The comments section here offers food for thought, and lots of it. So here’s a post based on a few comments and my reaction to them.
(1) “The Other Chuck” wrote of all the GOP presidential candidates in 2016: “It’s interesting how Trump makes them ALL seem reasonable in retrospect.”
Well, true. But most of them (maybe all) seemed pretty reasonable at the outset. Some were a lot more reasonable than others, of course. But if any of them—and that includes the ones I disagreed with most—had ended up the nominee, I would not have hesitated to have voted for that person.
(2) “Julie near Chicago” says “One of the things I find interesting is the number of people coming out from behind a bush to say that their first pick was Scott Walker — including me.”
I think I said it long before the campaign began. I initially thought Walker would be the one to beat. Courageous, experienced in the executive branch, with conservative bona fides, he had a proven ability to earn votes in blue states. Unfortunately he was too bland for the fired-up and angry electorate of 2016, and his foreign policy inexperience showed. But the latter problem wouldn’t have mattered to voters so much, I think, if it hadn’t been for the former. No, this year, the candidate who stomped his/her feet loudest was the one a plurality of people seemed to want. And because of the size of the pack, a plurality rather than a majority of the voters were able to decide the outcome.
I am heartily sick of the common but misleading Russian roulette analogy. I wrote an entire post describing its inappropriateness to the situation we face with these two candidates.
(4) “Sergey” asks a very interesting question:
I can’t understand why authoritarian ruler is always considered to be a bad choice. It entirely depends on personal virtues of this ruler. Singapore and Chile are clear examples how authoritarian ruler can save his nation on the verge of catastrophe and do the job which no democracy can ever accomplish due its inherent weakness and impotence.
Certainly some people acknowledge that as a dilemma, because it’s well understand here (at least by those who think about such things) that authoritarian rule can be more efficient. But in this country it has been rejected, at least so far. It has to do with our special heritage about liberty.
We are very touchy about our liberty—at least, we used to be, and many of us continue to be, probably more than any other group of people on earth. Liberty is considered a good thing in and of itself, even a necessary thing. Also an American thing. Of course, our liberty is compromised in certain ways. But there are still many Americans who consider it very important and even vital, the key to American exceptionalism and to American culture itself
Hitler made the trains run on time [*see NOTE below]. We really don’t care. At least, most of us don’t. We’d rather they were a bit late and we kept our liberty. That’s why we don’t sing “God Save the King” any more, although we use the same tune for a different sentiment:
My country ’tis of thee
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died
Land of the pilgrims’ pride
From ev’ry mountainside
Let freedom ring.
[*NOTE: A reader mentioned to me that it was Mussolini who is said to have made the trains run on time. When I Googled it, I found a few references to Hitler having done it in Germany, but the majority of the references were to Mussolini. So it’s likely to have been him.
The analogous saying about Hitler was that “he built the Autobahn.” Apparently, I got the two types of transportation mixed up in my mind, but the idea being expressed is the same: increased efficiency. Of course, in other ways, dictatorships and authoritarian rulers are not necessarily efficient at all. Five-year plans, anyone? How often does authoritarian rule actually “save” a country on the brink of catastrophe, as Sergey posits occurred in Chile and Singapore, and how often does it lead a country further down the road to ruin? I maintain the latter is far more common than the former.]