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American Politics--down and dirty

Updated on March 19, 2016

American Politics—down and dirty

By Roger Lippman

Do we like to shoot ourselves in the foot by picking the worst, rather than the best for our political leaders? And does politics have to be this dirty?

Is this a new phenomenon or is it just more of the same, only this time with more publicity?

Readers of my prior hubpages will note that I pointed out we have had political drama and arguments since our founding. Only George Washington was apolitical and above the fray when he did not want to be associated with a political party, did not think we needed parties and then in fact refused to serve a third term, although he could have.

Our next president, John Adams, was not friendly with the third president, Thomas Jefferson, as both represented different parties and philosophies. It was only after both were out of office and near their death beds—on the same day July 4, our independence day-- that they re-established an earlier friendship. Before that time, they fought, engaged in nasty name calling and were a thorn in each ones administration.

There followed relative tranquility for a short time as number four, James Madison and number five, James Monroe, were of the same party and philosophy as Thomas Jefferson and were joined at the hip.

However thereafter politics started going to the dark side and there has been no shortage of people expressing their strong views, including assassination, to express their rage. You cannot however count Aaron Burr and his duel with Alexander Hamilton, since Hamilton was not a president. Nevertheless, we have had assassinations, or attempted assassinations, of our leaders for political purposes—except for Ronald Reagan whose attempted assassinator did it to impress a movie star.

Not even our most admired president of all, Abraham Lincoln, was immune from the intense politics and deal making. In his Lincoln-Douglas debates, he won the debates according to all records, but lost the Senate race due to the cheating by Douglas and staff, providing voters with liquor and getting people to vote “ early and often” so that he stacked the ballot boxes in his favor. That became then the favorite joke in Chicago politics about voting over and over. There are still stories about the election of John F. Kennedy and how Chicago’s Mayor Daley helped in that regard.

Lincoln, for his part after the debates, earned national recognition since his remarks appeared in all the newspapers and was asked to run on the new Republican party ticket for President. In the primary his opponent was William Henry Seward, who would become his secretary of State. However the campaign manager of Seward was the Boss Tweed of the day and involved in every dirty deal so Lincoln got a campaign manager, Judge David Davis, who played the same games , even offering political jobs, although Lincoln said not to make any deals in his name.

The night before the Republican convention in Chicago, the Seward people were attending a rally and marching down the street while Lincoln’s team printed up 5,000 counterfeit admission tickets for the next day so when the Seward people arrived at the convention, all the seats in the hall were packed by Lincoln’s people. There was obvious bad blood between the sides. However Lincoln won the nomination and then decided in order not to split the party as we have happening today, to meet with the campaign manager of Seward and offered Seward a job as his secretary of State which saved the day and united his party. Ultimately the election went in his favor against his old nemesis Democrat Steven Douglas.

Bad blood and deal making is the norm, so it seems. As an aside, I recall two early instances that influenced my thinking. As a ten year old boy in Chicago, I used the wait for Christmas time so I could go to the local office of the alderman who was also the Ward committeeman and get hired for the day to hand out greeting cards to the residents in our ward. I was paid $25.00 which was a fortune to a ten year old boy years ago. So I did it for several years until one year I went to the local ward office and said I was here to hand out cards for Alderman Kennelly and was kicked out of the office. Why? The Alderman was no longer in favor by the party and had been replaced by someone else. Now a ten year old boy, me, was thrown out of the office for mentioning the name of the former alderman and was judged to be obviously on the wrong side – although I had zero knowledge of politics.

Again as a young attorney, I found a candidate in my suburb running on a clean government ticket against the party hack who was boss of the county. Being idealistic like many of today’s kids, I offered to be a precinct captain for him since I liked his speeches and admired what he wanted to accomplish with clean government. On election day I recall some of my precinct voters who would ask me what am I going to give them to vote for my candidate. They were not impressed with “ clean government”. They expected money or something like it. Election night, my candidate announced that he conceded and to my dismay, threw his support to the boss he claimed to despise and got in return significant business as he was really just a business man. So much for integrity. To my credit, I was the only one who carried his precinct. I decided to thereafter sit out politics, especially when I also witnessed how corrupt the judicial system was in Chicago with some judges taking money from precinct captains to influence decisions.

Of course we should not forget the reality TV of the time with the “hanging chads” and how Florida’s count was held up while the parties, and the courts debated if Al Gore or George Bush won. Will we ever forget seeing the election judges holding up ballots to see holes in the ballots and deciding if it was a perfect hole or just a slight puncture.


Today we are faced with a choice of who is the best of the worst. One of the two candidates of the people, Bernie Sanders, will never get the nomination on the Democratic party. He just does not have the numbers. However that saves us from reality of electing a person who is a nice guy but wants to make our country into something totally different- a total welfare state. Donald Trump, however is left or should I say right, and that defies logic.

