WAKING UP ON NOV. 8, 2016, NOV. 9, TOO …

August 8, 2016

By Arthur H. Gunther III


    Now retired, I wrote hundreds of newspaper editorials endorsing candidates — local, state, national, These  days I often cast another in my mind to make an election choice. And so it is with the presidential contest.


If U.S. presidents could be chosen directly by the electorate after party nomination, not via the now-flawed, remote-from-the-people Electoral College, and in a process where only public funds are used for campaigning, then the issues, the candidate’s platform, might be clearly set forth free of special interest and the voters might better know their choice. The nation eventually must reform that process, but this year it again has to choose based on hope that beyond the typical, even tired, promises, there is a potential leader who will helm an America in trouble, yet one that still can chase its frontier.  In the least, the country must be held intact.

The Founders knew from the start that the road would be rocky, that the grasp on “democracy” would always be tentative, but that inspired argument, leaders with vision and the innate desire for humankind to be free could save the day and keep the process going. That the nation would for so long chase a frontier — the West, then industrial, scientific, social progress — reinforced the firm belief that these United States of America were on to something big. That mission must continue, for America, for the leader of the free world.

Yet today, with a threatened middle class; with the “one percent” obscenely rich and not paying it forward; with almost a majority of minority children in poverty;  with unequal educational opportunity; with little investment in what should be a Marshall Plan, both for the unfulfilled recovery of the near-depression of 2008 and the deficit caused by the loss of jobs to other countries; with a national government seemingly unable to serve; and a people so absent of hope that some of them believe a one-liner huckster with a dubious foundation could be the leader of a restored reich — empire — the stakes are about as high as they can get in a presidential election.

Donald Trump, a businessman draped in many bankruptcies, contractor complaints and failed enterprise, a reality TV star who appeals to emotion, not reason, is offering his greatest P.T. Barnum scheme — convincing a hurting electorate that he is their rescuer. He offers no plan, hiding beyond one-liners such as “Make America Great Again,” and  his nation would be male, white, well-armed, defending a wall against immigrants whom he blames for admitted economic ill. Adolf Hitler told hurting Germans that Jews were to blame for their country’s post-World War I collapse; now we have a modern-day fuhrer — leader — who targets other scapegoats.

The thought that Trump could hold the nuclear button in his hand is frightening. This is a man who plans by instinct, not reasoning, who is highly susceptible to “advisers” and toadies. Almost all his one-liner “solutions” would prove unconstitutional, and Trump would be in legal challenge from day one, hoping, of course, that he could pack the Supreme Court, perhaps a modern-day version of the set-up burning of the Reichstag that allowed Hitler to rule as dictator.

Donald Trump, who began his presidential quest as a lark and who never expected to ride the crest of a populist wave to the nomination, is a danger to the nation, to the world. He capitalizes on legitimate job loss, economic fear, a failed immigration policy and obviously stalled, out-of-touch government. But like Hitler, his reich would not be for all. Trump would not continue the Founders’ path but would  instead take us down a dark path into a hell. He must not win the presidency.

Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential candidate in a nation still with frontier, probably wants the office first, and then she will worry about solutions later. But she is no dangerous non-thinker like Donald Trump. At worse, she would continue Democratic centrist policies, which were successful in her husband Bill’s administration though not the most complete for a changing, challenged America. At best, she might reinvigorate the national will.

The albatross about her neck includes distrust connected with Whitewater, improper use of an email server as secretary of state and ties to the same special-interest Wall Street that, after nearly destroying the economy in 2008 has profited from taxpayer-reconstructed ash and worker suffering while middle-class backs ail from more arthritis. Clinton is not free from special interests, and her policy solutions seem as wonkish, as dense, as the failed health-care proposal she offered in the 1990s.

A revolution appears ahead for America, hopefully non-violent, but sea change anyway unless the middle class is reenergized, unless there is hope for our children, our grandchildren, unless leaders realize domestic neglect is also terrorism. Where are the great funds for that battle?

The next president may well not be the one we need, but she must be the one who holds the United States intact until that new Washington, that new Lincoln, that new Franklin Roosevelt appears. Donald Trump would undermine our democracy; Hillary Clinton would preserve it. She must win.

    The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@hotmail.com This essay may be reproduced.