The second presidential debate on 10/9/2016 was quite revealing. I never thought I’d see politics take the form it has today. Despite the confusion, the nastiness, the departure from a more consistently cordial past, there was still much to learn from the discourse. The bad news is that the political conversation may have had a coarsening effect on younger generations. Hopefully, no one comes away thinking that aggressive tones of speech is a productive way to discuss ideas.
The good news is that the debates fulfilled their highest objective of showing us who exactly the candidates are. What the debates reinforced is that none of us are perfect, or at least we have advanced beyond the time of perfected presentations. The political conversations are less shrouded in code language. The real beliefs and positions of the candidates have surfaced. We saw pain in their encounters, we saw real admissions of error, we saw true acknowledgement of the positions beyond which they will not budge.
For example, one of the great moments of the debate was when the Democrat candidate spontaneously asked aloud, rhetorically, about our values as an American people. Questioning who we really are that we would even consider changing our positions on inclusiveness. It was not scripted, it was a genuine statement that emerged from the tension of the debate. What it revealed was real heart in the Democrat candidate.
Another interesting aspect of the debate was that the Republican candidate’s persistence despite obvious signs of a tough few days. No one approves of statements ascribed to the candidate and it is too bad that all the words spoken had to be on full display. What we saw in the debate was a person who, despite their flaws, was willing to keep trying in the pursuit of the ideas and sentiments they felt would help a country get back on solid footing.
The Substance of the Debates
It took a while for me to take it all in. I asked myself, can I look beyond the personalities, the flaws, and the words? The answer is that it is hard, but what I see is core differences between the candidates on certain matters of policy. Not what they have written themselves, but what they have actually said in the heat of the moment, as well as the traditions of the party with whom they affiliate. If I had to choose on personality, heresay about character, accusations and so forth … I couldn’t choose at all. I would have to abstain from any voting. Instead, I began to think about policy differences.
I focused in on 3 area of importance to me. Military policy, Economic policy, and Social Justice/Criminal Justice. The candidates themselves focused on these areas during debates it what was required was to think about where they are or might be on these areas. What follows is more of a description of my impressions of their positions rather than anything studiously researched.
Republicans and Military Policy
Expanded presence in the Middle East and other parts of the world. Increased pressure on partners and others to take on a larger role in the conflicts of the Middle East. Options can range from broader use of heavy munitions, significant enforcement of economic sanctions to include banning trade, supply lines, and material aid to the opposing regimes. Further, there would be a greater application of blockades, occupation by land and air as well as escalating tightening of controls over electronic channels.
The Republican candidate’s specific point of emphasis is getting other nations to contribute more funds to pursue these activities. Implied in this point of view is increased militarism and active engagement similar in the type of activity we’ve seen in past years. Heightened warfare.
Republicans and Economic Policy
Change the tax code in a way more favorable to businesses in general. Allow companies to retain a larger share of earnings. The focus is to bring back traditional labor industries namely manufacturing. The focus is factories and industrial plants. Bringing in more economic activity this way worked in the past so it follows that it may work just as well in the future. More jobs of this kind means a larger share of the population is employed which increases public safety, reduces crime, and provides a chance for more cooperative behaviors in society.
Republicans and Social Justice/Criminal Justice
The focus is more on the criminal justice side in which citizens are more decisively managed in across a spectrum of activity. Public protests for example may see a more aggressive response to deter group behavior that spin out of control. Heavier crackdown on undocumented persons, more severe sentencing for drugs, trafficking, and other similar activities. The focus is deterrence and tougher judgments for a class of activities.
Democrats and Military Policy
Maintain a policy of general containment through alliances and a focused use of special forces, on-the-ground advisors, and intelligence professionals. Influence regimes, change governments through support of opposing factions within societies, facilitate the adoption of first world structures and operating practices. Reduce overt, heavy military presence and instead work smarter through clever application of psy-ops, cyber intervention, and economic incentives.
Democrats and Economic Policy
The Democrats have a more concerted focus on new industries that are aligned with traditional progressive values regarding the environment, social inclusiveness, and intellectual advancement. The platform express so far does not expand on that as much as has been done in the past. Yet, the platform favors an enlarged energy sector with green energy, batteries, and the like taking center stage. It is the contention that the jobs that will employ more people will be founded in green energy and that will require a stronger involvement by government to get people better educated for this situation.
Democrats and Social Justice/Criminal Justice
The Democrats believe in rehabilitation and re-integration of people who have deviated negatively from social norms back into society. The focus is on inclusiveness, tolerance, and creating opportunity for youth to develop into capable, productive, and healthy (mental/physical) individuals. A greater emphasis is on healthcare and seeing people be well in their bodies and minds. Striving towards overall harmony achieved through working with people rather than a default/customary application of tough prescriptions for improvement.
When I look at the policy positions and their impact I am more aligned with the Democrats on most issues. I do not support warfare except in actual defense. I am not in favor or military occupation or the level of intervention we see today. I’d prefer we withdraw, let nature take its course and if they come for us, then address it then. I think that would be more efficient and decisive than the slow drain that is going on today. With the Democrats I see a military and foreign policy that is closer on the pendulum swing towards less war and intervention though it is not ideal.
Years ago, I held the Republican view on economic policy in terms of the types of jobs and employment activity to emphasize. I still see promise there, but the spectre of automation and changes in technology adjusts my view. Yet, I do not see the feasibility in the Democrat economic platform but it does seem more tenable from a social impact point. Regarding energy, I still favor modernized, clean nuclear power.
The deciding factor for me was criminal justice policy. I don’t seen much of an improvement towards the ideal situation with either Democrats or Republicans on military intervention and economic ideas that may or may not work. What’s left is the relationship between people and their government. Ironically, while I think there are too many regulations with the Democrat way of doing things, the debate truly revealed to me that the heart of the Democrats are in a good place. They definitely want to help and not be an overbearing steward of the people’s resources. Hopefully, that turns out to be the case.