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Tuesday, November 20 , 2018, 8:58 am | Fog/Mist 51º


Susan Estrich: Voters, It’s Time to Get Serious

This is not a television show. This is not one of those audience response things that measure how loudly we scream and or how many balls we throw.

No, this is our democracy, of Presidents Washington and Jefferson and Madison and Jackson and Lincoln and Roosevelt and, yes, Reagan and Obama.

And Donald Trump?


Is there anyone who doesn’t know, really know, that it isn’t right?

Listen to their arguments: It’s OK to elect an unqualified megalomaniac neo-fascist with no experience in government who openly insults and stereotypes the very people who we have protected as equals because, after all, what can he really do anyway?

Sorry, but what an unbelievably stupid argument. We should elect someone to the most powerful position on the face of the earth, with the power to destroy the earth as we know it, because, what the heck, it doesn’t matter?

It does matter. At least accept responsibility. If you want to elect a qualified idiot as our president, then you have a right to do that under the Constitution. But you don’t have the right to convince anyone it doesn’t matter.

It’s bad enough that Democrats have to deal with the ardent “Bernie lovers,” most of whom, like Bernie Sanders, are brand-new members of the party and have not yet had the fun of living through losing. I’ve had that fun, and I promise, really, they haven’t missed a thing.

However, I sympathize with their passion. I had all that “heart and soul” of the Democratic Party back in 1980 when Democrats were divided between those who thought Ronald Reagan couldn’t win and those who thought he couldn’t lose.

Anyway, he won, and I don’t think anyone would say the troublemaking I was so proud of at the convention (I had 44 minority reports, Bernie-ites) in any way aided his performance. On the other hand, as Bill Clinton once consoled me, the advantage of a landslide is that nothing you did, or could have done, mattered.

Useful advice for life: Don’t sweat the big stuff — unless you can control it.

I know the Freakonomics tale of the two embarrassed economists who meet at the polling place only to immediately blame their wives for forcing them to go.

Voting, Florida 2000 notwithstanding, is not a very efficient use of time. No single vote has more than an infinitesimal chance of mattering, and yet it has always been for me the magic of democracy, the symphony in which all these strange sounding instruments come together to make magic. And it’s a symphony we can control.

What is striking is how often it comes out all right. It’s such a messy process — on a Tuesday no less, who would hold an election on a Tuesday if you wanted people to come — and it’s just not just an election, but first there are these odd things called caucuses and, almost as strange, the open, and closed and half-open, half-closed primaries on different dates in the same state.

Once you get through all that, you get two candidates, generally, either of whom, however much you may loathe their positions, is at least theoretically qualified to be president. It’s one of those “reasonable people can disagree” things.

Except this time. We should’ve got John Kasich or Jeb Bush, at least Marco Rubio. What are we doing with Trump?

And more to the point, how do we ensure that whatever went so very wrong in the Republican primaries doesn’t repeat itself in the general elections?

Only this: by taking it as seriously as it is.

Susan Estrich is a best-selling author, the Robert Kingsley Professor of Law and Political Science at the USC Law Center and was campaign manager for 1988 Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis. Click here to contact her or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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