We are ten days away from an epically unpleasant choice for the presidency of the United States between two candidates who show genetically ingrained layers of sleaze in their makeup heretofore not seen. The virtue of entering a polling booth, completing by decisive vote an extended period of consideration as to who can best effect a positive future for the nation, a privilege not universally held in this world still populated with tyrants, is truly absent to us this year. Instead, we will have to wallow in the mire adherent to both candidates covering our own virtue with shame, or opt out, and passively accept the decision of those who wallow better. Do we select the candidate who has lived a life bereft of principles, of shady deals, broken contracts, meandering ethics and political loyalties, history of cheating and uncouth,abusive behavior? Or do we select the candidate who has epitomized self-aggrandizement, character assassination, decades of corruptive behavior, and very likely criminal behavior that placed at risk the nation’s very security through their malfeasance? Worse, is this election a simple house of mirrors and both candidates reflect the same essential person?
The seeds of this disaster of democracy were planted over many years and have many contributors. We lost our compass as a society when the binding force of holding common virtues gave way to an undisciplined meme of the immature, to do your own thing and accept no consequence, and was subsequently elevated to the status of ultimate virtue for the society as a whole. Individual rights, once celebrated as protecting one’s intellectual capability of changing their own life tract and protecting individual expression against the tyranny of the rulers, became the compromise of giving up the right of individual beliefs for the right of being anti-societal and forcing society to accept. Some bargain there. Life in this set of “freedoms” is one of constant hypocrisies – demanding unique freedoms and demanding others reduce their understanding of virtue to bend to your own. This gashing of virtues has led to candidates stating they are best positioned to restore virtues because they have lived lives of literally ignoring every one of them and have paid no penalty.
The concept of “cleaning house” by voting in the ‘outsider’ attracts many voters this year in the theory that burning down all foundations is the best tact to severing our connection with this path we have been on. Given the alternative, it is easy to see the attraction to this option. The hard truth is of course the outsider has always lived as an insider, showing no identified introspection that would suggest he has any remorse for his life inside the bubble, or would govern any differently. In fact, at times he has shown dark behaviors of personal threat and intimidation towards those that disagree and quiet passiveness in those supporters who hold racist or violent beliefs, that border on a very dangerous fascist core.
The alternative candidate has shown her core to be the intertwining of power and greed that is even more dangerous. Decades of using levers of power to create personal wealth has destroyed her capacity to separate out the nation’s best interests from her own family. Recent Wikileaks emails suggest the personal aggrandizement of the Clintons through their foundation has already succeeded 60 million, with more millions yet mandated, for favors that have stunk for decades as “pay for play”. As they used to say – you can put lipstick on a pig…. The result as is typical for those who would hang around the slop for some reflected glory or profit, they are increasingly covered in the mud themselves, whatever their original virtues.
The self corrective mechanisms once in place to identify and root out such people have long since been broken. The Department of Justice progressively functions as the long arm of intimidation and coverup of those who benefit from the status quo. The FBI has twisted itself into knots to avoid doing due diligence, providing immunity to the most culpable, and injecting itself into interpretation of the law rather than obtaining the dispassionate elements of facts that would allow judgement to be considered in an objective setting. The tools for maintaining the independence of our virtues used to be housed in individual’s personal value system fortified by the shared virtues we all respected. In positions of power, the weapon of choice was resignation for both the virtuous and the culpable. On Saturday, June 20th, 1973, President Nixon, in an effort to maintain executive privilege in a matter of potential criminality demanded his Attorney General Elliot Richardson to fire the Watergate independent special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who had subpoenaed Nixon’s personal secretly recorded tapes of Oval Office conversations. Believing the demand to be extra-constitutional, Richardson resigned. Nixon then demanded the deputy attorney general William Ruckelshaus to fire Cox. Ruckelshaus on identical principles, resigned. Nixon was forced to go to the Solicitor General Robert Bork and name him acting Attorney General who finally complied.
The acts of personal virtue in the face of enormous pressure inevitably had their profound effects. Within eight weeks, Nixon himself was forced to resign under the weight of proposed articles of impeachment reinforced by his behavior. Robert Bork, one of the truly brilliant minds of constitutional law, destined for a career culmination on the Supreme Court was forever tainted by his subservience to the executive at the risk of his personal virtues, and was turned down by the US Senate for the Supreme Court in 1987, a Senate that had not forgotten or forgiven.
The tradition of resignation for principle has left our country’s political class and our society as a whole. When the Attorney General of the United States sees massive flaunting of the laws that protect our nation’s security, does she demand an independent and cleansing investigation that upholds the rule of law? No – she rapidly secures immunity for those most culpable to protect the executive against any exposure of the slovenliness that may well have reached the Oval Office. No resignation for those who left their principles long ago. Does the FBI director who recognizes the extent of involvement demand the concept of equal protection and enforcement under the rule of law, or resign as a matter of personal integrity and respect for that virtue? No – he tries to ride the razor’s edge of acceptance and survival. Does the Chief Justice of the United States when facing the objective extra-constitutional nature of a law in its coercion upon all citizens to purchase a governmentally mandated product, stand up for the principles of his life long advocation, or resign in the aftermath? No-he subverts the law in front of him to call the mandate a tax, when no one, pro or con to the law which will affect society permanently has argued, to protect his ‘reputation’ as non-interventionalist.
Ten days from now, we will face the most odious choice in years in the election booth. We are in this position, both Democrat and Republican, because we have wallowed in the mud with such people, and have gotten used to the dirt and the stench, to the point where it doesn’t effect us when we are covered in it. Certainly as long as we don’t notice it affects us, all is forgiven. We have sacrificed our personal virtue as a beacon of how to act, and how to expect others to act. The result will cover us all, and not in glory. Regardless, this is a democracy, and it relies on participation. As someone recently said, vote your conscience, but vote you must. However it turns out, the new America must demand a more rigid standard of virtue from the winner, or prepare to withdraw support from those who will not be virtuous. We must ask of all who serve, and of ourselves, the willingness to balance the scales of virtue, or resign in their absence – to let those in power know, their hollow core of corruption will no longer be tolerated. We will need to show once and for all, they don’t own us, and they can’t buy our personal virtue.
See you on November 8th.