Clinton, Trump and how big do we really want government to be?

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, August 4, 2016

Like most Americans watching this surreal presidential election cycle evolve, I find the current race for the U.S. presidency to be at once fascinating and disturbing. Kind of like the buzz of a mosquito as one is attempting to drift off to sleep.

The political rhetoric in the race between Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump is unlike any in the modern era.

In reference to transitioning to clean energy, Clinton said: “We’re going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.” It’s kind of hard to campaign in coal country after making that kind of statement and Clinton later apologized.

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That kind of rhetoric plays well to the Far Left. But it’s difficult to sustain with moderate voters.

Trump faces similar problems among many Latino voters after doubling down on his “build a wall” pledge, saying in 2015: “I would build a great wall, and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me, and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border. And I will have Mexico pay for that wall.”

For conservative voters, that’s political red meat despite the fact that independent estimates of the cost of such a structure is estimated by independent sources to be as much as twice the $12 billion that Trump estimated and the absolute rejection of the concept by the Mexican government.

But the rhetoric in both presidential campaign camps aimed at the extremes in both major parties is likewise consumed by moderate and independent voters who will ultimately decide the outcome of the Clinton-Trump race. And that’s to say nothing about the plethora of personal insults flying in this campaign.

It’s been difficult at this juncture —the U.S. presidential campaign in full swing at the same time the Olympic Games in Rio is beginning in earnest — to escape the broader themes of this election. Those themes include immigration, class warfare, so-called economic justice issues, and other difference-driven political issues.

It’s hard to think about the shouting in the public square these days without thinking about the lowly mosquito. From Rio to Ridgeland, Mississippi, people across the globe are increasingly worried about the mosquito and increasingly are looking toward government at all levels to protect them from mosquito-borne diseases.

The Zika virus has steadily moved across the globe and closer and closer to the streets and roads where we live in Mississippi. So how big do we want government to be when it comes to mosquito control? The chemicals used to control mosquitoes aren’t cheap, the process is labor intensive, and the state’s environment for mosquitos is vast and expansive.

What about pregnant women and their families? How urgent is the desire for government to interpose all possible resources between the mosquitos that transmit the Zika virus and our loved ones? The Zika Virus has been linked to temporary paralysis in adults and brain damage in infants born to infected mothers.

From the older, better known illnesses like malaria and dengue to newer and more exotic diseases like West Nile Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and Eastern Equine Encephalitis, there is an institutional knowledge of the fact that danger lies in standing waters and other environments where mosquitos breed and in failing to spend the money necessary to control mosquitos in populated areas.

The Centers for Disease Control has issued an unprecedented travel warning related to the threat of mosquito-borne spread of Zika in Miami, Florida, near one of Trump’s posh resorts.

Clinton’s easy dismissal of the nation’s coal industry likewise has dangers. A surge in global oil prices is all that’s necessary to expose the dangers in that blanket policy stance.

That buzzing sound continues. How big should government be? What is government’s proper role? And will we decide the future of our American government at the extremes of both major parties or will centrist voters from both parties rediscover their voices before November?

Sid Salter is a syndicated columnist. Contact him at