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Honesty/politics: never the Twain shall meet…?

With the US Presidential election less than seven months away, the race between presumptive candidates Joe Biden and Donald Trump looks very tight – if the polls are to be believed.

Given the appalling performance of pollsters in recent US elections, they’re probably not, but based on an aggregation of 123 polls, Trump – with 42.4 per cent support – has a mere 0.8 per cent lead over Biden [41.6 per cent], with independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr trailing well back with 6.9 per cent.

As previously noted in this column, it’s extraordinary that a country with a population of 333 million can’t field candidates with more appeal than the two apparent frontrunners – but then, Biden and Trump are an expression of the machinations of the Democratic and Republication parties, rather than the will of the people.

On the eve of the anniversary of the death of the great American author and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens better known as Mark Twain [tomorrow marks 114 years since his passing], one can’t help but think that if Twain were alive today and of a mind to run the kind of campaign he wrote of in his satirical 1879 essay ‘A Presidential Candidate’, he’d win in a landslide…

Twain’s humorous but canny contention was that presidential contenders should present all the skeletons rattling around in their closets to the public prior to running, thus pre-empting any attempts to discredit their candidacy [one could argue the media performed this service for Trump in 2016].

On this principle, in the essay he owned “up in advance to all the wickedness” he had done, which included the following:

“I candidly acknowledge that I ran away at the battle of Gettysburg … I wanted my country saved, but I preferred to have somebody else save it. I entertain that preference yet. If the bubble reputation can be obtained only at the cannon’s mouth, I am willing to go there for it, provided the cannon is empty. If it is loaded my immortal and inflexible purpose is to get over the fence and go home.

“The rumor that I buried a dead aunt under my grapevine was correct. The vine needed fertilizing, my aunt had to be buried, and I dedicated her to this high purpose. Does that unfit me for the Presidency? The Constitution of our country does not say so. No other citizen was ever considered unworthy of this office because he enriched his grapevines with his dead relatives. Why should I be selected as the first victim of an absurd prejudice?

“I admit also that I am not a friend of the poor man. I regard the poor man, in his present condition, as so much wasted raw material. Cut up and properly canned, he might be made useful to fatten the natives of the cannibal islands and to improve our export trade with that region. I shall recommend legislation upon the subject in my first message. My campaign cry will be: ‘Desiccate the poor workingman; stuff him into sausages.’”

Twain finished his parodic political pitch with the assurance that “I recommend myself as a safe man – a man who starts from the basis of total depravity and proposes to be fiendish to the last.”

At least such a candidate would test whether voters truly value transparency or actually prefer the present politics of pretence.

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