So Bernie Sanders gave Hillary Clinton a beat down yesterday. I figured him to win, but 22 points!? That’s not a shake-it-off loss for Team Hillary; that’s a get to the ER and make sure she’s OK loss. When a self-identified socialist beats anyone by that much, even in curmudgeonly New Hampshire, something is up. Let’s turn to the exit polling. With a majority of voters, Sanders was found to be “honest and trustworthy,” by a margin of 95% to 3%. This comes in the face of voters overwhelmingly agreeing that Hillary has much better odds to win in November and far better experience for the job than Bernie. I think that tells the tale pretty convincingly. People were not voting issues or competence, they were voting on perceived credibility.
Credibility, which is closely related to honesty, flows from character. This result seems to be in direct contrast to our discussion yesterday of no one caring about Cam Newton’s character provided he wins. But does Bernie really have better character than Hillary? Yes, he is more honest, but that is an awfully low bar when you are dealing with the Clinton’s. The “charity” that seemingly underlies socialism would also appear to be an indication of character, but only if you ignore the confiscatory, some might say thieving, nature of the other side of the socialist transaction. “Stealing from the rich and giving to the poor” is a sympathetic stance, but that whole stealing thing makes it an act of pretty questionable character.
But the word “sympathy” starts to hint at what I think is going on. This election cycle is very visceral. Sympathy is something you feel, not something you reason about. But I think it is more deeply visceral than sympathy, I think this election is about shame.
Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame;
they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous
Voters are rightfully ashamed of Hillary Clinton, they are ashamed of Barack Obama, they are ashamed of what has transpired in Washington for the last eight years. Right now it would appear they do not care how wrong a candidate is provided they do not bring shame to us.
Well, guess what – we are all human and we are not only capable, but inevitably will, do something shameful. Whether politician or pothole filler, cop or captain of industry, shameful comes with the territory. We are electing a president, a flawed, corruptible human president. We are not electing a Savior – that job has been filled. If want to expunge from ourselves the shame we feel we have to turn somewhere other than to this election.
That does not mean we should not struggle with all our might to find a president that is a whole heck of a lot better than Obama, Hillary, or Bernie, it just means we cannot invest that president, or presidential candidate, with our hopes of avoiding shame. That investment needs to be made through an entirely different institution.
My concern is that that entirely different institution has too often induced shame. That is a problem that has to be fixed. Once that is fixed a lot of this other stuff will take care of itself.