Presidential politics, campaigns and administrations have never been among my specialties, but over the years I have, of course, been an observer, a teacher, and absorbed quite a bit. Geo-politics is usually left up to the “experts,” but here are some of my thoughts about where we are today just before a presidential election.
Conventional wisdom, if there is such a thing, began with my father’s beliefs that wars started under Democratic presidents and depressions under Republican presidents. I have even heard a few “experts” say the same.
Wars started during the presidencies of Democrats Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. The Great Depression began during the presidency of Herbert Hoover. Partisans on both sides will, of course, deny that it was the personal fault of these presidents. Peace, the ceasefire in Korea, came with the Eisenhower presidency which furthers this old wisdom.
However, the presidency of George W. Bush witnessed both the beginning of war, which has not ended in the old sense of the finality of a war, and also a recession which approached the consequences of a depression.
The conventional wisdom likewise is that Democrats preside over the recovery of recessions/depressions brought on by Republican administrations. For example, Franklin Roosevelt “ended” the Great Depression with the successes of the New Deal and Barack Obama presided over recovery of the Bush recession.
There are always counterarguments from both the well-intentioned and a fringe of conspiratorialists. For example, FDR set up the Japanese to attack Pearl Harbor and enter a war that would have “eventually” brought us on the side of the Allies. And, who has not seen the bumper sticker: “9/11 Was An Inside Job.”
I write all this as a prelude to my current views of what a Trump presidency might offer.
My biggest fears are not undocumented aliens, poverty, street crime or other of the myriad problems that will plague us well into the future. The white disaffected middle class will still be troubled as they preach “American” values and products as they rush to the local discount stores and buy goods made overseas while shouting about the loss of American jobs.
We voted for presidents, congressmen, and senators — Democratic and Republican — who presided over trade deals that brought about the loss of blue collar factory jobs.
From what all I read and study we had best get over the handwringing and push education as our way out of the economic dilemma which seems to overwhelm so many of the uneducated.
My greatest fear is what will happen after Nov. 8. I am not a foreign policy expert. However, I fear a resurgent Russia thrashing into the old Soviet empire and China’s obvious designs on controlling the South China Sea.
From my readings, Vladimir Putin has in place the underlings, apparatus and backing of Russian oligarchs to direct Russian domestic and foreign policies whether he is in office or not. Putin took advantage of the seemingly successful Sochi Olympics to take over the Crimea. Black-uniformed Russians appeared to troll into the Ukraine without much opposition.
Wily old Stalin saw to it that Russians migrated into the Baltic states where they feel aggrieved about not having full citizenship. These minorities in Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania could invite Russian troops and arms. How would the United States and its NATO allies respond if uprisings backed by Russia broke out in the Baltic states?
Furthermore, what really is the aim of China in the South China Sea other than to control that waterway and dominate the surrounding countries?
I am worried about the relationship of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin. Trump appears only interested in securing our borders. Is this a latent isolationism that would endanger the world? The United States is the strongest nation in the world. To preach the message “Make America Great Again” denies all the sacrifices made by our service men and women over the ages.
So the question is: How would President Trump, who apparently knows nothing about foreign policy, perhaps even American history, react to Russian and Chinese incursions? The prospect is frightening.
The Cold War never ended. It just continued into a new stage. Both Russia and China are ruled by oligarchs with a patina of old-fashioned communism.
I will vote for Hillary Clinton.
William E. Ellis of Lexington is a professor emeritus of history at Eastern Kentucky University.