It is still early in the U.S. presidential nomination races.
It is not too early, however, to harbor a pretty strong suspicion that on November 8, the election will provide a choice between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
Of course, surprises could emerge that could lead voters to create a different pairing for November 8. Democrat Bernie Sanders, a secular Jewish radical socialist, could face Marco Rubio, now emerging as the Republican establishment candidate.
Given those competing scenarios, what will American voters do?
One answer may be found in the observation, often attributed to Winston Churchill: “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else”.
What will be the right thing to do on November 8? As the kid in the back seat keeps asking, “are we there yet?” Absolutely not. The journey ahead is filled with turns and dips before each individual voter finally decides, driven by heart and/or head, preferably both.
Will voters make a disastrous decision? Or will they choose a leader who, at least. has the potential to pull the nation out of its current political mire?
Nine months out, we must Go Set a Watchman (rest in peace, Harper Lee) to guide individual voters. And always in politics, a wise “watchman” will caution: Be alert for surprises.
That alertness demands nothing less than urging voters to look outside the box–or the narrative frame–into which the public is jammed by the mainstream media (MSM).
A vast empty Western landscape. The camera pans across it. Then the shot slides onto a sunburned, desperate face. The long shot has become a closeup without a cut, revealing that the landscape was not empty but occupied by a desperado very close to us.
In those opening frames, Ebert continues, Italian Director Sergio Leone established a rule he follows throughout the film.
The rule is that the ability to see is limited by the sides of the frame. At important moments in the film, what the camera cannot see, the characters cannot see, and that gives Leone the freedom to surprise us with entrances that cannot be explained by the practical geography of his shots.
With appreciation to Ebert and Leone we must ask, what surprises lurk in the presidential race over the next nine months?
One recent example has largely escaped MSM attention: A scathing putdown of Bernie Sanders by Steven Salaita, an academic who earned pro-Palestinian street cred in his lengthy encounter with pro-Israeli forces.
The Chicago Tribune reported in November, 2015, on the final settlement the University of Illinois reached with Salaita after his contract was terminated.
The University of Illinois’ decision last year to revoke a job offer to controversial professor Steven Salaita will cost more than $2 million, including an $875,000 settlement that trustees approved Thursday.
Salaita, who lost a tenured faculty position after posting a string of anti-Israel comments on social media, will get $600,000 in the deal in exchange for dropping two lawsuits against the university and agreeing he will never work at U. of I. Salaita’s attorneys will get $275,000.
The settlement — to be paid out within 30 days — is on top of the $1.3 million in legal fees the university has spent during the past 14 months on Salaita-related issues, including a federal suit brought by Salaita that alleged breach of contract and violation of his free speech rights. Trustees voted 9-1 to approve the agreement, in which the university admits no wrongdoing.
Salaita currently holds the Edward W. Said Chair of American Studies at the American University of Beirut.
In his essay for Salon, Salaita wrote,” I won’t vote for Bernie Sanders: His feeble position on Israel is a serious progressive problem.”
It is a huge surprise to find a strong pro-Palestinian academic who reject Sanders with such vehemence. Sanders’ opponent, Hillary Clinton, has exhibited a far stronger pro-Israel stance than Sanders in their respective careers.
Sanders’ autobiography, An Outsider in the White House, was first published in 1997 as An Outsider in the House when he was a House member. It was reissued, with revisions in 2015, with “White” added to the title.
In both versions Sanders focuses on his passion to confront “wealth and income inequality” in the U.S.
In an afterword to the 2015 edition, John Nichols writes:
Wrangling with the White House and Republican neoconservatives, Sanders was a forceful critic of proposals to send U.S. troops back into the Middle East. At a point in 2013, when Republicans such as Senator John McCain were pushing for intervention in Syria, and when the White House was sending ominous signals, most Democrats in the House and Senate kept quiet. But Sanders kept recalling the rush to war in Iraq, and its consequences. . .
Sanders’ book is focused solely on his issue of wealth and income inequality. His only reference to his Jewish background comes in brief references to his parents, both Jewish.
The essay by Salaita attacking Sanders, begins with praise for Sanders’ focus on economic imbalance:
Bernie Sanders has run a smart and spirited campaign. Even if he eventually loses the Democratic primary, his rise from virtually nowhere to threaten Hillary Clinton from the left offers much-needed optimism in a time of dismal inequality. His invective against Wall Street is accurate and often courageous. He is the rare candidate who doesn’t traffic in patriotic or religious platitudes.
But I won’t be voting for him.
At no point in his essay does Salaita indicate if his rejection of Sanders covers both the race for the nomination and the general election. He simply blasts Sanders:
Sanders has long supported Israeli colonization, including the worst elements of its military occupation. . . Is it fair to call Sanders an adamant Zionist? Is he a Zionist at all? Does it even matter? How bad is he, really, in the spectrum of U.S. politics, where kowtowing to Israel has long been a prerequisite for the presidency?
. . . Here’s what we know: He’s not a raging ideologue. He doesn’t extol Israel. He hasn’t kissed Netanyahu’s ring. He recently declined to call himself a Zionist. Last year, though, he yelled at pro-Palestine activists and his platform on Israel-Palestine sounds agreeable but reproduces a failed status quo.
In this largely unsubstantiated tirade against Sanders, Salaita makes no reference to Hillary Clinton’s staunch support of Israel. Nor does he appear to understand that members of the House and Senate do not stay elected long without some modicum of deference to Israel.
In our political presidential process, when the ballots are cast, the choices have been narrowed down, winnowed by earlier primaries and caucuses. Some winnowing also comes from unexpected surprises along the respective campaign trails.
It is up to the voter to watch for those surprises as they spring from outside the MSM frame of reference. Do not watch for the perfect. Watch, rather, for the potential and the possible.