Don’t Kid Yourself, There is A Choice

by | July 8, 2024

Recently, my wife and I have had the opportunity to travel by car across swathes of the United States. Judging from its zigs and zags, our route appears random. But it has purpose. It plots destinations of far-flung family and friends. Our aim is to reconnect, in some cases after years of separation.

Love, laughter, and reminiscence frequent our stops. But so too do fear, anger, and frustration. No matter how apolitical our hosts may be, none can suppress their anxiety, distress, and concern about the upcoming US presidential election. 

It may not be a novel observation, but it is nevertheless true: Americans not enslaved by the chains of partisanship deeply lament this election’s choice of presidential candidates.

It is easy to understand why. 

One candidate is a convicted felon, has been found civilly liable of sexual assault, instigated an insurrection of the country he was sworn to protect, had sex with a porn star while his wife nurtured their newborn, insults political opponents endlessly, objectifies women in the crudest ways, dehumanizes immigrants, speaks nonsense about science, public health, economics or just about any learned discipline, is uncouth, lies incessantly, and is impulsive, disrespectful, and vain. He’s proven to be incapable of remorse, humility, or love. In short, he is a malignant narcissist. 

The other strikes any objective observer as unfit to be the country’s next president. Few of us are medical professionals, much less trained in neuroscience or geriatrics. But we recognize, often from intimate experience, that our current president is too old for this job. We are not ageist. We’ve seen it in our grandparents or parents, in other family members or dear friends who have declined late in life. It is cruel and it is tragic. Often, neither the ageing individual nor their immediate family want to recognize serious mental decline. 

But we do. 

Yet for all our warranted frustration about this year’s election choice, are we not deluding ourselves? In our genuine anxiety about the deep character flaws or diminished mental capabilities of our candidates have we become oblivious to the differences between them? Are we so consumed by what we dislike that we become blind to the consequences of our choice?

In truth, the differences about what ought to matter to Americans are vast. And few elections have been as consequential as this November’s.

One party, its presumptive candidate, and his supporters fervently believe in low taxes, less regulation of business, and US exceptionalism. They express skepticism of foreign alliances and sympathy with isolationism. They are avowedly protectionist in international trade and finance, and hostile to immigration. They favor restrictions on voting rights and abortion, but few (if any) on gun ownership. They deny climate change and oppose policies to address it. They advocate for the removal of significant provisions of public healthcare by states and the federal government. Their judicial appointments, including to the US Supreme Court, have expanded gun rights, struck down civil rights, ended a federal right to abortion, curbed the powers of government regulators, and endorse wide-ranging immunity for the president. Many in their ranks express a desire to restrict reproductive rights, deny same-sex marriage, or curb gender rights.

The other party, its presumptive presidential candidate, and supporters advocate for more government involvement in our lives, particularly in areas related to public health, climate change, and business regulation. They support higher levels of government spending to promote those objectives, implicitly endorsing increased taxation over time. They believe in US engagement in international affairs, security alliances, and international engagement to address global environmental challenges. They believe in a federal right to abortion, separation of church and state (above all in education), and restrictions on gun rights. They advocate for expanded civil rights and voting rights. They oppose wide-ranging immunity for the president.

It is not an over-statement to say that the choice between these two parties’ vision for our country’s future exposes as fundamental an inflection point as has existed in the US history since 1860.

Yes, as voters, we deserve better candidates for the world’s most powerful and important job. Our frustration with the 2024 options is genuine. One is more deserving of prison, the other of retirement, than of being our next president.

But we cannot let frustration be our master. This year’s choice is not about lesser evils. It is much larger and much more consequential than that. 

Americans may wish to lash out or wallow in self-pity, as may be their individual manner. But when the time comes, we must take responsibility to vote. We must vote for what kind of America we want for ourselves and our children.

This election is all about choice. We must not let the enormous flaws and deficiencies of the candidates obscure that essential fact.

About the Author

Larry Hatheway has over 25 years’ experience as an economist and multi-asset investment professional. He is co-founder, with Alexander Friedman, of Jackson Hole Economics, a non-profit offering commentary and analysis on the global economy, matters of public policy, and capital markets. Larry is also the founder of HarborAdvisors, LLC, an investment advisory firm catering to family offices and institutional clients worldwide.

Previously, Larry worked at GAM Investments from 2015-2019 as Group Chief Economist and Global Head of Investment Solutions, where he was responsible for a team of 50 investment professionals managing over $10bn in assets. While at GAM, Larry authored numerous articles on the world economy, policy-making, and multi-asset investment strategy.

From 1992 until 2015 Larry worked at UBS Investment Bank as Chief Economist (2005-2015), Head of Global Asset Allocation (2001-2012), Global Head of Fixed Income and Currency Strategy (1998-2001), Chief Economist, Asia (1995-1998) and Senior International Economist (1992-1995). Larry is widely recognized for his appearances on Bloomberg TV, CNBC, the BBC, CNN, and other media outlets. He frequently publishes articles and opinion pieces for Bloomberg, Barron’s, and Project Syndicate, among others.

Larry holds a PhD in Economics from the University of Texas, an MA in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University, and a BA in History and German from Whitman College. Larry is married with four grown children and resides with his wife in Redding, CT, alongside their dog, chickens, bees, and a few ‘loaner’ sheep and goats.

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