Stupor Tuesday

Tomorrow is Super Tuesday, when twelve states, including Tennessee, and American Samoa are holding their Presidential primaries or caucuses. I voted early, but a couple of weeks ago I put together my analysis of the campaign and posted it to my personal Facebook page. I’m editing it a bit to remove a candidate who has dropped out and to expand on some of my remarks.

Hillary vs. Donald? (ABC News photo)

Hillary vs. Donald? (ABC News photo)

It’s that time again! I get to review the Hamilton County, Tennessee, primary election ballots and give my not-so-expert analysis…
As it’s a primary, I get to choose between voting as a Democrat or a Republican. Once again, this is a tough choice, because there’s only one contested race on the Democratic ballot.

Democratic Presidential Candidates

There are four options on the ballot. One of these, Martin O’Malley, has already suspended his campaign. Another is the Uncommitted option. While I’d normally be tempted to vote for Uncommitted, based on the overwhelming majority of Democratic superdelegates controlled by Hillary Clinton, I expect that an Uncommitted delegate is really a Clinton delegate. As such, if I were tempted to vote Uncommitted, I might as well just vote for Clinton.

Hillary Clinton

Forgetting what I already know, given her twenty-five years in the public eye, I am going to try to be fair and do what I do with other candidates: Go to the website.

Clinton has twenty-seven issues listed on her campaign website, from Alzheimer’s to Workforce and skills. Starting with Alzheimer’s, I’m struck by how the site keeps referring to “Hillary’s” this and that. I quickly skip over to the Sanders website and see that his people keep it more formal: “Senator Bernie Sanders will….” I’m not big on formality, but this rubs me similarly to someone talking about themselves in the third person.

The main thing I got out of reading her positions is that, frankly, they are boring. Yes, there are some good ideas, but they are the same ideas we have been hearing for years. Getting them implemented under a Republican-controlled Congress is going to be impossible–and I see little chance of the Democrats regaining the Senate and zero chance of them getting the House (mostly due to Republican state legislatures gerrymandering Congressional districts, but that’s another issue). I don’t really disagree with her positions, but what I see is a desire to tweak the status quo rather than making any large changes.

But that’s really the point with Hillary Clinton: She is the status quo. If you are completely happy with the world under President Obama, then she’s the candidate for you. If you think Republicans hate President Obama, then you will be shocked to see how confrontational Congress will be with President Hillary Clinton. I can’t see the Republicans working with a second Clinton White House. Ever. Now, this isn’t completely bad: Nothing good gets done, but nothing bad gets done either. Business as usual.

My other big problem with Hillary Clinton is her brash opportunism. I don’t have a problem with people changing their minds on issues. On the contrary, I want people to change their minds if they are presented with information strong enough to make them reconsider a position. I have changed my mind on many issues and expect to do so in the future.

This video shows Clinton changing her mind on several issues, which is fine, but then she denies changing her mind, which isn’t. Furthermore, I expect that the only reason she ever changes her mind is because opinion polls indicate that she’ll get more votes if she changes her position. I can’t see myself voting for her, simply because she is completely untrustworthy.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders only recently became a Democrat, and I believe he only became a Democrat because of a corrupt ballot access system that only allows major party candidates to get on the ballot for President in all fifty states. (It is trivially easy to get on the ballot in Tennessee–twenty-five signatures–but virtually impossible to do so in New York.) As an independent, and usually the only independent in the House or Senate, it wasn’t easy for him to get anything done. Nevertheless, he worked with Democrats and Republicans to introduce and pass many bills. It’s ironic that the candidate who is farther to the left is more likely to be able to find common ground with a Republican Congress, but President Sanders would find it easier to work with the Republicans than President Hillary Clinton.

On the twenty-two issues listed on Sanders campaign website, he is mostly looking for systemic changes. Taking just his first issue, Income and Inequality, he has thirteen proposals to address the problem. I would argue that five of these are systemic changes, not only the frequently-mentioned single-payer health care and free college proposals, but also his proposals to reverse free trade agreements (with which I disagree), universal preschool and childcare, and changing the tax system to keep American companies from hiding revenues overseas. These types of things are things you don’t see from Clinton.

The System

Now, because of the Electoral College, raw poll numbers don’t mean that much, but the latest nationwide numbers show Sanders beating any Republican opponent, while Clinton loses to every Republican opponent except Trump. So from a Machiavellian standpoint, if you want a Democrat in the White House, Sanders has a better chance of beating the Republicans than Clinton. Now, Sanders doesn’t have the Clinton machine behind him, but I can’t imagine the Clintons taking their ball and going home if they lose the nomination. They will do just like they did in 2008 and support their party’s candidate.


