Stop Obsessing About the How – v2.0

Reading time – 2:01; Viewing time –   .  .  . 

Last month I explained that challenging the presidential contenders to the throne on how they would accomplish the things they say they will do is folly, but we keep hearing such useless challenges. Indeed, cable news picked up the story from the April 1 interview of Bernie Sanders by the New York Daily News editorial board and somehow found a fatal lack of how-ness in his responses and they obsessed over that.

The Daily News interviewers said to Sanders, ”  .  .  .  you expect to break up [the big banks] within the first year of your administration. What authority do you have to do that? And how would that work? How would you break up JPMorgan Chase?”

Oddly – and this may be news to our cable news obsessers – it just isn’t useful to ask him that, because – BREAKING NEWS! – our presidents are not dictators. They don’t get to wave their hand and have the country “make it so.” What they get to do is to name the things they see as critical and which they will influence to the best of their ability to come about if they’re elected. That’s all they have.

Hillary Clinton tells us on her website that she will reform campaign finance. She has a 3-step program to do that. First, “Overturn Citizens United.” Next, she will “End secret, unaccountable money in politics.” Third, she will “Establish a small-donor matching system to amplify the voices of everyday Americans.” Good ideas. But as president, she wouldn’t be able to do any of that. Presidents don’t get to overturn Supreme Court decisions or make laws. Again, all she would be able to do would be to try to influence those in other parts of government to accomplish those things. That’s it.

Donald Trump tells us that he’s going to build a 1,989 mile long wall along our entire border with Mexico and he’s going to get Mexico to pay for it. Setting aside the belly laughs that are coming from Mexico City, when asked how he will get the Mexican government to pay for it, his most specific answer that is understandable to a normally functioning human being is that he claims he’s a hard negotiator. Here’s what he said:

“Mexico must pay for the wall and, until they do, the United States will, among other things: impound all remittance payments derived from illegal wages; increase fees on all temporary visas issued to Mexican CEOs and diplomats (and if necessary cancel them); increase fees on all border crossing cards of which we issue about 1 million to Mexican nationals each year (a major source of visa overstays); increase fees on all NAFTA worker visas from Mexico (another major source of overstays); and increase fees at ports of entry to the United States from Mexico. We will not be taken advantage of anymore.”

Don’t be troubled by your inability to understand most of that, because some of it is vapor from Trump’s imagination and the rest are things he cannot do by fiat. Assuming he is serious about doing the things he mentions, he cannot do them – at least not on his own.

There are exceptions, like Bernie Sanders telling us how he would fund tuition at our state universities through a tax on financial transactions. There are other candidates who list some how stuff, too.

For the most part, though, we can examine all the issues detailed by all the candidates, but in fact, there isn’t much to examine. From a practical point of view, the only thing of use to you is that you can get a general idea of how a person thinks, what they believe and the things they want you to believe they will do if they are elected. You get to sort through all of that noise, jettison the stupid stuff and then make your selection.

So, one more time: Stop obsessing about the how.

And pass this along to whatever broadcast or cable news outlet you follow, telling them to chill about the how.


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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6 Responses to Stop Obsessing About the How – v2.0
  1. Ed Reply

    Would you buy a product from a salesperson who doesn’t know how (or even if) the product works? Likewise, I am hesitant to vote for someone who doesn’t have a clue how (or even if) his/her campaign promises could ever be implemented.

    • JaxPolitix Reply

      Right – that’s the challenge.

      But we’re offered a choice of political sales people, all of whom don’t know how (or even if) their product works. That’s a lousy situation, but that’s the deal. We have to do our part to figure out what looks best in the big picture so that our children and grandchildren will be proud of us. Our job is to be good ancestors.

      • Ed Reply

        But we think it’s okay to criticize Trump for his ridiculous plan to build a wall along the border and have Mexico pay for it, saying it could never happen. Shouldn’t we hold Sanders to the same standard?

        • JaxPolitix Reply

          Sure. The key to both, though, is whether you think we should be doing such things at all. If the answer is yes, then in all cases it will require other branches of government to get anything done.

          Your choice is about who has the best answers, solutions, policies, ideas. Hint: It isn’t a megalomaniac who thinks he can get another country to pay for a wall just because he’s the meanest SOB in the alley.

          • Ed Reply

            Sure. I prefer Sanders’ fantasies to Trumps’. But in the end, neither are likely to happen.

  2. dominick Reply


    Most likely, few of the people who are ardent presidential candidate supporters are aware of the facts you just presented. Moreover, most of them earn their living off our federal treasury (politicians) or from the donations collected by their private political parties to advance magical thinking about Presidential powers. It is reasonable to expect them to want to keep their jobs to protect their own political party establishment. On the other hand, many political activists are equally responsible for promoting this mythology. Progressive radio, TV and internet pundits will sometimes bring these facts up, but continue to urge their audience to vote for candidates based on their policy statements and plans, as though these promises are related to reality after an election.