September 02, 2016

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan

Source: Bigstock

Nevertheless, Mr. Trump’s campaign makes an emotional appeal, which is why he has gotten so far, and may yet go further, despite what polls suggest. He presents himself as a Big Man who is on the side of the “€œLittle People”€ he mentions so often. His opponents may dismiss it as a con trick, but con tricks have always had a place in political campaigns. You can fool a lot of the people a lot of the time, and if you can”€™t fool them all, you may nevertheless fool enough of them long enough to secure a majority of the votes.

If Mr. Trump appeals to the emotions and plays big on nostalgia for what he presents as the lost”€”or stolen”€”Greatness of America, it’s much harder to say what Mrs. Clinton appeals to. She is doubtless a serious politician in the sense that she has been seriously involved in politics for a long time, and has served in the Senate and the State Department, but what does she want”€”except the White House? One can”€™t tell from her speeches, which, though more wordy, are really as empty of substance as Mr. Trump’s. The case against her is not that she’s “€œCrooked Hillary,”€ but that the sense of entitlement she breathes, the suggestion that she deserves to be president because she’s wanted to be president for such a long time, is not a good enough reason to put her in the White House.

For people who admire the United States, this election is simultaneously entertaining and profoundly depressing. It’s entertaining because seeing these two elderly people going at each other hammer and tongs is good sport. It’s entertaining partly because one suspects it’s all a game. After all, we can”€™t forget these photographs of Mr. and Mrs. Trump and Mr. and Mrs. Clinton beaming at one another like lifelong buddies. There’s poison now in the words they exchange, but do they poison only in jest? Both Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton belong to the confraternity of the really rich, more at home on Wall Street than on Main Street, USA.

It’s depressing because, while insults fly and harsh words are spoken, there has been no real argument. No issues have been debated. Many of us are old enough to remember presidential elections in which serious politicians argued seriously about serious matters”€”Eisenhower and Stevenson, even Kennedy and Nixon. They did the American electorate the courtesy of appealing to its intelligence and judgment. But neither Mr. Trump nor Mrs. Clinton is doing that. Their campaigns are an insult to the people they are asking to elect them.

The President of the United States is still sometimes called the leader of the free world. These two elderly aspirants to that position are behaving like a couple of crumblies in a retirement home arguing about possession of the best chair in front of the television set. They make the idea that with the passing years you acquire wisdom to compensate for your declining energy look ridiculous. I never thought I”€™d find myself saying this, but maybe we need younger politicians.


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