The US Presidential Election — Early Thoughts

Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
— Lord Acton

Everyone is familiar with that quote from Lord Acton (1834 – 1902). Many people assume that it’s universally true, while others are aware of a few striking exceptions, from Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus to George Washington.

Despite the exceptions, Acton’s principle seems to be the general rule; but we disagree with Acton. We don’t think it’s because of the corrupting effect of power. Rather, it’s because power tends to attract corrupt people. Thus, most revolutions — regardless of the idealism with which they begin — culminate with absolutism, e.g., Napoleon, Stalin, Mao, etc.

This is seen not only in politics, but also in religion. As long as religious beliefs exist in an arena of competition, they tend to be benevolent. But whenever one of them achieves monopoly power, its leaders exhibit the most ghastly examples of human depravity. Perhaps the worst tyrannies of all are those ruled by God-Kings — not only those like the Pharaohs of ancient Egypt, but also modern dictators who tend to use other titles, but they are God-Kings nevertheless, wielding supreme power in both politics and ideology. The best-known modern examples are Stalin and Hitler.

We’ve been spared that fate in America because the Founders intentionally set up a system of limited government, one not only held in check by the existence of quasi-sovereign states (which are much less sovereign these days), but also by governmental institutions that were created to keep each other in check, with the ultimate check provided by an armed population. It’s worked reasonably well — so far.

That’s all very nice, you’re thinking, but where is the Curmudgeon going with this? It should be obvious. Due to the absence of news about The Controversy between evolution and creationism, we are digressing into politics.

Let’s talk about the current contests for the US Presidential nomination. To be blunt, we think that both parties are crazed and leading us into trouble. We’ve written before of our acute discomfort with political developments in the US, with one party favoring a socialist, redistributionist welfare state, while the other party is increasingly creationist, sanctimonious, and theocratic. We know that our political opinions upset many of you, especially this post from 2010 — Creationism or Socialism: Which is Dumber? That’s one of our favorites, but it was probably our most contentious post ever.

Okay, what about the current race for the Presidency? On the Democrat side, there’s Hillary — about whom we don’t need to say anything — who is being opposed by the openly-socialist Sanders, who seems to be wildly supported by young voters. We wonder why we bother to spend billions on education, when we’re ending up with a generation of idiots. We should close the public schools and save the money. There would be no noticeable difference in the knowledge and thinking ability of young people. Anyway, as you’ve probably guessed, we see nothing in today’s Democrat party we could ever support. We know many of you feel differently. That’s okay; it’s our nature to be Curmudgeonly.

Which brings us to the Republicans. We’ve already posted about those who have declared themselves to be creationists. Most of the hard-core theocrats have already dropped out, which is very good. We abominate preacher-types who seek political power. Of those remaining in the race, only Trump hasn’t yet been specific about creationism — although he plays the religion card whenever he thinks it’s advisable. We suspect he’s only pandering. Anyway, he’s far from being our favorite. We no longer have a favorite.

It doesn’t matter now, but we liked Jeb Bush, who openly declared that he intended to run without the support of the GOP’s “base” of social conservatives — voters obsessively concerned with abortion, gay marriage, and Noah’s Ark. Unless Ted Cruz suddenly surges, we don’t need to worry about one of those.

If the eventual election is between Trump and one of the two Dems, your Curmudgeon’s decision won’t be enthusiastic, but it won’t be difficult. Even if the Dems are defeated, we’ll still be grumbling. It’s the Curmudgeonly thing to do.

We know we’ve upset many of you. Go ahead, unload. We’re used to it. Just keep it clean. We promise to return to The Controversy — as soon as we find some news.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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23 responses to “The US Presidential Election — Early Thoughts

  1. Lord Acton’s famous statement was made in the context of the declaration of Pope Pius IX about Papal Infallibility.
    Thus, your observation that it applies to religion is not surprising.

  2. michaelfugate

    We wonder why we bother to spend billions on education, when we’re ending up with a generation of idiots. We should close the public schools and save the money. There would be no noticeable difference in the knowledge and thinking ability of young people.

    au contraire – they would all be Trump supporters – the uneducated, the racist, the misogynists, the science deniers – voting against their own interests. Can anyone believe Trump would bring back or even keep living wage jobs for unskilled southern white males? How many MacDonald’s employees can the US sustain?

    Of course as one soon realizes when he or she becomes president, he or she has much less power (for good reason) than previously imagined. Would Trump pull a Palin when he realized that POTUS is not a CEO with a compliant board of directors, but with a House, Senate and Judiciary opposing him at every turn?

  3. Michael Fugate: This is also true in the realm of foreign policy. We’re going to destroy ISIS presupposes that we can do that by just bombing them. That has been a spectacular failure. Mexico pays for a wall? I’m guessing that we need them as much as they need us. Push China around? Good luck with that.

  4. longshadow

    Like him or hate him, Trump is the most interesting thing to happen to US politics in a long time.

    He is basically Perot v2.0, except, unlike Perot, he’s not running an independent campaign assailing the two dominant political parties; instead he’s wisely waging an insurgency from within one of them, and barring a rogue meteorite hitting Trump’s plane, there appears to be nothing that can stop his ascent to the nomination.

