; to the future of humanity. All in the interest of those few who profit as long as nothing changes.
People don't want to admit how horrible the status quo is. It's too horrific to face. So we buy into the bullshit. We're heroes fighting for democracy and so on. In truth we are aggressors occupying and exploiting foreign lands. We fight not for democracy or liberty but for Halliburton, Teledyne and Exxon-Mobil. If we are ever going to change, this is a truth we have to face. This is what we will have to undo.
We will have to reimagine a world at peace going forward. We have to fundamentally change who we are and how we relate to the rest of the world. We need to go from swords to plowshares. This whole living off of death thing is a nightmare from which we need to awaken. Making war in the nuclear and biological age is irresponsible, morally reprehensible and eminently unsustainable, as are so many of our other practices (e.g. rainforest depletion, fossil fuel extraction, ocean pollution, etc). Humanity deserves better.
If you objectively and consistently observe the mainstream media and its interpretation of global events, its omissive and deceptive character soon becomes abundantly clear. This could hardly be called incompetence. The coverage, which is popularly called “news,” is in fact nothing but a propaganda mechanism, designed to persistently shape public opinion in favor of war.
For the presidency, we need the person most likely to create substantial change -- in all the right directions, which is an important caveat. We need the person whose policies make the most sense at the present moment, someone with policies that acknowledge and confront climate change and sustainable living. And preferably someone with capability and integrity to burn. Even if we can find all of this, will it be enough? We can't know, we have to try.
We need someone who will rock the boat but be smart about it. We need a change agent devoted to changing what any honest broker must brand a dishonest and hostile society into something better for us all. It is a matter of existential survival for us to remake ourselves into the wise, supporting and nurturing society we all deserve – and often claim to be.
If humans are to last, we must make these deep changes to align our best ideas and values with our actual day-to-day realities. It's time to be the peace-loving nation we claim to be and to prove it by leading the rest of the world to peace. We could do this if we chose to. We could be pushing peace instead of war. All those bomb makers could be doing something else for a living. We need a president who will get us there and help us undertake the great changes that we must.
Whoever that might be.
Don't vote for hair, teeth, gender, race or pretty words. This is much more serious than that.
Why boil something as complex and weighty as a choice of national/international leadership at this critical juncture of history down to something so simplistic as to be absurd? She's nice, he's good looking, she's well spoken, he's part Irish. Well, who would want to miss the chance to vote for someone who's part Irish?
If there is one thing this country needs, it's a deep and profound systemic change in the way we conduct ourselves in the world and here at home. We need to become the humanitarians we claim to be. We need to live up to our lofty ideals – that all people are created equal and are equally deserving of decent treatment. We need a society based on peace, love and compassion; not war, hate and fear.
We need to uncouple from our single-minded focus on war and profiteering, and focus on planetary survival and the well-being of the human family. Because if we don't, simply put, we are done.
We've got to stop doing what we've always done. Not an easy thing. Maybe not even a possible thing. But we have got to try. We've got to learn to live in a world without violence and aggression, fossil fuels, reckless pollution and the thoughtless exploitation of resources and people. We need to become cooperative when it comes to the overall well-being of the planet and all of its inhabitants. It's going to take all of humanity working together to manage the future that's coming at us.
If we cannot overcome our violent and brutish ways, if we can't become smart about our collective behavior, if we can't all pull together, it doesn't bode well for posterity.
We can keep the peace if we are determined to do so. We do it in our everyday lives (mostly). If we can do it in our neighborhoods, why can't we do it in the world?
The answer is we can. World peace is possible and with real leadership, America could usher it into being.
With world peace, humanity will be so much better off. We'll invest our treasure in our people and make this world a better place in a million ways.
A passionate pursuit of world peace is the only rational, caring, decent thing to do...and probably the only way to ensure a reasonable future for our species. I mean we all want to do that, right?