Saturday, October 1, 2016

Do As I Say...

Late in her losing primary campaign against Barack Obama eight years ago, Hillary Clinton put out her “3 a.m. phone call” ad. The idea was that real presidents have to deal with crises at short notice and with very high stakes. According to the ad, then-Senator Clinton’s greater experience meant that she’d be better at making those 3 a.m. decisions than the relative-rookie Obama would be. If you supported Hillary Clinton, you found that persuasive. If you preferred Obama, as I did, you were less impressed.
James Fallows "Trump Time Capsule #123: Tweets at 3 a.m."
Look at what Mr. Fallows is saying here. It's a truism of American politics. Once someone has decided to support a candidate, messages matter less. Here, the implication that Mrs. Clinton may have been better suited to handle a sudden crisis in the middle of the night cut no ice with Mr. Fallows, not because of anything he tells us about the message, but because he'd already selected a candidate and was judging incoming information in light of that determination.

And this strikes me as par for the course in American politics, especially when any sort of strong partisan feeling is involved. So...
And I hate to say it again, but it’s still true: Republican officials from the Speaker of the House on down are still saying, He’s fine! Let’s make him Commander in Chief!
Why does Mr. Fallows, who otherwise strikes me as an intelligent and thoughtful person, expect any different from Trump supporters or the Republican leadership? The only other viable candidate in the race at this point is Hillary Clinton. Whom everyone knows is a Democrat. She's not the most Liberal of Democrats (which may be part of her problem in this election), but to most Republicans, that doesn't matter. Anyone who lists a (D) after their name on the ballot is an obviously wrong choice for whatever office it is, from President on down to Alderman.

Why should anyone who feels that ANY Republican is better than ANY Democrat find any of the negative things that one might say about Donald Trump persuasive? Why shouldn't they stick with the choice that they've already committed to, and that their short-term political fortunes arguably depend on? Republican officials from the Speaker of the House on down are, first and foremost, Republicans, and if there is one thing that the modern Republican party has always had an advantage at, it's maintaining party orthodoxy. Now, I've had people make the point that what's good for the nation should take precedence over what's good for the party, but that ignores one of the central pillars of modern (and perhaps traditional) partisanship - what's good for the party IS what's good for the nation.

People can say all they want that former Secretary of State Clinton's more even, and less vindictive, temperament means that she'll be better at making important decisions than the more volatile Donald Trump would be. People who support Hillary Clinton will find that persuasive. And no-one, not even Mr. Fallows, should be surprised that those who prefer Donald Trump (or just someone who isn't Hillary Clinton who has a chance at winning) is less impressed.

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