I’m going to tell you something that I find personally embarrassing and shameful. It’s not a thing I generally discuss, and when it gets brought up in discussion I generally talk around it rather than admitting it.
In November of 2000 I was 28 years old, and I voted for George W. Bush.
I had floated into Libertarianism for a while and was steeped heavily in the values there that big government was a big bad. That the Federal government was overreaching, and that it kept people from acting in their own best interests.
I wish I could explain how I got there, but I’m not entirely sure I could recreate the twisty logic that led me to there. I know what led me out, and maybe I’ll talk about it some other time. Suffice it to say, when I was Libertarian D.C. “business as usual” was a deeply upsetting thing to me.
I found politicians as a whole duplicitous and absolutely not concerned with people like myself, nor most average US citizens.
To my distrustful and cynical eyes, George W. Bush looked somewhat refreshing. He looked kind of aww shucks. His words seemed unscripted, and genuine. I didn’t like all of them, but at least he seemed to be saying what he wanted to say rather than what had been passed to him by various speech writers and spin doctors.
I felt sure that if he made it to the White House, he would shake things up, at least. He wasn’t in the pocket of Washington, despite his own familial ties. Everybody everywhere has a father, but not all of us agree with our fathers, and he certainly did not seem to be echoing his own father.
At the time I had no idea who Dick Cheney was. I knew a bit about politics, but I didn’t research that much. I just had my own ideas and felt like I had a logical head on my shoulders to interpret the information I had without too much additional delving.
This was not really pre-internet, mind you. I was on the internet in 2000, but the 24 hour news cycle had not really gone into full swing yet, and being able to research a candidate, their legislation, and their history more fully was not a thing easily done by non journalists. Most of political talk on the net in 2000 was homegrown usenet style debate and discussion.
So Dick Cheney was pretty much an unknown to me, and just a guy who was picked as a running mate, without a lot of news cycle time devoted to him.
I’m pointing all this out for a reason.
It’s 2016 now. My 20’s, and even my 30’s are behind me. As the internet has grown, so has my ability to do my own research. I love reading legislation first hand. Love reading deliberations. The vast majority of news has gone from journalism to opinion rags. So my opinions have longer legs, for sure.
Here we are again at that same type of crossroads, though. A presidency is winding up. A new president will take his place and make it their own. Once again we were given the decision of a career politician who seems to represent “more of the same,” an upstart crusader who wanted impossible social justice, and a guy who seems to be an outsider that is ready to shake things up.
In 2000 it was Gore, Nader, and W. In 2016 it’s Clinton, Sanders, and Trump. Sanders has been eliminated and his platform has been integrated into Clinton’s. So what we have left are Trump and Clinton.
One represents a lifetime of politics. One represents an outsider who says what he wants to say and is poised to shake things up.
I want to travel back in time and tell my 28 year old self to look behind the man who is talking in such ludicrous ways that I take it for honesty. Look at Cheney. Cheney was everything that I thought W wasn’t, so why did I not see that W’s choice of Cheney was simply a continuation of the policies of the GOP. I know that because I can look at Trump and see Pence behind him.
Trump doesn’t seem truly interested in the work that goes with being the President of the United States. Other than the ego boost of saying “President Trump,” the man doesn’t seem to care at all about the actual issues. He certainly hasn’t researched any of the myriad things he makes daily gaffes and attacks on. No more than he was interested in actually doing any of the work of any of his businesses. He sticks his name on it, makes some deals, then walks away leaving others to manage or mismanage.
Pence, on the other hand, seems deeply interested in the GOP platform. He also shows it’s serious shortcomes and pitfalls.
One in three Hoosiers families live at or below the poverty line.
Pence’s record investment in education was made by finally making a pre-k program for the state. Not one that serves all children, but some, at least. Pence turned down federal funding that would have served all of the children.
Indiana does not feel thankful in that lack of concern for their future citizens and workers. Indiana ranks 40th in adults getting an education beyond High School.
Indiana had a budget surplus. It created this surplus through a complete lack of investment in social services and infrastructure. Such a complete lack that when the infrastructure critically failed, the surplus had to be tapped so deeply to aright the crisis that Pence is now also claiming out of the other side of his mouth of a record investment in infrastructure.
That investment never would have reached the penny wise-pound foolish point if the Pence administration had been invested in infrastructure slowly and surely along the way. You can save a lot of money on your household budget by not getting maintenance or repair work done on your car, too. Eventually that bill will come due, and it will be larger and more critical for the care you neglected along the way.
I see the echoes of Cheney, down the halls of history, in Pence. Pence will not focus on foreign policy, though. Pence wants to focus on domestic affairs. With his abysmal record in Indiana, that makes me worry greatly for the US. We are already in a critical state with infrastructure, and the US educational system is quickly falling behind in a global market that is expanding it’s reach. Innovation comes from education, and we are not educating.
The educational policies begun under President Obama have not been in place long enough to take root and produce new results. We must push forward now, and Pence is not looking forward. Trump surely isn’t either as he has said that the Department of Education can largely be eliminated.
Ask a hiring manager how they look at applications from people who have attended non Federally accredited schools. A system of regulating and ensuring that a standard benchmark is true of a graduate from any state of the Union is precisely why we have a Department of Education.
So I want to go back. I want to shake my 28 year old self. I want to tell her to look at the man behind the man who speaks so outrageously that he must be “shooting from the hip.”
I want to show her sights from her future and tell her what came of an administration with that fool as the figurehead. It’s not enough that she won’t repeat her mistake in four years. She needs to understand the deep shame she will feel that she ever made that mistake to begin with. That she will feel she has blood on her hands. That she will have blood on her hands.
I want to tell her that in just a few short months the worst foreign attack on US soil will happen and that buffoon was utterly bereft of the ability to soundly engage in the subtleties of foreign policy that would limit the loss that will reverberate for decades to come. That we are still suffering, 16 years later, from a man who didn’t understand the difference between fear of threat and reasoned threat.
I want to tell her so much.
I can’t. She’s gone.
Instead the wheel has come round and this time it has spiraled yet tighter. As it does. Trump is not just a fool. He’s a fool with a temper. Pence isn’t just an opportunistic warhawk. He’s a deeply flawed fanatic.
Clinton may represent business as usual to many, but to what is left of the 28 year old in me I can also see Hillary as the continuation of policies that were going right back then. Of policies that are going right now.
The deeply cynical hunger for upheaval that led me to longing for the outsider that W seemed to be led me to starvation.
It took me years to see the outcome of that bad decision. Please do not repeat my mistakes.
I’m here from the future and I have to tell you something. Look to the man behind the man.