The field of primary presidential candidates has sufficiently narrowed to where I’ve been able to form an opinion about most of those remaining and feel compelled to offer some commentary and my official endorsement as leader of the Home Cooking Party.
Official Primary Endorsement: Bernie Sanders
The Home Cooking Party’s chief virtues are earnestness, practicality, and a commitment to treating all people with due respect. Bernie Sanders measures up on at least two of the three virtues and the last, Practicality, is at least up for debate. He is a man that speaks his mind, holds to some less than popular stands, and consistently calls for treating others with respect. Not only that but he plays to peoples better natures, which is something to be striven for.
I do feel some of his policy proposals are both unrealistic and may well have consequences that are contrary to their objectives. While the motivations are often good, there are simply limits to what state power can do to change peoples lives at a grass roots level. That said, the Home Cooking Party is not one of policy doctrine. Good policy starts with good intentions and follows up with practical application. The legislative and judicial process tends to blunt over reach in the types of legislation Bernie Sanders seeks to pursue.
I feel most strongly that Bernie Sanders will be a stalwart for social liberties and social justice which are areas in which a president can have great influence. In areas of economics, where presidents are typically somewhat weak, I feel he may be too ideological to be effective, though this is something that the practical concerns of leadership and budget tend to temper. In foreign policy I feel Sanders will peruse peace vigorously but may falter when faced with implacable enemies and lack the cunning pragmatism needed to deal with such foes as ISIS or the subtlety and charm to work out beneficial trade relationships.
Like Sanders, Hillary gets high marks from me for two of the three categories critical to the Home Cooking Party. In her case practicality and respect are her strong points as where earnestness is where I find her wanting. Hillary’s actions speak better for her than her words. Her exercise of government power has mostly been for the good of her constituents and shows competence. What tends to undermine her in my view is her guarded nature and lack of candor. As an experienced lawyer and politician this is no surprise, but it goes against the ethos of the Home Cooking Party.
Hillary’s policy stands tend to be fairly standard democratic initiatives. While these are mostly reasonable and safe I find the lack of desire for innovation and change a disappointment. There is little in Hillary’s record to show her leading a change in direction on political or economic issues. She has often worked to preserve conventional economic, social,and moral conventions, only following changes in broader society and rarely leading them. While this is not purely a critique, I think America is at a time where it once again needs innovation in policy and leadership.
Likely economic policy is one of Hillary’s strong points. Playing it safe is often the best course and she has shown a propensity to take what we have and defend it. That said, I see little in her initiatives that could address the underlying weakness for the middle and lower class opportunities that have been growing and causing discontent since the 1980s. While she has great foreign policy experience I find her stands too aggressive and too quick to war, nor do I find any particular cunning or imagination in how she has dealt with the challenges she has faced. On civil rights she has a near sterling reputation. While no leader in the field she has been a stalwart ally to most social justice movements. Nonetheless I worry about the “protecting the children” rhetoric and her very “tough on crime/terrorism” stance both of which tend to erode civil liberties in various ways and lead to crowded prisons.
If I was going to endorse a republican this time around, it would be Kasich. He meets the virtue test on all accounts from what I can discern. Admittedly, I am not well familiar with him and most of my opinion is based on his debate performances and reading his stated and reported policy positions over his career. I found of particular note Kasich’s pragmatism and willingness to adjust his views outside strict ideological lines, often citing basic human dignity and kindness as the reasons for his departure from dogma. That exemplifies both being practical and paying people due respect.
Policy wise Kasich seems to start from a conservative mold and then branch out in various directions based on practical and personal experience. The fact he is willing to make deviations from the core GOP line is heartening since much of it goes against my own policy views. While I would not personally vote for him due to these policies, it would be out of respectful disagreement. Thus the Home Cooking Party would give its approval if not its outright endorsement to John Kasich.
In full honesty I am not especially well acquainted with Marco Rubio. As to his HCP virtues, the only one I could argue for (mostly from ignorance) is treating people with respect. He’s mocked Obama, but that is par for the course with the opposing party. I’ve not read or seen anything form him that is truly disrespectful to others and in general seems better than many of his fellow party members on this account. His earnest is sorely in question after his recently silly attempts to make personal insults to Trump and other candidates and his prior highly scripted approach to speaking. It is understandable for candidates to do whatever they have to in an attempt to win, but it doesn’t speak to the qualities I look for. In terms of practicality a review of his policy stands reveals the usual GOP discord that you can cut spending while strengthening the military and balance budgets while cutting taxes. It has never worked before and its not likely to suddenly start working later.