Ask Trump supporters what they like best about Donald and they will tell you, “he calls it the way it is” or “ he speaks his mind” or “he says what everyone is thinking”. That’s pretty admirable but consider: at one rally, a protester was causing a disturbance and a Trump supporter punched him. Whereupon Trump said on national TV that he would have his lawyers look into defending the supporter who did what Trump felt was right. However on TV a few days ago, he denied he ever said anything about paying the legal bill for him.

Time and Time again he says one thing only to claim he did not say that when we all heard it. His supporters appear uninterested because they do not see it as relevant. At one rally he showed everyone on TV the Trump steaks he was giving out to people, along with Trump water and Trump everything. Then someone reported the steaks were not even Trump. They were Bush brand.

The number one issue associated with Donald is building the wall with Mexico. Whether 50 feet as he claimed or then a bit lower, it is his number one talking point. Yet in an interview with Hannity of Fox news, he admitted charging Mexico for the wall was politically impossible. Small issues, sure but remember that is the number one issue associated with him and his constant repeated claims to bill Mexico for the wall. Now add to that his repeated statements to have the best programs on everything, the very best military, the very best trade deals, the best on any issue he brings up but not one specific issue is spelled out and you see a person who likes to talk and believes what he is saying but is it real? Ask a Trump supporter and he will tell you, it does not matter. Supporters “want” to believe, even though it is all puff, smoke and mirrors because they like what Donald is saying even if it will never come true.

Now the big question is can we live with a president who has not told us one single thing he will really do that is not hyperbole? If we cannot believe Hillary, does it make you nervous to admit, we cannot trust Donald either. Disagree with him, or push him too far for details and he slams you and insults you. The list is too long to state all the people he has denounced on national TV. Is this our president to be? He says he can be more presidential than anyone other than Abe Lincoln if he wants. Yes and I can fly if I want and you should believe me if I say it.

Alternatives please: Ted Cruz. That is like saying what Lindsey Graham, who was against Cruz but now campaigning for him when he said “ do you want to be shot or stabbed”. Cruz is a brilliant lawyer who gets along with no one in Congress and brags about shutting down government and ending the IRS so we send our taxes in with a post card. Can we live with him? He will drag the party so far to the right that no vestiges of the party of Lincoln and Reagan will be left.

Chris Christie is now out and he is Donald’s lap dog. He stands on the stage behind Donald as though he is attending a funeral. Shame on the man who tried to appear to have the most integrity. Rubio is out and odds are he may throw his support to Cruz whom he detests.

That leaves Kasich who wants to be above the fray and tells people how good things are and all the wonderful things he did in Ohio and Washington while not one State delegation has gone for him but Ohio. He was always establishment—he was in the establishment and has not lit a fire with the people because he cannot call it the way it is and gives the appearance of someone liking the status quo.

So guess what, we are back to Jeb Bush who was Mr. nice guy and everyone liked him while he got no support from the people to stay in the race. He wore the mangle of the establishment and that is bad.

Donald hints of riots if he does not get the nomination and hell, he might say the same if he then lost the general election to some Democrat. Free speech does not mean free riots.

If you live in Illinois, you can see how the State is practically bankrupt as it sinks lower and lower into debt and the Governor, a Republican, is in a Mexican standoff with the Democratic legislature. No budget for a year, money held back all over. Yet, ask how long has this been going on? Answer: Way beyond the term of our Republican governor. In fact, the Democratic Speaker of the House has had control for 19 years and has a hugely successful law practice on the side. So dear reader, can we imply that perhaps it is due to the control of the legislature by one guy and program after program getting Illinois deeper in the red? If so, consider, one Democrat recently stood up to him and deprived the Speaker of his veto proof majority. The outcome? President Barack Obama made a commercial to defeat this sitting representative who was up for re-election and urged the people of Chicago to elect someone else, who would of course support the status quo. Result: people listened and decided who needs a State that can function, let’s do what our president suggests. So we are back to his having a super majority to be veto proof and the State will sink deeper into debt and inaction.

Now one can understand why there are people in America who want to end the status quo and see some real change. However, the caveat is that are we going to find someone who is a real person offering real changes for the better or smoke and mirrors or even worse programs that we will all regret?

Lastly, is the death of the Republican party on the horizon because the establishment does not want to change and in so doing, help us find someone honest, noble and who we can admire and respect. I should also add, capable.

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      Roger 17 months ago

      unfortunately the situation seems to have no solution at present with the people so divided. Sad but true. Find a good person and no one probably would want him.

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      il miglior fabbro 17 months ago

      Nice job of identifying the problem. Why not offer a solution.