WASHINGTON — We now have an idea of the course of the general election campaign: Class warfare, bitter candidate encounters, nasty ads, obsession with meaningless issues and an outcome that will anger half the nation.
Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton will not bring out the best in us. One has no respect for facts and likes to rile his supporters while claiming he is a billionaire outsider without government experience. The other is often arrogant, has poor political instincts and is as establishment as possible in a year when Washington is a synonym for incompetence.
According to exit polls, a majority of Trump’s supporters are white, don’t have college degrees and have low incomes. Clinton’s supporters include college-educated women, minorities and union members.
Trump sponsored a video showing Clinton barking like a dog while Vladimir Putin laughs. In a pro-Clinton spot, women repeat uncouth words Trump has used to describe females. The games begin.
One-fourth of Republicans say they don’t want to vote for Trump. One-fourth of Democrats say they don’t want to vote for Clinton.
But this election will be no mealy-mouthed exercise for like-minded opponents. November brings us a definite choice.
Take immigration. Trump wants to deport 11 million people, build a wall and “make” Mexico pay for it. Clinton argues that illegal immigration has declined dramatically and no “wall” will ever be built along the southern U.S. border, let alone paid for by Mexico. And, she says, it’s physically impossible and morally wrong to deport 11 million people.
Take trade. Trump wants to get rid of current trade deals, although they are legally binding agreements. Clinton argues that would hurt Americans by driving up prices and cutting jobs. She argues trade is not the cause of growing inequality in America. She notes we have a trade surplus in manufactured goods with 20 countries with trade pacts; 6,000 jobs are created for every $1 billion spent by foreigners on U.S. products.
Trump says he will be the biggest jobs creator God ever made. Clinton says the president does not personally create jobs but implements policies that create the proper climate for creating jobs. She says that means improving education so that Americans can get skilled jobs and rebuilding broken infrastructure such as dilapidated ports, roads and bridges.
Both want to overhaul the outmoded tax system. Trump wants to give the rich more tax breaks. Clinton wants to eliminate loopholes she says already benefit the wealthy,
Trump wants to return to torturing suspected terrorists. Clinton observes this tactic backfires because it’s used to justify torturing captured Americans.
Trump would ban Muslims from entering the country. Clinton notes this is unconstitutional and morally reprehensible.
Trump opposes collective bargaining; Clinton does not. He says workers make too much money; she says they don’t make enough. He is against a higher minimum wage; she says it is vital to improving our economy.
The race will be diverting. Asked on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” show who he consults, Trump said, “I am speaking with myself because I have a very good brain.” And we admit to being fascinated with how many suits and matching jewelry one woman can wear in a year.
Meanwhile, nothing is getting done in Washington.
After President Barack Obama nominated U.S. Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said holding hearings and voting on Garland would be a waste of time until the next president nominates someone.
Never mind that Obama, who won re-election with a 5-million-vote surplus, has a year left in office, is constitutionally mandated to make a nomination and the Senate is required to vote. Never mind that Garland is non-controversial, non-political, well-liked and respected by Republicans and Democrats as a competent, centrist jurist who has been a consensus nominee in the past. Never mind that McConnell would permit an entire year to go by without a full complement on the nation’s highest court.
Exiting the presidential race, Marco Rubio warned us against becoming a nation of people who hate each other. Is it too late?
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Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at [email protected]