The election is over. I am left with two very contradictory
First is one of appreciation every four years we
peacefully replace our government.
I remember my parents in the late 1970s discussing Soviet
politics at our house with their close friend. Their friend
said something anti-Soviet. I vividly recall the fear in my
mothers eyes when she realized I had overheard that part
of the conversation.
Views that were contrary to politics of the
party were not tolerated. If I repeated in kindergarten
what I had just heard, my teacher could report it to
authorities and my parents (not me) would get in trouble.
A six-year-old kid could have only heard this sort of
anti-Soviet talk at home: TV, radio, and newspapers were a
pro-Soviet propaganda machine. My parents would not have been
sent to the gulag, but they could have lost their jobs. If this
sounds farfetched, my fathers best friend, a colleague
and professor at Murmansk Marine Academy, was fired for
possession of anti-Soviet propaganda a copy of
Solzhenitsyns Gulag Archipelago. It took him
years to get another job, and it was almost two decades later,
when the Soviet Union fell apart, that he was finally able to
get a decent teaching job.
We in America tend to take our democratic elections for
granted and underappreciate the fact that we can openly express
our views. But there is also the other, new feeling: disgust.
Yes, disgust. There is something deeply wrong with the U.S.
election process. Between the presidential candidates and the
congressional races, billions of dollars were spent (wasted) on
the election. To spend that kind of money, first you have to
raise it. Politicians sell their souls and beliefs to whomever
will give them the most money.
And here is the sad truth: If you dont raise money,
the other guy will, and then he can outspend you. He can
slaughter you, as his lies will be amplified louder through TV
and radio ads, and the victory will be his. As I am writing
this, I am realizing that allowing politicians to spend
unlimited amounts of money on campaigns is not unlike allowing
steroids in sports even the strongest athlete will lose
to a weaker opponent who is pumped on steroids.
Also, this election process will turn even a very honorable
person into a liar or half-truth teller, because it is
impossible to express complex ideas in 30-second sound bites.
Even during the presidential debates, where candidates were
allowed a few minutes to make their case, every claim that each
of them made had to be fact-checked the next morning. We must
be scratching an all-time low in politics when we feel the need
to fact-check the statements of the candidates running for the
highest office in the land, the president of the United States,
the office that should be the moral compass for the country. If
we accept lies and half-truths from them as politics as usual,
what do you expect from just a mortal senator or a
The partisan politics of this country is simply insane. I
observed both Republican and Democrat friends, who are
otherwise rational people whom I deeply respect, turning into
mindless robots when the conversation turned to politics. It
seemed that their cognitive abilities had been wiped and
replaced by a party program as they mindlessly repeated
half-truths and lies propagated by the party mother ship,
without any critical thinking of their own. It was scary.
But there is a silver lining to U.S. politics. Call me a
disillusioned optimist, but no matter what the outcome of the
election, this country has survived and will continue to
survive bad congressmen, bad senators, and even bad
Here is the irony of the above: I wrote that piece exactly
four years ago about the Obama/Romney election. I never thought
that I was describing what, four years later, wed
consider the good ol days.
Thoughts on Trumps presidency: If Hillary Clinton had
been elected, her presidency would have provided a fairly
narrow band of outcomes basically a continuation of the
past eight years. (Ill let you, Dear Reader, be the judge
of whether that would have been good or bad.)
Potential outcomes for the Trump presidency fall in a much
wider band. Probable outcomes are relatively narrow for
domestic policy and a mile wide for foreign policy.
We tend to think of the American president as a very
powerful person. However, that is only true when it comes to
foreign policy, when the president acts as commander-in-chief.
Regarding domestic policy, the brilliance of the Constitution
is that it puts significant limits on what the president can
For instance, even though Republicans control the Congress,
they lack the 60 votes to break filibusters and invoke cloture.
Thus, though Trumps party may diminish Obamacare, they
may not have the ability to repeal it altogether. In the case
of domestic policy, Trump is pretty much just another
Republican president whose effectiveness will be helped by
Republican control of Congress but at the same time may
potentially be restricted by the new presidents own
negotiating skills and his lack of political experience.
When it comes to foreign policy and trade, the range of
outcomes becomes incredibly wide. First, we dont know who
Trump the commander-in-chief really is. Is he Trump the
candidate, who would say brash and simply idiotic things
or the very calm, presidential person who delivered a brilliant
acceptance speech? Will he make the world a safer or a more
I dont have an answer for that question. Just as with
predictions for the outcome of this election, it seems that no