I voted early this primary season. I chose to vote on the Democratic ballot, partly because I was wrangling a two-year-old at the time and the Democratic ballot was simpler, but mostly because I wanted to vote against Clinton. I have misgivings about a President Sanders, but Clinton really bothers me.

Republican Presidential Candidates

On the Republican side we have fifteen choices, including Uncommitted. Of these, many have suspended their campaigns: Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum, Jim Gilmore, George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, and Mike Huckabee have suspended their campaigns. Ben Carson’s campaign is also dead: He just hasn’t admitted it yet. As entertaining as it would be to talk about some of these, I will keep it to the four who are left.

One of the interesting things about the Republican ballot in Tennessee is that you vote for candidates and delegates. Most of the delegate names I don’t recognize, but I do see that former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was one of Bush’s, for what that’s worth.

Ted Cruz

I do find Ted Cruz offensive. Repulsive. Repugnant. Loathsome. I’m tempted to find a thesaurus, but I’ll leave it at that.

Ted Cruz is a theocrat. He wants the country ruled by Christian laws and values. The front of his campaign website has three large links, of which the central one is for his National Prayer Team. I am terribly relieved that the other zealots–Santorum and Huckabee (It’s really hard not to mistype that with an “F”)–have already dropped out. Cruz has nine issues listed on his campaign site, four of which are religious in nature.

His policies on immigration and border control are xenophobic. Build walls, kick people out, don’t let new people in. His foreign policy is entirely based on an anti-Islam stance. His economic and tax policy is naïve. Cruz and Rubio are the only two candidates on either side with no executive experience. I am used to idealists being on the Democratic side, but Cruz is an extreme Christian idealist. Having someone like him in power will alienate most of the world. Not that he’d care. I suspect he wants to lead the U.S. into Revelation. Sorry, I’ll pass.

John Kasich

From what I have seen, Kasich has done a decent job as Governor of Ohio. As I would expect from a Republican Governor, Kasich’s policies are driven by a desire to move power from the federal to the state and local levels. In some cases this makes sense, but in others it’s a pathway toward incompetence and unfairness.

As Governor of Ohio and Chair of the House Budget Committee, Kasich has earned his stripes on budgetary reform. Of all the candidates on either side, he is the most qualified to balance the federal budget. Period. Obviously, I may not be happy with how he does it, as he wants to increase defense spending while reducing spending everywhere else.

Kasich’s Congressional experience leads me to believe that he could and would work with Democrats to solve problems. If, by some miracle, he got the Republican nomination then backpedaled from his statements meant to attract right-wing voters, it’s possible I could vote for him over Clinton, but I’d be more likely to vote third-party.

Marco Rubio

A few months ago I took an online test to see which candidate my views matched. I matched Rubio on a whopping 6%. In all my years of taking tests like this, I’m not sure I ever scored below 15% with anyone.

Like Clinton, Rubio has twenty-eight issues listed on his campaign website, but on top of that he has seven policy sections. So there’s no reason any voter couldn’t figure out where he stands on any given issue. Unfortunately, on most issues he’s standing in a cesspool. His China policy is one of confrontation over cooperation. His Cuba policy is the same on that has been broken for over fifty years. I think I agree with Rubio on eminent domain. I didn’t look through all of his policy positions, because I value what’s left of my sanity, but what I did see was seriously oversimplified, like it was written by someone that doesn’t understand that what he does on one issue affects other things.

Christie’s legacy to this campaign is that he showed the country that Rubio is a puppet. I don’t know who is pulling the strings, so I’ll pass.

Donald Trump

Do I have to? Really?

Trump’s website has fourteen issues, each with a YouTube video of him explaining his position. (Please don’t make me do this, please don’t make me do this, please don’t make me do this.)

  1. Competent Leadership – “If I’m elected President I will do a truly great job.” Watching the above 36-second video will give you a clear idea of Trump’s ego.
  2. Drug Epidemic – “I’m going to create borders, no drugs are coming in.”
  3. Live Free or Die – “What a great slogan.”
  4. The Second Amendment – “We are going to protect our Second Amendment. You can count on it 100%.”
  5. Political Correctness – “To be politically correct takes too much time, too much effort.”
  6. Self-Funding – “I know the best people and I’m totally self-funding my campaign, so I don’t have to take donors, special interest people, and lobbyists.” “We will have the greatest negotiators in the world.”
  7. Illegal Immigration – “We don’t have a country if we don’t have borders. We will build a wall, a Great Wall, and it will do what it is supposed to do.”
  8. Unifying the Nation – “I will unify and bring our country back together. It is something I have done all my life.”
  9. Education – “Common Core is a total disaster. We can’t let it continue.”
  10. The Establishment – “They are really trying to stop me.”
  11. The Military – “I will make our military so big, so powerful, and so strong that nobody, absolutely nobody, is gonna mess with us.”
  12. Jobs – “One of the things I am most proud about is that I create jobs.” “I will be the greatest jobs-producing president that God ever created.”
  13. Life Changing Experiences – “It takes a lot of courage to run for President, especially if you’re a non-politician.”
  14. The Economy – “Our nineteen trillion dollars of debt is so unfair, so totally unfair, to our young people.”

