Let’s do a little thought experiment: What if Joe Biden had thrown his hat in the ring to seek the Democratic nomination for President this year? Could he have succeeded? As President Obama’s Vice-President for the past eight years, he certainly would have been a strong contender, and in many ways, the logical choice.
In fact, Hillary Clinton’s only claim to the nomination was that she had lost this role to President Obama in the 2008 primary race and is the wife of former President Bill Clinton. She was elected to the U.S.Senate but was not responsible for any notable legislation. In addition, once President Obama had won the general election, he appointed her to be his first Secretary of State. After waiting patiently for so long, she seems to feel that it is now her turn to be President. How did she reward President Obama for his expression of confidence? She used a private e-mail server for official State Department business, thereby endangering the country’s security.
The e-mail server of the Democratic National Committee, containing underhanded strategies aimed at undermining the candidacy of Hillary’s only challenger, Bernie Sanders, was indeed “hacked”, or infiltrated by an outside party, probably the Russian government. Sanders offered an alternative to Hillary, rooted in his deep sense of integrity, which enabled him to gain traction with the electorate, especially with young voters, who didn’t seem to mind that he was an avowed Socialist, rather than an actual member of the Democratic Party. Meanwhile, Hillary was busy accepting large fees from wealthy Wall Street contributors in exchange for overpriced speeches, and granting special favors to foreign donors to the Clinton Foundation. How she then planned to follow Sanders’s lead to “crack down” on Wall Street excesses has been left unspecified.
When Hillary’s e-mail server missteps came to light, they received a great amount of publicity, and the FBI investigated her. FBI director Comey released a 15- minute indictment of her behavior, calling it extremely sloppy and reckless, and making a persuasive case during the first 14 minutes that her mishandling of classified information on multiple servers revealed criminal intent. Then, in the final minute, he shifted gears and concluded there was insufficient evidence for a criminal indictment, with no explanation for the inconsistency.
Hillary’s public reaction to these developments has varied. Sometimes, she says that Director Comey’s conclusion exonerates her, while other times she admits that “mistakes were made”. When confronted about her image that she is widely seen as dishonest and untrustworthy, her response is “we have more work to do.”
If Joe Biden were the Democratic nominee, these problems would evaporate, since Bernie Sanders’s criticisms would lose credibility against someone of Biden’s stellar integrity. So why didn’t Biden do it? The reason put out for popular consumption was that Biden was grieving for his son who had recently died of cancer. Undoubtedly, this terrible blow took the wind out of Biden’s sails, but it seems unlikely that under normal circumstances it would have deterred a patriot like him from serving his country. In a misguided attempt to rehabilitate Hillary’s flawed image and to show that any determined female can break the glass ceiling, no senior Democrat thought to urge Biden to reconsider. In the same vein, it seems it seems likely that such political considerations also explain Director Comey’s inconsistent ruling.
Still, loyal Democrats would have to hold their noses to overlook Hillary’s attitude that she is above the law and to ignore her hypocrisy and her penchant for misrepresenting the truth. What was needed was an opponent that could project an image even worse than hers. Enter Donald Trump.
Seventeen candidates declared their intention to seek the Republican nomination. Under normal circumstances, the chances of Trump being the Republican nominee would seem small. The other sixteen candidates made noises lifted from the normal Republican orthodoxy, citing the usual conservative principles of economic competition, small government, Evangelical religious principles, and praises for Ronald Reagan. In contrast, Trump insulted women, immigrants, and minorities and threatened to build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out the people he characterized as criminals. While the others obstinately articulated their interpretations of the usual positions, Trump continued his outrageous behavior. His imitation of a Fascist dictator is too much of a caricature to be true. Of course, the extraordinary weakness of the other sixteen made it seem easy, but something just doesn’t pass the smell test.
Pundits have always expressed surprise that Trump’s antics have not led to the self-destruction of his bid for the White House, but maybe that hasn’t been his real goal. The other candidates similarly argued that he isn’t a true conservative and has even been friendly with a number of Democratic leaders. It is clear to me that some senior Democratic Party official, either directly or indirectly, has arranged to compensate Trump to put on his act as a strategy for ensuring Hillary’s election.
I don’t know why no one else has connected the dots before, but the existence of Donald Trump is the necessary condition for Hillary’s election. He has no relevant experience, he offers no policies on domestic issues or foreign affairs, he has invited the Soviet Union to hack Hillary’ e-mail server, he claims President Obama is the founder of the Islamic State terrorist organization, and he suggested that some member of the National Rifle Association should shoot Hillary.
In terms of running an election campaign, Hillary has raised millions of dollars and has run many television and radio advertisements, while the Trump campaign has run no advertisements and, until recently, had raised no outside money. Of course, an important element of Trump’s persona that resonated so much with his followers during the primaries was that, as a billionaire, he said his campaign was self-funded and didn’t need to accept contributions from donors who might expect favors in return. As it turned out, though, his behavior attracted so much attention from the news media that he received extensive coverage without needing to spend anything. Meanwhile, his reticence to release his tax returns creates the impression that he wants to hide how much he pays in taxes. It is more likely, though, that what he wants to hide how much he pays in taxes. It is more likely, though, that what he really wants to keep secret is that he is not a billionaire at all but merely a man of moderate wealth.
Moreover, Trump speaks disparagingly of traditional American allies and cozies up to Soviet leaders. His speech during the Republican convention attended by a potpourri of sycophants and Hillary-bashers, revealed still another dimension of the Trump personality. When he rambled on in an incoherent stream of consciousness in which he refused to stay “on message,” but put forth a proposition in one moment and contradicted it in the next, listeners were left with the impression that the pressure of falling behind in the polls has left the most recent Trump incarnation exhibiting symptoms of a bipolar disorder.
An important effect of the Trump meltdown is that it has left the Republican leader- ship in a tough spot. If they endorse Trump, they may lose credibility with non-ideological voters, but if they distance themselves from him, his supporters, who have obviously been numerous enough to hijack the party, would be alienated. In either case, they must weigh the effect of their stance on “down ballot” races for the Senate and the House of Representatives. This conundrum makes no assumption that any of these individuals is motivated by a conscience – only by their desire for reelection. The most important implication of these events is that it may signal the first change in the American two-party system in more than 150 years, with dissolution of the Republican Party.
This state of affairs is the direct result of Joe Biden not being the Democratic nominee. Without a respectable candidate, the Democratic Party is split between voters who are supporting Hillary only because they fear the specter of a Trump Presidency, and former Bernie Sanders supporters who may well decide not to vote in 20i6. But while the principled Sanders supporters may sit the election out, the Trump people, who view Hillary as seeking a “Third Obama Term,” are quite motivated to cast their votes. Throw in the possibility of two third parties siphoning votes away from Hillary, and it is not impossible that Trump could win. While the speakers at the Democratic convention made speeches either pretending Hillary is a wonderful candidate or trashing Trump while “preaching to the converted,” they labored to convince themselves that their party is united and on the right side of history.
This whole episode is a cautionary tale for political operatives seeking to manipulate the electorate into making choices contrary to its true will. It is a cliché that such heavy-handed efforts often have unforeseen consequences. Americans must now pray that the 2016 election won’t turn out to be an object lesson of this truism.