If this election was going to be a contest between Tim Kaine and Mike Pence, we would be in familiar territory. A centrist Democrat running against a conservative Republican would make it an unremarkable race between true representatives of the two parties that have dominated the American electoral landscape now for more than a century. It would likely cause a low turnout, because passions around these two candidates would not run very high and it would almost certainly result in a Democratic victory, because that is where demographics are steering the outcome of our national elections, all other things being equal.
It is enticing to think that this ‘B-Team election’ might still come to pass, even though it is getting to be late in the day. There are a good number of people who believe that Donald Trump will abandon the race at some point, before November 6 if he sees that he cannot win or after November 6, if he gets elected. The reasoning goes 1) that his candidacy, from day 1, was all about enhancing the Trump brand and proving to the world that a fraud could actually win a presidential election in the USA, even though this would undermine his claim that ‘the system is rigged’; and 2) that he never had the intent to occupy the White House, but just wanted to get on the cover of every magazine and monopolize the media for almost two years. I don’t share this opinion, because I think that he would have picked another, more electable, running mate, if this had been his intent all along. But we can’t rule it out given all the other tricks Trump has already pulled in this campaign, his proven disdain for the GOP and his demonstrated disregard of anyone’s interest other than his own.
John Oliver, the host of HBO’s ‘Last Week Tonight’ show, latched only half-jokingly on this theme when he explained that dropping out would be in the best interest of the Trump brand by saving him from the embarrassment of defeat or being condemned to a government job (and government housing) for the next four years.
On the other side of the race, the pressure on Hillary Clinton keeps mounting. The public seems to have already accepted that she is not trust worthy (not any better than her opponent) and apparently (disturbingly) that fact alone is not enough to deny her a victory in November. But between the continuing FBI investigation of her use of private email servers, the questionable role that the Clinton foundation has played in her service as a public servant (Senator and Secretary of State) and now rumors about her health, more and more facts come out that could derail her presidential ambitions at the last moment.
Given this state of affairs, we can’t completely rule out that, in the end, the race for the White House would be contended by two candidates who were never elected in primaries but nominated by their parties’ first choice candidates. And that, in turn, could mean that America will elect a President who was not vetted in the exhaustive primary process, but simply put in place by a personal decision from a disqualified contender. That does not look like a democratic outcome, does it?
But in this case we simply may have to accept an imperfect execution of the democratic process (who said that democracy is a messy process?) and here is why.
The country could not have come up with worse first choices than it has done in this go-around. Conventional wisdom says that we have to respect the outcome of the political process. That the will of the people, as expressed in the voting booths, will have to be obeyed. But sometimes we have to be contrarian because conventional wisdom is hardly ever forward looking and unequipped to deal with exceptional circumstances.
If we let the A-team have its way, we are going to hand over the leadership of the Western world to a septuagenarian (over the hill) who, for good reasons, is mistrusted by more than half of the American population. If it is Hillary Clinton, we elect someone who has demonstrated to consider herself above the law, of a privileged caste and entitled to the throne. We get a self-serving ‘First Couple’ in the White House that will have put its personal ambitions above the interest of the nation. The only reason why Hillary Clinton would deserve getting votes is to keep Donald Trump out of the White House.
If it is Donald Trump, we elect someone who takes advantage of the growing number of dispossessed by whipping up the flames of their anger, hopelessness and frustration. Someone who refuses to do his homework, disrespects the law, disrespects women, minorities and immigrants and makes us wonder, at every outburst of campaign rhetoric, about his mental state and capacity. We would hand over the reins to an unbridled egomaniac who aspires to nothing else than putting the Trump brand on America’s identity.
Is this an acceptable choice for a time when America’s global position and reputation is at stake?
I long for decency, normalcy and predictability and will be rooting for the B-Team.