<runs away screaming>

So many videos. So little actual policy ideas. Build a wall. Get rid of Common Core. Protect the Second Amendment.

Trump does have five position papers on his site. The first, on US-China Trade Reform, contains the following:

Since China joined the WTO, Americans have witnessed the closure of more than 50,000 factories and the loss of tens of millions of jobs.

China joined the WTO in 2000. Trump implies that the 50,000 factory closings and millions of job losses were caused by that. Seriously? Really? I’m sure that 9/11, the Recession of 2008, and the normal churn of factories and jobs had nothing to do with it. I will give Trump a bit of credit for recognizing that issues are connected, as he suggests increasing naval operations in the South China Sea as a way to improve our negotiating position. But we’re going to make China negotiate under what they would see as gunpoint?

The next three position papers are pretty simple: Throw money and options at veterans to fix the VA, simplify the tax code, and enforce existing gun laws.

Trump’s immigration policy is the hallmark of his campaign. Even more than the other Republican candidates, Trump feeds on fear and greed. His position paper on immigration is an exceptional example of using handpicked statistics and anecdotes to persuade people that an evil program is not only not evil, but necessary. The Great Wall of China stopped precisely zero invasions. The Berlin Wall was reasonably porous. The Korean DMZ really only works because the North Koreans have been brainwashed into believing their country is the greatest country on Earth (where else have I heard that?). Trump wants to fund his wall by seizing remittances. We’re going to steal from poor people trying to support their families to pay for a wall? Even if Trump builds his wall, it might slow things, but it won’t stop illegal immigration.

Trump rightly wants to fix the H1-B visa program, but he connects that to the jobs that illegal immigrants fill, which are mostly jobs that Americans don’t want to do. Net migration from Mexico is actually now negative: More Mexicans are leaving the U.S. than entering. Trump is campaigning on the basis of solving a problem that is going away already. But that’s never been the point. Trump only wins in an extreme us-against-the-world scenario, so he needs an enemy. He picked Mexico, because they are an easy target.

In short, Trump is a despicable human being (I think he’s human) and if he wins the general election I will move as far away as I can.

The System

Tennessee is a very red state. The Republican candidate will win Tennessee in the general election. As such, I was very torn. If I thought my vote could possibly be the difference between Trump or Cruz getting the nomination vs. Kasich or Rubio, I might have been tempted to vote Republican and boost one of their campaigns. Yeah, even though I disagree with Rubio on almost everything I think we’re safer with a bumbling fool than a theocrat or a megalomaniac. Currently Cruz and Rubio are polling at about 20% each, with Trump getting around 40%. Trump will win Tennessee, and it sickens me.

Criminal Court Judge, District 2

Three candidates, Tom Greenholtz, Mike Little, and Boyd Patterson, are running.

Tom Greenholtz was appointed to fill the vacant position last year. From the biography on the campaign website, he seems eminently qualified, having previously been a criminal defense attorney and a professor of political science, and seems to do a ton of service for the community.

Mike Little has been a defense attorney for about 17 years. He was also a criminal court bailiff during law school, which indicates that, like Greenholtz, he put himself through school. He’s served as a special judge numerous times.

Boyd Patterson ran Chattanooga’s Gang Task Force after working as a prosecutor for nine years. During his time on the Task Force, he introduced numerous initiatives to help the conditions that cause gang violence, rather than just focusing on the criminal aspects. He’s also designed a jury selection app, and I am biased toward techies.

Frankly, I don’t think Chattanooga would go wrong with any of these men as judge.

Assessor of Property

Again, we have three candidates, Marty Haynes, Sterling Jetton, and Randy Johnston. I got robocalled by Jetton.

Marty Haynes is currently serving on the Hamilton County Commission. In addition, he is a successful salesman and does what seems to be a large amount of community service. His main issues are modernization and improving transparency and accessibility of the assessor’s office.

Sterling Jetton has worked in the assessor’s office for 27 years. He’s been endorsed by the current and previous assessors. Rev. Jetton has also done much community service, both in Chattanooga and on mission trips.

Randy Johnston has worked in the assessor’s office for 31 years. He has the endorsement of the Chattanooga Free Press. Like Haynes and Jetton, he’s also done work in the community.

If I voted on the Republican side, I’d have voted for Johnston, because he didn’t robocall me, but Jetton and Johnston are similarly qualified.


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