Wednesday, September 28, 2016

From Sea to Shining Sea

From sea to shining sea
I watched the US Presidential Nominees debate with that kind of anticipation that causes one to run toward a fire or a plane crash. I expected candidates to shoot themselves in the foot, the arm and the torso like they appear to be doing regularly right now; bickering their way through an overlong nomination process occupying the electorate for a year—and coming up with two people whom almost nobody can comfortably endorse as their next president. 

You’d think they could save themselves a great deal of anguish—and come up with more amenable nominees, probably—if they ran a Presidential Nomination Lottery (PNL) on which anyone could buy tickets.

As far as the debate goes, it amazes me that we’ve applied the zero-sum game mentality to our politics as we Westerners tend to do to everything else from music to sports to art to, well, just about everything where we decide who won and who lost. ((Zero-sum Game: In game theory and economic theory, a zero-sum game is a mathematical representation of a situation in which each participant’s gain (or loss) of utility is exactly balanced by the losses (or gains) of the utility of the other participants: Wikipedia)) If Trump “wins” the debate Hillary “loses”. Give him a plus one for winning and her a minus one for losing, “sum” them and you get zero: the Zero-sum principle in game theory.

Applying that principle to the debate is absurd: the whole world won, if learning about the fitness for office of the candidates started out as the purpose of pitting them against each other face to face. In similar fashion, the final choice will not be zero-sum . . . unless Americans make it so; their federal government exists for the unity and the benefit of the citizens, and the selection of a president without a civil war will guarantee the continuity of democratic government as the founders of their nation visualized it. The fact that either of the candidates could be elected or not according to the ballots cast is the test of that democracy, at least when so many presidents worldwide gain office through fraud, intimidation and/or brute force.
Conservatives, Liberals, Socialists or Libertarians will all continue to be beneficiaries equally of the benefits inherent in a democratic federalism; there will be no “losers” unless the followers of the unelected candidate decide not to abide by the democratically-determined majority decision. The eruption of violence should  Trump “lose” is not unthinkable; the fact that so many lethal weapons are in private hands makes the emergence of dissenting militias with lethal means an eventuality that shouldn’t be off-handedly discarded.
Seen in this light, the American electorate appears to be headed toward a precipice. Choosing between a Clinton who can’t possibly be separated from her establishment, status-quo, been-in-Washington-forever image and a belligerent, combative billionaire who sees everything and understands nothing much beyond loophole business, the urge to stay home on November 8th must be powerful for many.
I sympathize with our next-door neighbours, but at the same time, I can’t help thinking that the old adage fits: You made your bed, now lie in it. 
Unfortunately, we lie in a double bed with them and must always be in fear of being crushed whenever they decide to roll over.
As to the debate, I suspect that if you’re a doctrinaire democrat, you’ve decided that Hillary wiped the floor with Trump; if you’re a Tea Party Republican, it was definitely the other way ‘round. It’s another downside of applying zero-sum game theory to politics: each side appoints its own umpires and referees and the rules are made up as the “game” progresses.
And there’s no arbiter to decide objectively when the puck is actually in the net. 
Except for the ballot box angel. Without her, the demons are bound to creep in.

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