    His ability to control the news cycle is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.

    I fully expect Hillary to be indicted before she can be coronated at the Dem convention, which leaves the question of who Trump will face in the general election an open question. It won’t be Bernie the Bolshevik. Will it be Biden, or will Obama trot out a dark horse candidate to be crowned as his successor? My money in on AG Loretta Lynch — who would unite two of the Dem’s major constituencies. She could take the wind out the GOP’s sails by appointing a Special Prosecutor to frogmarch Hillary into jail while the campaign is underway.

    Of course, after the election is over, Obama could pardon Hillary and spare her spending the rest of her life in jail, if he were so disposed. But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

  5. michaelfugate

    Trump? Interesting? I guess if you find the Kardashians interesting. Otherwise, No.

  6. Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich are all on huge ego trips, their pseudo-policies will rip this country apart at the seams. They are all out begging for religious votes, really unconscionable. Sanders is more of a dreamer, not that Clinton is not without fault, and she’ll be lucky to survive the onslaught of republican Benghazi swift-boaters destined to come.

    My option is Clinton, she’ll work to better on the successes of Obama and lead this country forward, not backward. She is not dependent on holy men reading ancient texts and divining the future on the entrails of sacrificed animals as are the republicans. And she has much much experience in foreign affairs.

    Of all the people vying for this office, to me the least offensive and most rational candidate is Clinton. In that vein, I would trust her more than any other candidate with the keys to our nuclear weapons.

  7. What Jonathan Swift wrote in 1726 still seems an apt summation of most of today’s politicians, judges, and presidential contenders– “…ignorance, idleness, and vice are the proper ingredients for qualifying a legislator: that laws are best explained, interpreted, and applied by those whose interest and abilities lie in perverting, confounding and eluding them.”

  8. michaelfugate

    Well… there is THIS option.

  9. Eric Lipps

    It doesn’t matter now, but we liked Jeb Bush, who openly declared that he intended to run without the support of the GOP’s “base” of social conservatives — voters obsessively concerned with abortion, gay marriage, and Noah’s Ark. Unless Ted Cruz suddenly surges, we don’t need to worry about one of those.

    Jeb shot his own campaign in the head when he said he’d run without the support of the nutjobs, er, that is, the base.

  10. If I were American and had to chose between capitalist lackey Clinton and racist Trump I wouldn’t vote at all.

  11. I think we take Lewis Black’s advice and elect a dead president.

  12. retiredsciguy

    Trump’s Law: The more a$$hole-y he gets, the more votes he garners.

    Says something about his supporters.

  13. SC says “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
    — Lord Acton. What of the tendency for powerful men to seek relationships with numerous women? Is this related to instinctual drives to be the
    dominant male? Does ascending to a visibly primary male role trigger that tendency? Examples in the animal kingdom are numerous and include killing the offspring of females who bore another males”s offspring. Without descending into the depravities of the world’s Stalins, this seems one step along this dominate male tendency. Aren’t man’s moral codes, some good, some not so good an attempt to address drives of this sort? And some religions even encourage multiple female relationships for the man.

  14. What we need is a president who can work with both sides – as far apart as they are – to get things done and have a functioning government again. We need a centrist. Clinton is closer to the political center than anyone left in the race.

    The downside to a democrat winning the election is, of course, that the senate would have to wait another 8 years before considering a supreme court nominee. By then, the court could be down to 6 or 7 justices. Could be a problem.

  15. retiredsciguy

    @Ed:
    Not to worry, Ed. there’s a bunch of incumbent Republican senators up for re-election this year, and the fact they are making the Supreme Court nomination an election issue will mobilize the Democratic base like nothing else, especially if Trump is the Republican presidential nominee. He will destroy the Republican party.

    IMO, the Republicans lose their majority in the senate this election. Hillary will then be free to nominate a judge who will be far more liberal than anyone Obama would choose — that is, if he hopes to have his choice confirmed by the current Republican senate.

  16. retiredsciguy

    I should add that I wish we had a better choice of candidates in both parties this year. Politics as blood sport certainly deters good people from running.

  17. retiredsciguy says: “I should add that I wish we had a better choice of candidates in both parties this year.”

    I’ve felt that way about Republicans for a long time. But just because you’re not thrilled about your party’s nomination, you shouldn’t stay home on election day. If too many people stay home because they’re disappointed with their party’s candidate, then the other party wins.

  18. What it scary is the thought that even fewer people will turn out for elections.
    Starting with the already shamefully few who vote in primaries.

  19. Mr Curmudgeon,
    If the drought of noteworthy creationist antics continues, could you write a post outlining what President Curmudgeon would accomplish in his first term of office? (we’ll assume an overwhelming majority of Curmudgeon Party Senators and Congresspersons to enact your policies, of course…)

  20. michaelfugate

    It’s the TRUMPOCALYPSE!

  21. skmarshall asks: “could you write a post outlining what President Curmudgeon would accomplish in his first term of office?”

    I’d start with this: Curmudgeon Solves the U.S. Budget Crisis.

  22. Techreseller

    There are other parties out there you know. The Democrans and Republcrats make sure that only two are viable. Easier to maintain power that way. Libertarian for me this year.