“For a country with over 300 million people, why do you choose such bad politicians?”
Yup, I’ve been doing business overseas for a while now and I keep getting the same question from foreigners who simply cannot decipher the American political system. Heck, I often ask myself the same questions.
A few years ago, I had this conversation;
Him: Will George W. Bush invade my country?
Me: Don’t worry, he can’t find it on the map...
Fast forward 8 years;
Him: Why is your Nobel Prize winning President starting wars with everyone, including a race war in America?
Me: Hell if I know. It’s embarrassing to all of us in America.
In all these exchanges, I can chuckle, drink my beer and proudly say that I didn’t vote for them. However, as I go through my daily rounds, this year’s election is just too dysfunctional to laugh at.
On one hand, we have the most corrupt person to ever run for President of the United States. From the Clinton Initiative slush fund financed with illegal dealings with corrupt overseas oligarchs and villains to the stonewalling of numerous federal investigators she continues to operate like some post-Soviet apparatchik. In order to deflect criticism of her past, she has incited a race war that is both disturbing and repulsive to all that America stands for. Her utter subjugation of the media is both shameful and astonishing. Google has changed its search ranking system, Twitter routinely censors her opponent’s supporters, and The New York Times has become a ministry of propaganda. Joseph Goebbels could only dream of the sort of power that she wields. Her methods are anathema to the American system of transparency, honesty and an independent press. With that said, I have to give her credit. Through 30 years of scandal, illicit dealings, and outright felonious behavior; she has remained remarkably untouchable, whereas a lesser politician would have been incarcerated long ago. Cold, shrewd, ruthless and calculated—lord knows, she wants the Presidency worse than anyone else alive. Her determination really is impressive.
Offsetting this criminality is quite possibly the biggest jerk on earth. As a guy growing up in New York, I remember that every society paper was filled with his endless feuds. Every business paper was full of his lawsuits and those who were counter-suing him. Abrasive, inconsiderate and offensive have been hallmarks of his self-promotion. Nothing is more humiliating than being fired before millions of viewers on television—yet, he reveled in that power. Now, on the national stage, he has taken this offensiveness to new levels by insulting whole countries. Does he have a filter? No, he actually enjoys the fight. Is he the image that America wants to project globally? Of course not.
And, as I sit on a patio and drink my beer, I have to explain this all to my foreign friends. I’ve tried to illuminate the nuances and dive into the details but in the end, this election is about two words—Crook vs. Jerk. America’s most notorious Crook is up against America’s most notorious Jerk. Who do you want running your country? Crook or Jerk?
Explained in those terms, most foreigners take a deep breath and come up with some version of the following, “We all look up to America and your desire for transparent and honest politicians. What separates my country, with its chaos, from yours is the fact that your politicians are honest.” To that, I laugh a bit because America has done a great job of brainwashing the world with its propaganda. Our career politicians are as corrupt as any banana republic’s, except ours usually steal in the name of the large corporations that finance them—as opposed to their own families. Only true outsiders from the political mainstream, those who’ve never been part of the system, can say that they’re not beholden to any special interest or corporation.
So, does Jerk beat Crook? Or does the Crook steal the election? Thankfully, I do most of my business overseas—I’ll survive no matter what the outcome is. As an American, I sure wish we had better choices, but I still have to explain this election to everyone I meet. Crook vs. Jerk sums it up. To most of my friends, mired in corrupt and dysfunctional systems, America is a beacon of hope. Too bad it seems as though Crook is leading in the polls.