Beyond the horizon of the place we lived when we were young, in a world of magnets and miracles. Our thoughts strayed constantly and without boundary, the ringing of the division bell had begun. There was a ragged band that followed in our footsteps, running before time took our dreams away. Leaving the myriad small creatures trying to tie us to the ground, to a life consumed by slow decay. The grass was greener. The light was brighter. With friends surrounded. The nights of wonder. David Gilmour sang these words as part of his song (with Polly Samsom) High Hopes from Pink Floyd’s 1994 Album The Division Bell.
In a presidential election year, one might think that American’s have high hopes about the potential of a new Administration. But this year is different. As of this date businessman Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican party nominee, and unless something unexpected happens the Democrats will nominate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. This potential matchup has nobody cheering.
I recently read an editorial by Peggy Noonan (That Moment When 2016 Hits You, Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2016) where she states that the great choice in a nation of 320 million may come down to Crazy Man versus Criminal. While this may not be 100 percent true, it is true that the contest for President is between a populist nationalist and a vainglorious opportunist. This does not worry me.
The country and the world have just survived 8 years of the Obama Administration. This Administration was dogmatic in that it works off of a belief system that does not accept any differences of opinion. This is an Administration that is based on a belief system that American intervention and participation in world affairs is the root of most international problems. It is an Administration with an Orwellian belief that a small group of “elite” people know how we should all live our lives and run our businesses and that it must put controls and rules on how Americans work, speak, eat and play. It is an Administration that believes that most Americans are too stupid to give up their traditions, guns and religion and act in accordance with the life principles that the elites believe that they should follow. It is an Administration that actually believes that the weather is the most dangerous enemy that the country faces.
Now everybody has a set of beliefs, dogmatic positions that they support unconditionally in spite of the facts or the opinions of others. But the Obama Administration is so dogmatic that it believes that the law does not apply to its positions. I remember when one of the anti-tobacco activists that I spend so many years fighting said at a conference that facts and honesty did not matter as long as they supported the goal of eliminating tobacco. In just the last few months I have examined about a half dozen of the rules that the current administration has promulgated and found that the legally required regulatory cost-benefit analysis for each was not only poorly conducted but dishonestly conducted. The Administration has been forced to use executive orders, memos, and other executive authority to push through policies that cannot possibly go through a normal regulatory or congressional process. It has signed deals with foreign countries and the United Nations that are not treaties and therefore have no basis in law. \
In other words, this Administration has decided that facts, honesty and the normal political process does not matter because what it wants to do is based on a set of principles laid down by its belief system as incontrovertibly true. Dogma.
One thing that is certain is that neither the Democrat nor Republican nominee is tied to a particular ideology. If fact, it is often difficult to determine exactly where either candidate falls on almost any issue on any given day. Donald Trump has bucked the ideological conservatives to the point where many of these nominal Republican leaders cannot even support him against Secretary Clinton, and Ms. Clinton can barely win a primary race against an avowed Socialist because she is not a dogmatic “Progressive.” This is a good thing because it reveals that both of these candidates are not dogmatic. They are simply politicians.
Dogma is dangerous. Dogma justifies nearly anything in the pursuit of beliefs. Sure, forcing companies to change the font on nutrition labels is expensive but it is not necessarily dangerous. Wiping out the e-cigarette market is costly and will lead to unintended consequences but it is not the same thing as putting people into camps. Signing a bizarre agreement with Iran may make the world a more dangerous place, but hey Iran was going to do what it was going to do no matter with the United States may want. But in the end all of these actions have happened not because laws were passed, or because the American people authorized them through the legislative process. That did not matter, the dogma did.
Politics is different. Sure politicians lie, they are self-indulgent, they can often be corrupt. But politics works through a system with checks and balances, where supporters and opponents of an issue have to negotiate and work out a deal to make something happen or to ensure that something does not happen. It is not a perfect system, but it is not based on ideas that come from on high and cannot be changed. Neither Mr. Trump nor Secretary Clinton is tied to any position that cannot be changed. Neither are dogmatic. That means that both will be constrained by the political process.
That is why I have high hopes that no matter which of these politicians the American people choose to be the President of the United States, neither will be nearly as dangerous as the current occupant of the Oval Office.