As for policy, I find Rubio is pretty much a classic republican of the mold we have been well accustomed to since the 1980s with some threads that go much further back. Most of what he advocates we have already done, to some success and to some failure. Strong military, tough guy foreign policy, cutting taxes, tough on crime, and easy on business. I think there are some merits to most of that, just not in the apportionment the GOP pursues. I think we long ago passed the level of these things that are needed and have gone too far in these directions. At least Turmp seems aware there are problems people want resolved and they won’t be solved by more of the same.
Cruiz is an interesting case for me. On the HCP virtues list he scores at least 1, probably 2 out of 3. His earnestness is almost unquestioned. It is very clear Cruiz believes what he days and walks the walk when he talks the talk. I looked for claims to the contrary and found all of them highly contrived. On practicality I have to give him a fail. Cruiz is the most dogmatic and inflexible of the field and his zero compromise stand has made him a legion of enemies and some very committed friends. This kind of orthodoxy is antithetical to the Home Cooking Party ideal. Finally we have the ideal or respect. This is difficult to judge. He does seem to deal with people even evenhandedly and to a degree with respect in his speak and attitude. He does not hurl insults at others. He is however ready and eager to pass judgement on others and call out those he things are wrong and immoral. I’d be a hypocrite to say I don’t pass judgement or call out what I see as immorality. To be fair, I have to give him a pass, but I must reserve that an element of respect is tolerance and Cruiz has little of that to spare.
Ted Cruiz’s policy positions are as near to antithetical to mine as I can find in mainstream american politics. His economic policies are purely aimed at aiding big business and crony capitalism while his social policies are about religious moral orthodoxy. His stands on the law are in the range of authoritarian moral control of the masses and the strict protection of private wealth. No doubt he would see it differently but ideologically we could not be farther apart. That said, I’m not sure Cruiz would be disastrous since the current of American culture is so much going the other direction, progress in areas I find him most concerning would be almost impossible.
The only virtue I can see in Trump is in the area of practicality, yet it is not the sort of practicality I appreciate. Trump seems content to say nearly anything in order to appeal to a base of disaffected people. While I am for pragmatic policy that falls short of ideals for the sake of effectiveness I do not think pandering is a pragmatic virtue. Many supporters see in Trump an earnestness not found in other candidates. I can see where they get that from, his delivery is not at all like a politician’s evasiveness and calculated reserve. To some degree he does speak his mind. The problem is his lies and deception are more the corporate sort. Calculated for the moment and using authority to mandate a truth of the moment that lasts only as long as it is to his advantage. As to treating people with respect, he has none of it. Occasionally he pays lip service to one person or another, but it is clearly only done for his own image at times when he feels it is at his advantage. A man who can and will say anything can convince a great many people, there is always some evidence of some virtue if you want to find it.
No one truly knows what Turmp’s policies would be as he has no real political record. His main selling point is that he will champion the people’s interests in negotiations on trade, and in conflicts with the likes of illegal immigrants or ISIS. Exactly how he would do these things, Trump remains silent on, not wishing to tip his hand of brilliant strategies. For me, its easy to see how this is appealing. I too would like a tough negotiator and brilliant champion fighting for my benefit. That said, my strong feeling is that Trump is only truly interested in Trump. He strikes me as just the sort of corporate executive who calls on his employees to work hard, that we are all a team, that we all strive for the good of the company and the company is good to us. But when bonus time comes he gets a huge chunk of cash while the employees are getting movie theater gift cards or pink slips. Trump’s only real motivation in helping anyone is to create loyalty to him of which he can take advantage at a later time.
What strikes me most about Trump is how he panders and manipulates people. He takes fear and stokes it into hatred. He creates that kind of cult like mob mentality that leads decent people to do very indecent things to one another. I am not convinced at all that he has the aims of famous despots that folks are fond of associating him with, but I do think he uses the techniques they did to garner support, stoking existing fear and hatred, then instilling a sense of community and pride around it.