The election-cycle of 2016 may go down as The Year Without Context…but just because candidates like Trump and Johnson have an intolerably narrow focus doesn’t mean voters and pundits have to part company with reason to counter them.

When Trump said Obama was the “founder” of ISIS, the sentences which immediately followed made clear that he was speaking more metaphorically about America’s imperial stance creating enemies down the line — an important policy point that Hillary herself has not heeded in her Senate votes or her State Department performance, though, since Trump is an imbecile, and fixates onto whatever line gets audience acclaim like a five-year-old who doesn’t know when to let a joke go, he doubled down on the very word the media were gleeful to isolate.

When Johnson didn’t remember where or what Aleppo is or why he should care, he regrouped almost immediately, showing a firm grasp of the Syria debacle, not to mention an utterly irresponsible vision of the U.S. somehow ceasing the bloodshed by trusting in Putin and Assad’s collusive good intentions.

Aspiring leaders-of-everything like this provide more than enough lack of substance to be called out on; those of us who live by the soundbite can die by the negation.

I remember calling up the local Libertarian congressional candidate the first year I was eligible to vote, and asking him about animal-rights issues, and him fumbling for a minute before saying his party had no position on such issues, but might be for animal welfare measures since pets are “property” — those looking for an alternative to Trump like to see the Libertarians as being trustworthy technicians who are above politics; Johnson’s logistically thorough and emotionally perfunctory view of Syria is just another demonstration that his party is above citizenship and basic human community.

The Greens in this country are more a party of symbol than a matter of fact, focusing on national stature more than building foundations for a meaningful presence up the social chain from school boards to town councils to statehouses (though the symbolism Jill Stein purveys, and the spotlight it can attract to issues that are under-reported by the media and under-acknowledged by politicians, like the Dakota Access pipeline, could be a crucial supplement to supposed liberal standard-bearer Clinton’s conscience).

Ironically, since she’s the only nominee left standing who has significant government experience, Hillary Clinton is the candidate judged most on her deeds rather than her words. Every week it seems that an extra shoe drops that makes it necessary for me to strenuously block out facts in order to take the self-preserving step of voting for her in a field of contenders who are even more remote, rightward, or questionably viable than she is.

Context is, in this case, not everything but nothing. Giving Hillary our vote may be the best way of buying a bit of time. But how did we get to the point where, to avert the unthinkable, we have to agree not to think?


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