By Gail Collins – The New York Times.
That first debate seems to have helped Hillary Clinton move ahead of Donald Trump in the polls. However, I know that many of you are asking yourselves: Why is this even a question?
Why isn’t she leading 3 to 1? This is not a normal race between a Democrat and a Republican. One of the candidates has made it clear that he has no attention span or self-control. World security experts in both parties are terrified by the idea of a Trump presidency. He’s screwed small contractors in his business dealings and bought dumb presents for himself with money from his charitable foundation — a charitable foundation, by the way, that appears to have been managed by a team of gerbils. Also, he keeps changing his positions on critical issues and has paid settlements to people alleging he discriminated against them on the basis of race or not being attractive enough.
And you know that’s just the beginning.
It’s possible Trump is just riding a swell of white-male alienation, but there’s a less depressing answer for his staying power. Americans have always been pretty pragmatic about the presidents they pick. Mostly, they go for change or not-change.
Given all the complications out there, it’s a pretty pragmatic approach. If the same president has been in office for eight years, they pick his successor from the other party. Give or take a few vice presidents, it’s a rule that goes back to Rutherford B. Hayes.
So there’s a lot of pressure in the Republican direction, and you certainly can’t argue that Donald Trump doesn’t represent change. We’re just hoping people realize it’s the kind of change you get if you decide to remove the trash by driving a bulldozer through the kitchen.
Right now, we need Republicans who can show the country that sometimes you have a candidate who’s so irresponsible, unprepared and flat-out crazy there’s got to be a change exception.
The elected officials are pretty much universally in a cowering position. But you’d think George W. Bush, who kept calling himself “The Decider,” would stop avoiding the entire question. And Jeb Bush! When reporters cornered him this week, he said, “Well, if everybody didn’t vote, that would be a pretty powerful political statement, wouldn’t it?”
Not every year you hear a former presidential candidate come out for civic sloth.
Going to the polls on Election Day is one of our core responsibilities in a democratic nation. If we gave ourselves a pass for any year when we didn’t like either option, there would be dozens of elections in which nobody came.
Hillary Clinton is an imperfect candidate who is, nevertheless, extremely well qualified to lead the country. Every day, dozens of prominent Republicans say they’re going to suck it up and vote for her because they think she can, if nothing else, at least keep the country safe. Newspapers that have never endorsed a Democrat for president in modern history have taken the brave step of coming out for Clinton. George H. W. Bush has told people he’s voting for her. (Jeb said it was unfair for people to pass along the comments of a 92-year-old man.)
When last heard from, Mitt Romney appeared to be sticking with his vague threats to vote for the Libertarian, Gary Johnson. Earlier in the year, Johnson looked like a conceivable Republican cop-out. Sure he’s a little …— libertarian, but he wants to whack the heck out of taxes, and he dismisses global warming as something we can deal with by eventually moving to another planet.
But recently, people have begun to give Johnson the attention he’s been demanding incessantly for the last year, and it turns out — he’s an idiot. We’ve all heard that he responded to a question about the Syrian crisis with “And what is Aleppo?” He had the same look of wonderment when he was asked about his international role models. “Who’s my favorite foreign leader?” he responded blankly, as if Chris Matthews had demanded that he name his favorite Fiery Furnaces song.
So even if voting for a third-party candidate with no chance of winning was not a ridiculous cop-out, we’ve eliminated Gary Johnson. That leaves only three options for people who hate both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
A) Announce you’re not going to vote, saying, “I know, Afghan voters braved death threats from the Taliban to go to the polls, but I am just too depressed.”
B) Follow the Ted Cruz lead and say you’ve decided to vote for Donald Trump. Perhaps you could wear a badge saying “I’m like Ted.” Your friends might feel this means you’re so obsessed with self-promotion you’d throw in your lot with a person who insulted your wife and suggested your father might be connected to the Kennedy assassination. But I’m sure they’ll understand you’re really only interested in the repeal of Obamacare.
C) Go vote for Hillary Clinton. Nobody sulks during critical moments.