A Pretty Unpleasant Choice

Remember when you were a kid and you had to choose between two pretty bad alternatives and you’d joke that you had to choose between the electric chair and the gas chamber?  Well, on election day next week, The Curmudgeon has to choose between the electric chair and the gas chamber:  running for the Senate in New Jersey are the incumbent, Democrat Robert Menendez, and his Republican challenger Robert Hugin.  It’s a terrible choice.

Menendez: no one’s idea of a good public servant

In one corner you have Menendez, whom The Curmudgeon had pegged for a typical north Jersey sleazeball politician years ago – even before he was indicted on charges of corruption in office (his trial ended in a mistrial, and then some changes in how the courts decided to start interpreting certain public corruption laws led prosecutors to drop charges against him).  Among other things, Menendez was accused of using his influence, as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to help secure a contract for a “friend” who isn’t even a constituent; securing visas for that friend’s girlfriends (yes, plural); intervening with Medicare when his friend, an ophthalmologist, learned that he was under investigation for Medicare fraud (for which the friend was eventually convicted); accepting lavish gifts in exchange for his efforts; and receiving large campaign contributions specifically in return for the favors he did.  In the end, the public appetite for integrity among elected officials had to be satisfied with only a letter of admonition from the Senate Ethics Committee.  Considering the low ethical standards exhibited by the U.S. Senate, the idea that it found Menendez’s behavior so beyond the pale that it merited admonition is awfully telling.

Hugin: bringing absolutely nothing to the table

In the other corner is Robert Hugin, a career financial executive who also ran a drug company that, under his leadership, was repeatedly admonished by the Food and Drug Administration for failing to disclose the dangers of some of its products and for promoting uses for those drugs that had not been approved by the FDA.  Now that he’s made his millions he needs a hobby and has decided that becoming a U.S. senator would fill the bill quite nicely.  He spent more than $7 million of his own money to get nominated in a state that has a sad history of electing rich guys to public office for no particular reason (including the state’s current governor, a Democrat).

So, should The Curmudgeon vote for Menendez, the Democrat, or Hugin, the Republican?  In theory, it should be a tough choice.

A few years ago it wouldn’t have been a tough choice: The Curmudgeon would have voted for Hugin.

Even though he’s a Republican.  Over the years The Curmudgeon has taken pride in making his voting choices based on the merits of the individual candidates, and although he has voted for far more Democrats than Republicans, he has voted at various times for Republicans for president, Senate, House of Representatives, governor, city council, and state legislature.

But he can’t do that anymore.  These days, Republicans stand for everything wrong with this country:  they stand in the way of progress, their ideas and proposals are all wrong, their way of thinking is wrong, and their willingness – their eagerness, even – to do anything necessary to prevent others from getting their way is wrong.  In Congress, they routinely vote for things they know will hurt large numbers of their constituents and against things they know will help them, all for partisan rather than policy reasons.  Their embrace of the lunatic we have for a president is downright perverse.  Their willingness to demonize anyone who doesn’t think like them, and especially anyone who doesn’t look like them, is sickening.  They eagerly stoke the fires of many kinds of hatred. They are, in short, wreaking havoc on our country.

Once upon a time, it was possible for The Curmudgeon to look at a Republican and say that person is the best man (or woman) for the job, but in the current political climate, at least in The Curmudgeon’s view, there is virtually no reason in the world even to consider voting for a Republican.

Even a Republican running against someone as disgusting as Bob Menendez.  That’s why, come next Tuesday, The Curmudgeon will choose the electric chair, entering the voting booth, holding his nose, and casting a reluctant and humiliating vote for Menendez.

And then go home and take a long, long shower.




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