Herman Cain showed us one of the worst things about presidential campaigns. His electric fence idea was brilliant, even though everyone knew it was only a right-wing fantasy. We waited for the fallout from liberals and non-Americans who couldn’t conceive of not opening our borders and sharing everything we have. Whether or not Cain knew it, he was betraying a fundamental truth an honest candidate will admit: it doesn’t matter what you say on the campaign trail because we aren’t going to fix anything. There will be no fence at the border, whether brick and mortar or steel and electric. There will be no reigning in federal spending. America isn’t going to flex her muscles and conquer the world again. We won’t put Iran and North Korea in their places. We won’t embark on epic job creation because we don’t need it. None of these things are going to happen. Instead, we will keep doing exactly what we have been doing, dump the same old problems into the next president’s lap, and then try to blame them for what lawmakers refuse to do.
Stuff, hyperbole, and nonsense an honest candidate would reject
Stuff and nonsense is flying thick and heavy as the primary season turns nasty. With far too many Republicans still in the race, promises are as cheap and plentiful as gasoline.
Is there an honest candidate in the mix? If “honest candidate” means telling the truth about what we should expect, there aren’t any on the Republican side. There aren’t any on the Democratic side either, with the possible exception of Bernie Sanders. The senator gets a pass for conviction. Hillary? She always seems to be shrugging her shoulders.
A truly honest candidate will tell you this:
1. The immigration problem is only going to get worse
Every administration going back to Ronald Reagan has failed to deal successfully with immigration. Even Reagan backed a lenient approach that would damn him with most contemporary conservatives.
The truth is that the problem has grown steadily worse and we haven’t done much about it. Our leaders and the mechanisms of government have not been able to keep pace with the spread of illegals who were more discouraged by the recession than anything we have done to stop them. Obama’s efforts certainly set us back, but the numbers were already so high that we can’t lay the blame on him. We waited too long. Now it’s too late.
John Kasich made a New Hampshire debate reference1 to a comprehensive solution like that proposed by Marco Rubio’s Gang of Eight. That kind of sweeping reform is not going to pass. We already went that route and there is no more noise from Capitol Hill.
Sorry Donald, no mass deportation. Sorry Marco, no legalization. Sorry America, your illegals are here to stay.
2. We won’t fix the federal budget
Federal spending was $3.7 trillion in 2015. $2.3 trillion of that was mandatory and went to entitlements, defense, and other non-negotiables. Only $1.2 trillion was discretionary. Revenues were $3.2 trillion.2 That’s a problem. Debt held by the public is on a clear, upward trajectory, as this Congressional Budget Office infographic shows. How are we going to stop it? We won’t.
Neither party knows what fiscal restraint means. Barack Obama’s newest spending plan calls for a $4.1 trillion budget, not that anyone takes it seriously because the budget isn’t about being honest. It’s about declaring a nonexistent spending victory at the end of every pre-shutdown fiasco and counting on tax increases Congress will never approve.
There is no politically palatable solution to spending on mandatory entitlements. It doesn’t matter what any president wants to do. Lawmakers and Democrats in particular are not going to cut back on bedrock safety net protections the people have been promised. Capitol Hill will never agree to do that. Instead, we will let the problem get worse. Why not? We’ve been doing it for years, president after president.
3. Hot buttons are not problems for an honest candidate
Cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood isn’t going to fix the federal budget. Putting up stop signs for Muslims at our entry points won’t stop terrorism. Passing a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage won’t make us better people. Dumping more money into defense won’t stop us from repeating the mistakes of the past. Taxing the wealthy into oblivion won’t make Americans prosperous. Making gun possession more difficult won’t stop people from killing each other.
Hot buttons get votes. They have nothing to do with the truth. An honest candidate will tell you that.
4. Military action? We aren’t going to attack anyone.
If you think Iran only became a problem in 2009, give Obama a break. He made the situation worse but it isn’t his fault. There is no good way to stop belligerent nations from going down the wrong path.
Problems with two of the world’s biggest offenders, North Korea and Iran, have been passed from administration to administration for want of a solution. Now it’s too late to find an answer to North Korea and we just struck a deal with Iran that current events suggest will go bad sooner rather than later. That gaffe, of course, was Obama’s fault.
Chests swell on the stump. Tough talk on military force during the last GOP debate leaves a president two options. We can get Congress involved, which takes too long and will halt any surprise military action, or use the powers of the presidency, a solution condemned by both parties.
Jeb Bush talked about a preemptive strike against North Korea.3 Two words, Jeb: not happening.
5. We have jobs. Lots of them.
An honest candidate for president won’t get misty-eyed talking about the slights America has brought to working men and women. Unemployment is down. Opportunities are up. If people want better lives they need to make themselves more valuable to the job market. If they think the government can give them a job and a raise, they can vote for Sanders or Clinton and wait for the increase that will never come. If they think red tape is the issue, we can vote a candidate into the White House who talks about regulation and killing jobs despite January’s 4.9% unemployment rate. None of this will change anything. A free market economy is a beast unto itself and the less tinkering, the better.
6. Changing America means many things
What some view as destroying America is the salvation of the working class for others. Fixing the country means different things to different people. Some of us don’t think it needs to be fixed. We just want to elect a candidate who knows that the role of president is limited. The job isn’t about changing the nation or restoring it to some better time that never existed. Only an honest candidate will admit that, so I suppose we can give up on this, too.