Last week I watched in horror as a major section of the people of this United States of America went against pretty much everything America stands for, including their own beliefs, and chose Donald Trump to run as their nominee for president of the United States. In a country founded on and dedicated to the inalienable rights of every human being, they chose a man whose life has been a playing out of the single theme of self-interest, regularly to the detriment of the rights of nearly everyone with whom he dealt. He has insulted and denigrated women, minorities, religions, countries friendly and unfriendly. Most particularly, he has casually discarded the rule of law and put in its place — himself. The people of the Republican party have set aside their commitment to policy in favor of a personality.
Now the Democratic Party is poised to make its own decision about a candidate, and they are, from the first, faced with precisely the same choice. After a long and contentious primary campaign, in which the candidates identified themselves not by their personalities but precisely by their policies. They proposed policies on wages and taxes and education and health care and immigration and environment. One must assume that the voters chose on those issues. Now however a battle is raging among the delegates about whether the Democratic Party acted in biased fashion in favor of Clinton over Sanders. Amazingly the issues that have for months been raised and debated and critiqued are now completely ignored, and a large section of the delegates are threatening to make the exact same mistake the Republicans did. Whether they succeed in so thoroughly disrupting the Democratic convention will determine whether the frightening prospect of this nation voting in a self-absorbed incompetent as president of the nation gets a chance to actually occur.
Conventions come and go, and their main results, the selection of a nominee, are foregone conclusions. The issue only gets determined on November 6, but the real question is whether the voters will make that determination based on policy or personality. The real question is not who we want but what we want. Do we want to address global warming or deny it? Do we want to provide a path to citizenship to millions or do we want to show them the door? Do we want to provide a living wage for all or continue the concentration of wealth in a few? Do we want to make education more available or more expensive? Do we want to provide health care for all or go back to the way things were before? And the real central question: do we want to raise taxes on the wealthy?
The way I frame the questions likely says a great deal about my own positions, and I invite you to formulate your own. The point is that we as a nation cannot afford to make such enormous decisions as the choice of a president on the basis of personality. The Republicans, by choosing person over policy, have saddled themselves with a caricature. In doing so, they passed up a generous handful of competent, thoughtful and experienced people — Bush and Rubio and Kasich among them. Pick the issues, and find your stance on those issues as honestly as you can. Doing that will tell you a lot about yourself. Whatever we do, though, we have to do it on policy rather than personality.