My husband and I can not watch the presidential debates quietly.
We both talk back to the TV, but each of us gets frustrated by completely different issues. I dislike name-calling and meanness. He hates anything that sounds like a carefully crafted political message voted upon by a committee of handlers.
I suppose it’s because we typically cancel out each other’s votes that the election has become such a hot button issue at my house. The only way our choices will count in the November election will be if we find a way to agree. Words that come to mind about that are — fat chance or snowball in hell.
It makes me wonder if the upcoming presidential election is creating the same unrest in other households. In my husband’s world, guys like him — owners of small businesses — feel like they’ve lost their power, are paying crazy amounts of money for Social Security, unemployment and taxes to a government that seems determined to thwart the working man’s efforts to provide for his family. He believes the political system is set up to fail because one party always blocks any well-intended progress by the other.
Naturally, he’s drawn to guys like Donald Trump, a big, loud and outrageous man who is shaking his fist at the establishment, wrapped in a cloak of political incorrectness. Trump is a working man’s hero who lives in a gold-plated palace high above the metropolis.
Every now and then, my husband looks over at me and pleads, “Just tell me you are not going to vote for Hillary.” And I remain silent because I can’t promise that.
What I can say is that when it’s time to pick my candidate, I’m going to make my selection the same way I used to pick my babysitters. I’ll have the very same amount of anxiety and trepidation and the desperate hope that my instincts are true.
Back then, if my parents couldn’t watch my sons, I’d begrudgingly leave them in the care of a teenager that I hoped I could trust and who in some cases wasn’t even old enough to drive. I’d whisper a prayer and cross my fingers, hoping my sons would be alive and well when I got home.
It got me thinking about the candidates currently running for President. What if I looked at the candidates as if they were babysitters? Who would I choose?
First, I’d have to go back in time.
Teenaged Donald was sent to military school by his parents who — according to many news reports — hoped to redirect his high energy in a positive manner. I imagine that if he’d come over to watch my kids, he’d be “yes sir”-ing and “no, ma’am”-ing all over the place. But, given the man he’s grown into, he’d likely teach my kids that bullying and name calling is OK. And if a problem arose, there’s a chance he’d call in some of his friends to take care of it. I sigh aloud as I write this.
Then there’s Ted Cruz. There’s a video of him on YouTube as a high schooler kiddingly citing his goals as “World domination, you know, rule everything. Rich, powerful, that sort of stuff.” I wondered if it was a fake video, but when I searched I saw that a campaign spokesperson said it was good to see Ted had a sense of humor even back then. Ted was a straight-A student, two-time class president and already plotting his path to the presidency while attending a Baptist high school in Texas.
So, if I’d have hired him as a babysitter back then, I’m guessing he’d have been a Beaver Cleaver-type kid, perhaps leading me to feel I was putting my kids in good hands, but with the bravado of an Eddie Haskell who tells the grownups what he thinks they want to hear.
Bernie. He went to a Brooklyn high school and college, then he fought for equal rights before heading off to a kibbutz where everyone worked alongside each other for the common good. Teenage Bernie had wild hair and thick, black glasses, and I’m sure would have appeared a responsible and earnest young man. You know that he probably would have been one of those sitters who made both boys go to bed at the same time, no matter that one was four years older than the other. However, he likely would have made sure everyone got the same amount of pizza for dinner.
Then, there’s Hillary. She went to a public high school in a suburb north of Chicago. A serious, yet pretty blonde girl with thick glasses she didn’t like to wear. I know my kids would have loved her right off. But I feel that she would have been a bit like Lucy Van Pelt of the Charlie Brown cartoons, driving everyone crazy because she always would know the “right” way to behave and the “right” thing to do – because she was just that smart. It might have made her seem bossy and strident, but I’m positive she would have known the Heimlich maneuver as well as how to calmly contact adults in case of emergency.
I can’t promise I’m not voting for Hillary. I can say that I will give the same amount of attention to my candidate as I did to those who babysat my kids. Because in November, just like back then, the person who gets the job will be holding my kids’ lives in his or her hands.