As many of you know, I’ve been living in France for a few years. It’s offered a distance in which to view current events taking place in my home country, the United States.
What’s more, I am exposed to the much older history and the much more nuanced perspective of Europeans in general, and the French in particular. While these countries and cultures have their shortcomings, they are much older and in many ways much more mature than the United States. I say this as a proud, but realistic American.
I also say this: our country, great as it is, is still a teenager.
It has energy, enthusiasm, drive, and optimism. It is also prone to very bad decisions if not reminded constantly of just how disastrous some choices can be.
So I am going to take on the unpleasant but necessary task of having a heart-to-heart, citizen-to-citizen conversation with the Teenager in the Room: the American voter.
The most historic, consequential decision we as a country have in front of us is who we’re going to elect as our next president. Before your eyes glaze over or your jaw tightens, be aware: I know that the election is more than a year away. Furthermore, I know that many of you have strong political opinions. I respect that, but nevertheless, you need to listen to what I’m about to say. Especially if you it makes you angry.
So let’s begin. As things stand now, it appears that in 2024 you will have the choice to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden or for Republican nominee Donald Trump.
Joe Biden is currently president. Donald Trump is a former president. HERE is the Wikipedia page for Joe Biden. HERE is the Wikipedia page for Donald Trump.
You should read both.
Why? Because each listing offers a fact-based, well-researched, and documented personal history of each candidate. You can see the work history, personal history, voting record, policy positions, and even quotes from each candidate. You can free yourself from the bias you may find in watching Fox News, Newsmax, CNN, or MSNBC, or the often pointless and uninformed musings that proliferate on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram.
You can review each candidate’s history of racist comments, extramarital affairs, tabloid scandals, divorces, bankruptcies, as well as details about investigations involving money laundering, investigations involving financial fraud, investigations involving voter fraud, investigations involving federal election crimes, investigations involving seditious conspiracy, investigations involving the unlawful retention of classified documents, investigations involving obstruction of justice, investigations involving the mishandling of gifts given by foreign governments, impeachment proceedings, or civil litigation involving sexual assault. You can also review the details of financial settlements or verdicts reached in these cases and make note of cases that are still ongoing.
You can review each candidate’s comments about and relationships with dictators such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan, and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un. You can make note of their interactions with the same, such as private, off-the-record conversations that occurred during state visits or ignoring the considered opinion of America’s intelligence community in favor of the self-serving opinion of a dictator.
You can make note of the number, type, and severity of scandals that have taken place within each administration. You can make note of how each candidate has conducted themself while in office in terms of dignity, reliability, credibility, and ethics.
You can, and should, fact check each candidate in terms of the accuracy and truthfulness of what they say, that is, how often they tell the truth, and how often they lie.
You can, and should, do all of these things for one simple reason: the best predictor of a person’s future behavior is their past behavior. People rarely change. Their individual character is formed early in life and, barring some epiphany or transformational personal experience, they continue to act in a predictable manner throughout most of their life. This pattern of behavior is based upon their values, or lack thereof, and their ambitions, what they want in life.
You should also project these ambitions and values onto what I call a ‘future policy screen’. By this I mean that you should look at each candidate’s policy platform and their personal character and project that combination onto a screen in your mind. On this screen you will envision how each candidate’s personality and policies will shape our country from 2024 until 2028.
Will it be a pretty picture? Will it engender trust internationally? Will it promote harmony domestically? Will it uplift the middle class? Will it benefit only the rich? Will it help heal the environment? Will it give financial markets a sense of stability? Will it give our allies around the world a sense of confidence? Will it be healthy for democracy? Or will it open the door for the tyranny?
In other words, ask yourself, How is my country and my world going to change if this person is elected president again?
You may determine that one candidate is going to be fairly predictable, even dull. You may determine that the other candidate is going to be unpredictable, and even exciting. This is the person who is arguable the most powerful chief executive of any government on earth. The president can start a nuclear war with button. The president rattle global financial markets with a comment. So give it a lot of thought if your initial impulse is to go for unpredictable, even if it is exciting.
It’s also important to view a candidate’s tendencies and behavioral patterns. During my six years in Paris, I shared a coffee with more than one Spaniard who was now living in Paris because they fled the fascist regime of Franco. I met highly educated, multilingual professionals who had left everything in their native land to escape brutal dictatorships that came to power in Eastern Europe. Some of them work in hospitals; some of them work in hospitality.
This isn’t ancient history. This is modern history. Fascism doesn’t take root in countries with dictators. Dictators crush dissent before it can take a second breath. Fascism starts in democracies, where people are free to speak and disagree. Often, it repeats broad, patriotic-sounding slogans. It creates enemies and denies reality (“fake news”, “liberal media”, “witch hunt”) in an attempt to discredit critics, distract from important issues, and dilute truth. It assigns political motivations to anyone who attempts to investigate it and apply the rule of law to it. It defaults to the use of insults and personal attacks rather than debating the merits and drawbacks of a policy position.
