The ascendance of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to the head of their respective parties as presidential candidates is proof positive that our present system of picking the leader of the free world is, if not irrevocably broken, at least in need of a major overhaul.
Hillary and Trump are the two most flawed candidates to seek the presidency since Woodrow Wilson in 1912.
Wilson, a Democrat, was a racist by any definition of the word. While serving as president of Princeton University he strongly discouraged blacks from applying because he thought their presence on campus would upset white students.
During the presidential campaign, he backed Californians seeking strong anti-immigration laws to stop the flow of Japanese into the country because he considered them “inassimilable foreigners.”
Once in the White House he occasionally showed D.W. Griffith’s film “Birth of a Nation,” which portrayed blacks as violent and sexually aggressive; the film led to resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.
After World War I Wilson fought and succeeded in having nonwhite countries excluded from the League of Nations.
Arthur S. Link, Wilson’s biographer, wrote that he “inherited and retained the upper-class affection for the Negro and the belief that the black man should remain segregated and not aspire toward so-called social equality with the whites.”
Trump, the Republican nominee, seems to be channeling his inner Woodrow Wilson more than 100 years later when it comes to Muslims, Mexicans and anybody else with whom he disagrees, which is just about everybody else who does not ascribe to his narrow, xenophobic and downright dangerous world views.
Trump demonstrates several times a week through mindless tweets and speeches that are rambling, incoherent and full of wild accusations (Ted Cruz’s father knew Lee Harvey Oswald? Really?) that he is classless, clueless, undignified and unfit to lead this country or any other country.
His most recent attack on the family of a Muslim U.S. Army soldier killed in Iraq was indefensible and a slur against all those who have served their country in uniform.
Not to defend Trump or to justify his remarks in any way, but this practice of parents and politicians trotting out the bodies of Americans who died serving their country is disgustingly obscene, whether it is the Democrats or Republicans doing it. Military personnel serve their country, not a political party or a particular politician. Using their sacrifices to troll for votes diminishes those sacrifices and trivializes their deaths.
One of Trump’s other serious flaws is his lack of transparency when it comes to his tax returns. His refusal to release them is a clear indication that like Barack Obama, who refuses to release his Harvard University transcripts, a GOP administration under Trump will be similarly opaque.
Whether a Hillary Clinton administration would be more or less transparent than Trump or Obama is a moot point. She has already demonstrated a decades-long proclivity for lying and obfuscation and lack of transparency in her dealings with just about everyone she encounters.
The most recent examples are the 33,000 emails she disappeared, her refusal to release the transcripts of her Wall Speeches — for which she got $225,000 per speech — and the rigging of the Democrat nominating process to ensure her victory over Bernie Sanders.
And if you think for one minute Clinton wasn’t involved in that nomination rigging you are too naive to vote.
Her repeated contempt for the American people she was supposed to be serving in her various roles as first lady, U.S. senator and secretary of state is surpassed only by her contempt for the rule of law. She makes a practice of pandering to whatever group to which she is speaking and her track record on truthfulness is such that if given access to the White House as president we can be assured of at least four more years of government of the president, by the president and for the president.
What is particularly troubling and disappointing is how so many otherwise intelligent women are willing to support Clinton simply because she is a woman. I have heard women say of her: “Well, she may not be perfect but at least she’s a woman and it’s time for a woman president.”
It is long past time for a woman president; just not this woman.
Or, “She may not be perfect but at least she’s not Trump.”
That latter statement has, in fact, become Clinton’s primary campaign message. As Kimberley Strassel wrote last week in The Wall Street Journal, if this were simply a referendum on Clinton, she would lose in a big way. Her unfavorable rating in most polls is consistently above 50 percent and her primary goal is not to convince people she’s most qualified, but that Trump is unqualified.
So how have we come to this? How has our representative democracy gotten to the point where the two major candidates for president of the United States are so flawed and so disliked and so untruthful and distrusted by so many people?
The fault lies with the antiquated and out-of-touch two-party system. In this election cycle the Democrat and Republican parties have demonstrated once again that they have only their own best interests at heart, not the best interests of the country or the American people.
Democrats are self-righteously smug in their belief that their way is the only way and it doesn’t matter to them that their candidate is so horribly flawed.
Republicans have been self-righteously stupid in failing to recognize that their message, especially on social issues, is largely out of touch with those of most Americans or that their candidate is playing to the worst instincts of many Americans.
Yet even while the Republicans and Democrats hurl invectives at one another, it is largely faux fighting and political posturing. They desperately need one another to survive and to keep other parties from gaining traction.
In fact, they join forces to ensure that other parties are marginalized financially and politically and candidates from those parties are excluded from debates and expensive media buys.
Short of taking the drastic act of blowing up our system of representative democracy and installing a parliamentary system in its place — which likely will never happen — a better solution would be to encourage the participation of additional parties in the political process.
If the Democrats and Republicans really cared about this country they would welcome the addition of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein to the debate platform during the campaign, especially this year when so many people find both the Democrat and Republican candidates so unappealing.
By allowing the Democrats and Republicans to maintain their stranglehold on the presidential nomination process we are seriously limiting the pool of candidates willing and able to govern honestly, rationally and transparently in the best interests of all of us.
The present Democrat and Republican candidates already have demonstrated their inability to be honest, rational or transparent and no matter which of them becomes president the country will be the worse for it.
Ron Martz is a Marine Corps veteran (1965-68), journalist and former educator. He lives in Northeast Georgia and can be reached at email@example.com.