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On Politics, and Trying to Talk About the Weather Instead

One thing we can say for this crazy election year, as awful as it’s been, is that at least the weather has been unusually perfect here on the Kansas plains. A mild and almost snow-free winter made the desultory results of the early primaries somewhat more tolerable, then an early and warm and eerily storm-free spring provided a pleasant distraction from the ominous clouds that continued to gather on the political horizon. The summer had just enough of those stifling hot days to feel like summer but mostly provided ideal conditions for long walks through the lush local parks as the two worst presidential candidates in American history wrapped up their party’s nominations, and a glorious Indian summer of a fall has stretched clear into November and the final week of a crazy election year and its incongruously stormy political climate.
There’s a chance of storms for today in the weather forecast, with a weeklong drop in the temperature expected after that, which somehow seems appropriate, but the storms aren’t likely to be severe, the next week’s temperatures will probably only drop into the not-bad-to-this-time-of-year 60s, and after that we can hold out hope for another mild winter. The political forecasts are all over the place, though, with that awful Republican clearly gaining on that awful Democrat, and that awful Democrat still clinging to a slight advantage in the national average of the polls and a slightly better advantage in the average of the polls in the states that everyone thinks will decide the matter, and all the partisans clearly quite nervous about how it might turn out.
All of the more mathematical pundits are calculating the odds for all the various possible scenarios, including the popular and electoral votes once again disagreeing, or neither nominee getting an electoral majority and the matter being settled in the House of Representatives, where that guy from Utah that nobody’s ever heard of would have at least a one-in-a-million shot because at least nobody hates him the way both of the their majority party nominees are hated by a majority of the country, not to mentioned the even more far-fetched possibilities. We have a friend who plays harmonica and does pen-and-ink sketches well and is willing to bet money that there won’t be an election next Tuesday, another friend who is one of the better heavy metal drummers in town and agrees that a reptilian race of super-human alien invaders have already rigged the results, and we have a Republican nominee who has intimated that a former primary rival’s dad had President Kennedy offed and also says the election is rigged, and a Democratic nominee that makes it all very plausible, so at this point in such a crazy election year we can’t dismiss any possibility.
What doesn’t seem at all possible, from our perspective here on the Kansas plains, is any sort of happy outcome. The one thing all the polls agree on is that either nominee would be the most unpopular president ever on Inauguration Day, all the pundits on both sides of the partisan divide have made clear they keep this crazy election year’s fights going, but from our position in the middle of the country and on neither side of this awful race we’re just hoping for a mild winter and storm-free spring.

— Bud Norman

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Those Post-Labor Day Blues

One of the quadrennial cliches of presidential election years is that the American public doesn’t start paying attention to any of that political stuff until after Labor Day. We’ve always wondered if that were really so, given the usual ubiquity of politics, and in this crazy election year we can’t believe that anybody has been able to avert his gaze from the spectacle. If you are so lucky as to be just now tuning in the presidential race, though, suffice to say that it’s been dreadful.
Believe it or not, the two major party nominees are Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican Donald J. Trump, the worst choices that America’s longstanding and once-venerable two-party system has ever puked up. We are slightly heartened that enough of the public has been paying attention that a vast majority regards both as dishonest and corrupt and utterly unfit for the office, but it looks as if one or the other will wind up president nonetheless. As we enter the supposedly crucial post-Labor Day stretch of the race Clinton is still clinging to a slight lead in the average of polls, but the unprecedented unpopularity of both candidates makes it daunting for even the most daring pundits to offer a prediction.
Those civic-minded sorts who take a post-Labor Day interest in the issues needn’t both boning up on the candidates’ stands, as they tend to shift from day to day. The Democrat can be counted on to take the typical Democratic positions, but not to an extent that would upset her Wall Street backers, which is why she had such trouble beating a full-blown nutcase and self-described socialist as Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders during the primaries. The Republican takes all sorts of un-Republican stands on issues ranging from free trade to the Iraq War to socialized medicine, which partially explains how his pluralities more easily defeated a large field of far more qualified challengers, and he’ll routinely switch sides and insist that he’d been on the same side all along.
Neither candidate seems at all concerned about the nation’s unaffordable debt, much less expressed a willingness to address the entitlement programs that is driving it, and both seem to have the disastrous belief they can expand the economy enough to solve that problem their own brilliant micro-management. The Democrat has a long foreign record in public that includes four years as Secretary of State, which were disastrous in countless ways, the Republican has no public service record at all but routinely lies about his past pronouncements and spouts all sorts of crazy conspiracy theories and has openly mused about not fulfilling America’s treaty obligations. Both are protectionist, although the Democrat was sort of forced into that by her full-blown nutcase of a self-describes socialist challenger and probably won’t go so far with it as to upset her Wall Street backers, while the Republican seems to have arrived at this very un-Republican position on his own and has consistently stuck with his belief that any trade deal in the history of the country he didn’t negotiate is a loser. The Democrat is more friendly to illegal immigration than the Republican, but by the time she gets done “triangulating” and he gets done “softening” that might prove a wash, and in any case it doesn’t seem the all-important issue it was back during the Republican primaries.
Our guess is that it comes down to which nominee the public finds more personally loathsome, and we can’t blame any pundit who declines to guess how that comes out. Which is basically where we find our country on this day after Labor Day, when the public supposedly starts paying serious attention to the such matters. There are also the Libertarian Gary Johnson and The Green Party’s Jill Stein in the mix, and although neither of them will be the next president they do make the race even tighter, and somehow even weirder, which is saying something, but that just makes a pundit’s job all the harder.
We’ll probably wind up writing in some pointless protest vote, and leaving it to the rest of you to decide which candidate is more loathsome, but at least you’re caught up to this point, more or less.

— Bud Norman