Its goal is power. It has no philosophy. It deceives the electorate, promising a return to a time that never really existed. Its leader(s) posture with tough words and bold, theatrical events. The weak and naive gravitate to this stage-managed personality hoping it will protect them, economically, socially, and psychologically. They are vulnerable and need hope. They see a leader who is strong and fearless. They thrill in the spectacle of bright lights, inspirational music, and large crowds, caring little for the substance of what this person would do if elected to office. They believe without taking a moment to consider. They are not bad people, but they may be blind. They mistake entertainment for ability.
The immoral elites also support these would-be dictators, knowing that, once the leader is in office, they can bribe those in power for favorable treatment and friendly legislation. They can consolidate industries. They can exploit resources, drive down labor costs, and dominate markets. They can operate without pesky regulations. They can profit enormously.
White collar crime will be generally ignored, they know, as long as it pays homage to the regime and lines the pockets of those in power. It’s a win-win for money and power.
Adversaries and allies abroad will watch this ugly transformation carefully. Some may lose a strategic partner and suffer in the long run, politically and economically. Some will look to take advantage of the predictable chaos and incompetence as governing institutions and experienced personnel are hollowed out or marginalized. For this is a predictable conclusion when objective, informed, and independent thinkers disagree with those in a fascist regime. It is the fate of institutions that have dutifully served the populace.
They will be expelled or they will die, slowly or quickly, so that the dictator can wield absolute power. The entire populace will be at his mercy. Only those who serve him (or his regime) with unquestioning loyalty will benefit and prosper. Many will do just that. This choice will take these opportunists and grovelers down a long, dark road from which there is no return.
They will begin by acknowledging the talent and complimenting the vision of the leader. They will then parrot the lies he has told. They will then lie on their own, in spite of all evidence to the contrary. They will attack enemies of the regime to gain the leader’s favor. They will change, bend, or ignore laws as each new situation requires. They will betray their friends, their fellow citizens, and their country in order to stay in good graces. For they ride the proverbial tiger, and it would be fatal to fall off…or try to jump off.
When or if the regime falls or the coup fails, the enablers and supporters may be held accountable and asked to justify their actions. They will say, in carefully chosen words, in an appropriately pensive and contrite demeanor, how they tried to tell the leader that he was mistaken, how they were conflicted with the demands of their job and the requirements of the law. How they regret what they’d done, if they had done anything wrong or hurt anyone. How at the time it seemed like the right thing to do. How they were just following orders.
Some of this sounds familiar, I’m sure, but allow me remind you of one last thing, Dear Teenager.
Democracy is a precious and rare occurrence. It is challenging to create, difficult to maintain, and very expensive to regain once it is lost. It is not guaranteed, and like a true love, perhaps only really appreciated once it is gone.
So I will say this in the kindest, most life-affirming way I can, because I love you:
Wake up, America. For if you sleepwalk through this next presidential election, what you will endure will not be a dream, but a nightmare.
You will only have yourself to blame, and you will be unable to say you didn’t realize what was happening.
Because I’ve just told you.
15 thoughts on “Our Country’s Biggest Decision Ever”
We who live in America have had to deal with the unchecked, and constant rise of taxes, and the prices of everything going up. Unchecked crime, homelessness, a president so daft and inept he is the laughing stock of the world. I usually overlook your political posts, Byron but I just cannot this time. There is no ideal candidate- meaning, everyone has done something stupid in their past, but it is clear from Trump’s speeches that he loves America. I never worried about us possibly being drawn into a WWIII under the Trump administration. I can hardly sleep at night now under Biden’s imbecilic reign wondering if China or Russia will destroy us first. No, I am not an evangelical. There is a book those who are interested can read; The Catholic Vote for Trump. There is a deal of witch hunting going on with Trump but nothing ever comes of it. It all has the rank odor of sour grapes. A huge tempertantrum in retaliation because he interrupted the hold the democratic party had on us. Trump is not a career politician. He is the example of how someone who is not from that world became president which is exactly how this process is supposed to work. The current climate without him is terribly oppressive. No one cared about his past until they realized he would not be controlled. Biden and son have sold out the American people to the highest bidder and have lined their pockets with blood money. I never feared being put into a concentration camp under Trump but I can absolutely see it happening under any democrate, not just Biden.
I’m sorry, but there’s really no factual basis for anything you’ve said here. Donald Trump’s speeches mean nothing, and the notion that he loves America is not something that is verifiable, or obvious to anyone.
