2016 Presidential Elections: It’s the Judgment, Jughead!

Will the phrase, or thought behind the phrase, “it’s the judgment, jughead” reverberate in Iowa, New Hampshire and the rest of the primaries as much as a catchy phrase did in the presidential elections of a generation ago?

A much different political climate permeated America during the 1992 presidential election from that that engulfs it today.  George Walker Bush, successor to Ronald Reagan, was trying to sign up for a second 4-year lease of the White House.  And he was making his bid offering a much-devalued currency.  His then job performance approval rating in the polls had slid in a year’s time from an incredibly high 90 percent the year before, after the diplomatic-military success in handling the Gulf War, to a low of 36 percent at midpoint of the hotly contested presidential campaign in August 1992; the drop mainly resulting from malaise in the economy… a recession which actually proved to be mild and short.  

Also bidding for that same lease was an ambitious young couple from Little Rock, Bill and Hillary Clinton – Bill Clinton then trying to upgrade his “Boy Governor” (Arkansas) image to that of a young, capable candidate deserving residency in the White House.  Twenty-four years later that same couple, who apparently thoroughly enjoyed their 8-year stay in such august quarters, is making another bid; this time around, if successful, Hillary Clinton would become the signatory tenant instead of spouse Bill.

That presidential campaign of 1992 is perhaps, in my political memory, the most colorful and entertaining in my lifetime.  It not only had Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush in the ring, but also an independent third candidate, Ross Perot; a caricature politician who turned out to be an unrecognized American Nostradamus as he correctly prophesized the negative repercussions to American labor from the globalization that both Clinton and Papa-Bush advocated. 

Although most of the color in 1992 was provided by Ross Perot, there was a strategist for the Clinton campaign, James Carville “the Ragin’ Cajun,” who also provided color in both language and demeanor.  Carville coined the campaign phrase, “The economy, stupid,” slightly changed in popular parlance to, “It’s the economy, stupid” – a phrase which has since been used in other elections when there’s economic relevance.         

A great number of today’s Bernie Sanders’ supporters, perhaps half or more, had yet to be born in 1992, and the phrase may lack the significance it had for us older folks.  But one can see parallels in the use of another phrase this time around: “it’s the judgment, Jughead.” [Stupid or simpleton could be used to replace Jughead.] A very pointing reality when comparing not only the wisdom, or discernment, exhibited in the past by Bernie Sanders vis-à-vis every Republican candidate in the presidential fray, but also his major opponent in the contest for the Democratic nomination: the multi-titled – first lady, senator and secretary of state – and much-experienced lady in US politics, Hillary Rodham Clinton; the assumed uncontested standard-bearer for the Democratic Party to vie for the top executive post in the Land.  An assumption which has not come to pass as Senator Sanders has taken the helm of the progressive wing of the party to offer an alternate path not just for Democrats but for all Americans.  A formidable undertaking which entails the unthinkable: monetary evisceration for the two political parties, and their career politicians, that now represent a “common establishment” ruling the economic and moral welfare of 320+ million people inhabiting the US.

An intelligent, superbly-educated and articulate Hillary Clinton with a political acumen extending over four decades could easily tip the balance of her experience against that of most politicians in the land.  However, empirical knowledge derived from experience does not in itself an expert make; certainly not a leader; and most definitely, not a statesman or a motivational changer of a corrupt status quo.  And that is precisely what we now have in the US: a corrupt status quo lubricated with money. 

Experience in the corrupt system will not win the day for a disgruntled citizenship who’s clamoring for change.  That can only come with statesmanship and good judgment provided by an ethical candidate.  Good judgment, a gigantic tall order for wisdom that has escaped most politicians of both political parties in key decisions that had to be rendered during this past quarter of a century.  Yes; past decisions (judgment) should weigh as the most important factor in choosing from among political candidates.

Caucuses’ participants and primaries’ voters need to look beyond any deceitful political rhetoric and  hold candidates accountable for their voting, or association/adherence with the voting, in four key areas of legislation: (1) the crime bill act of 1994, signed by Bill Clinton, which in effect was instrumental in incarcerating an inordinate segment of the adult black male population; (2) the GLB act of 1999, deregulating financial services, signed by Bill Clinton, a major factor in creating the last great recession; (3) the Patriot Act of 2001, the tool which has eroded Americans’ freedom; and (4), the congressional Iraq war resolution of 2002 authorizing Son-Bush’s ill-conceived invasion of Iraq.

Although political association with these most critical legislative votes will not apply to some Republican candidates, the contrast in judgment is rather overwhelming when comparing Bernie Sanders’ judgment with that of Hillary Clinton.  Notwithstanding her disparate decision to use her personal servers to handle correspondence in critical government affairs when she became America’s 67th Secretary of State!

One has to marvel, or at least scratch one’s head, when such flawed judgment exhibited by both Bill and Hillary Clinton, particularly in areas negatively impacting both Labor and Blacks, does not seem to pierce their political armor; and leaders from labor and the black community, ironically if not masochistically, continue to revere Bill… and now somnambulistic-ally endorse Hillary’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination to November’s presidential election.

In politics, endorsing realities can be stranger than fiction.  One would hope, however, that at the end, judgment – good judgment – will prevail.