The Election 2016 Chronicles Volume 5: Should We Be Worried About Donald Trump's Numbers?

When Donald Trump announced he was a candidate for the Republican nomination for President in 2016 most Americans ignored him. He’s done this before. In 1999 he declared himself a candidate for the Reform Party, though he dropped out after a few months. After a few flirtations for the 2012 election he ended his candidacy.

But two months ago he announced his candidacy and it’s different now. It appears he’s serious and thinks he can win. The polls seem to back him up: as of right now he garners the support of 24% of Republican voters (Jeb Bush is in 2nd place with 13% of the vote) and in a head to head competition with Hillary Clinton he’s only 6 points behind.

We are a year away from the nominating conventions and fifteen months away from the election but already there is copious amounts of chatter that the Donald may be our next president. I have to confess a certain amount of amusement over this. Fringe candidates like Donald Trump and Rand Paul feed into the general discontent many voters feel. Fifteen months out it’s easy to express anger and frustration without having to worry about actually voting for these tangential candidates.

But the 24 hour news cycle is benefiting from this energy and projecting that our next president may be one of these. It won’t. The long journey to the White House demands a candidate who reflects the values, hopes, and dreams of the majority of Americans. It’s no coincidence that Ross Perot in 1992 and John Anderson in 1980 garnered more interest than votes.

These candidates and many others believe that a momentary spike in the polls will translate into a belief in their leadership. We American voters respond to pollsters in different ways: fifteen months out we express our fears and frustrations, and in the voting booth we vote for our dreams.

Many voters worry about the direction of our country and most of them are expressing their fears. But at the end of the conversation they’re not willing to entrust our future to someone who expresses only anger and no leadership. In November of 2016 we will all vote for the candidate who best expresses where we want to be in the future.

I believe most of us want a future where all of us have what we need, where we welcome those who want to join us in building a more perfect union. Where anyone who wants to advance has the opportunity to do so. Where all of us recognize that our ancestors came to this land with a determination to work and a hope to provide for us, their descendants. When we vote in November, 2016 we need to remember them.

I believe that all of us who will vote for our next president will recognize the candidates who share our values and support our descendants as much as our ancestors.

And more to the point I hope all of us will look at Donald Trump and the rest of his supporters and recognize that our nation will do well by choosing someone who will lead us from fear and toward inclusion. Donald won’t do that.

Reflections on Go Set a Watchman

I speak for almost everyone of my generation when I praise To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It was published in 1960, the year I was born. I read it as a high school freshman when it was assigned. I assumed it would be the usual boring nonsense I was supposed to read.

I was wrong: a few pages into this book was hooked. I still remember the first line: “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” The book entered me into a world I only recognized peripherally. Growing up in (Northern) Virgina I knew there was racism in the justice system and that African Americans didn’t enjoy the “innocent until proven guilty” or “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” But reading this book I was faced with a black man (Tom Robinson) who was not only clearly innocent but in danger of his life only because he was accused by a white man (Bob Ewell).

Throughout this book I came to admire Atticus Finch, Tom’s attorney. Atticus was the father of Scout, the book’s narrator. He had no agenda but justice and knew that Tom was innocent. Things didn’t turn out well for Tom but Atticus clearly came out as the hero. From both the book and the 1962 movie (where Atticus was played by Gregory Peck) we all hoped for the courage and moral compass that led Atticus to do what he did.

We also wished Harper Lee had kept writing. She apparently retired and didn’t write anything else and we felt that loss. A few years ago we learned that she was elderly and no longer able to live independently.

But we also learned that someone found a manuscript she had written before To Kill a Mockingbird. This started a debate that continues to this day. From what I’ve been able to read, Miss Lee wrote a book (now called Go Set a Watchman) before To Kill a Mockingbird.

So here’s the problem: Did Miss Lee intend to publish this earlier work? Many of us believe that she submitted Go Tell a Watchman to her publisher only to have the publisher tell her to rework it. She did and the world received To Kill a Mockingbird. Given that she may well have decided to bury Go Set a Watchman. Frankly, I wish she had. Or at least spend part of the last 50 years reworking Go Set a Watchman.

Maureen Corrigan has an excellent review on National Public Radio and I couldn’t agree more.

This book is a mess. Most of us who didn’t like it point to the treatment of Atticus Finch. Here is an avowed racist, a man who believes the federal government had no business ordering the desegregation of schools. He was a member of the KKK and is now a member of the racist Citizen’s Council.

But even that aside the book didn’t work. My spin is that this book is about Scout (now called Jean Louise) who returns to her home some twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Where she once idolized her father she is now horrified by him and his views. Growing up she based her moral compass on his and now finds she can’t, and needs to develop her own moral compass. But this book is sloppy in writing, with several asides that contribute nothing to the story.

I suspect that Harper Lee never intended this book to be published; if she had she would have rewritten it. She would have made it better. Someone is going to make a great deal of money off this. As for me, I’m glad I borrowed the book and won’t contribute to it.