The ‘witch hunt’ you refer to has produced settlements in civil cases involving regulatory agencies (Trump University, Trump Foundation, Trump Organization) and will likely produce more criminal indictments in the coming months.
I’m also uncertain as to what ‘hold’ the democratic party has on the country. Control of Congress and the White House has gone back and forth between the two parties for decades.
I’m also not sure as to how this ‘climate’ is ‘oppressive’ and how any mention of ‘concentration camps’ came into the conversation. I don’t expect to change your mind, but I would encourage you to speak with friends or acquaintances in other countries and see which president they might refer to as a ‘laughing stock’, and again, simply read the Wikipedia page for Donald Trump.
It’s factual and, as a result, may be difficult to accept. Finally, I appreciate that you have ignored my political posts in the past. Please continue to do so. – BGT
Beautifully and tastefully said, Byron! ALL OF IT and especially the last paragraph.
Well Done, sir!
And THANK YOU!!!!!
Perfectly, profoundly and – probably – prophetically put, sir!
Listen Up Boys and Girls – with your head, your heart and your soul!
This post puts all of us ON NOTICE!!!!!!
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE – AND ACCOUNTABLE – FOR OUR OWN FUTURE, THE STEPS WE TAKE – OR DON’T TAKE NOW – IN ORDER TO SHAPE IT, AND IMMINENTLY HOW WE CHOOSE TO LIVE WITH OURSELVES AND THOSE WE LOVE AND CARE FOR IN OUR WORLD!
Best Regards to all – and ever-hopeful,
JUST TO BE CLEAR — I AM A DEMOCRAT NOW AND I ALWAYS WILL BE, PROUD OF IT, AND WOULDN’T HAVE IT ANY OTHER WAY.
PLEASE THINK BYRON TULLY’S POST THROUGH CLEAR-MINDED, HONEST, KIND AND GOOD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!
It is rude to type in all caps, Janet. You’re essentially yelling at everyone.
Well written, Byron, as always, and thank you.
@janetgl – Spot on, and thank you.
And – I apologize – wait for it – as Byron would certainly say at this point – THANK YOU!!!
Unfortunately the people who most need to read this probably won’t. Trump’s supporters have shown repeatedly that nothing he says or does will cause their support to waiver. Manufactured outrage in the pursuit of ratings just adds fuel to the fire.
You are probably correct and, if so, how very sad for all of us now – not to mention the future generations to come!
Thanks for your comments, Amy. I’ve missed reading you on the blog!
Thanks Byron. I agree of course but like Amy said, those who need to probably won’t read this.
There seems to be no good faith conversation left anymore. Everyone – and both political extremes are equally to blame here – is in his/her own echo chamber. Both sides have been convinced that every conversation, every attempt to hammer out a workable policy, is solely a craven power move and that giving a fair hearing to the other party’s concerns is de facto proof of disloyalty to one’s own side.
And yes, you’re right that we’ve “seen this movie before;” I.e. world history shows what this kind of tribalism results in. Yet we (modern Americans) don’t seem to understand that this outcome can happen just as easily in the US unless we as individuals challenge / question our own echo chambers and start listening to what “the other side” is saying.
I will vote for the peace candidate, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., in the Democrat Primary. If he fails, I will vote for the peace candidate in the general election. All of Mr. Tully’s points in his post will be moot if our government provokes a war with a nuclear armed state or states. The current regime is reckless, bloodthirsty, incompetent and immoral. I will not be supporting it.
2 Chronicles 7:14
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” King James Version (KJV)
One thing I’ve come to like about living where I do is the fact that party politics does just not play the same role in daily life as it does in e.g. the Anglo world.
We can argue over many things regarding democratic election but the longer I spend on this planet, the more I recognize the inherent divisiveness of the First-Past-The-Post / single-member plurality voting.
Both the United Kingdom, torn between Labour and Tories, and the United States, torn between Democrats and Republicans, have this habit of coming up not with the most qualified person for the job, but the most ridiculous candidates.
And it can be argued that this has been going on for many decades now.
You’d think the office of the president of the United States of the world would be staffed by a level-headed, rational being. Instead, the last few were disturbing examples of running on platforms of “campaign extremism” — and this applies to Democrats and Republicans alike.
You’re being presented the choice between two people who should’ve been sent to the looney bin, er, I mean old-age retirement communities in Florida… a decade ago. Instead they *continue* ridiculing the media, a big chunk of their opponents’ voter bases, and for good measure – you as taxpayer.
I’d advocate to resist the choice between these two ridiculous candidates, and get engaged at the local level to favor a “third option”. Anyone really.
Regards from sunny Switzerland
I suspect you are preaching to the choir