Have we lost our collective minds? If you are a lefty, you may want the socialist, independent senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, as president.

If you are a righty, your choice could be TV celebrity, egomaniac Donald Trump.

Let’s step back for a minute — has all common sense been recklessly abandoned?

Or maybe people just aren’t getting it. One out of every five tweets during the last Republican debate asked whether Jeb Bush was related to George Bush.

Unfortunately, I must conclude that no amount of political analysis will trump the lack of knowledge that so many voters have of issues and candidates.

In a mindless rush to condemn all office holders past and present, voters have (hopefully temporarily) decided that the next president cannot be anybody with political experience who would use common sense working with others to help solve the nation’s burgeoning problems.

Unbelievably, we have reached an apex of pessimism that has produced leading candidates who do not believe in America any more. Sanders, a conscientious objector in his youth, spews attacks today on capitalism, while praising and supporting socialist policies of other countries. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton suggests that capitalism needs to be saved from itself.

Capitalism is now openly attacked as the wrong course for America, according to what I took from the recent Democrat debate. Instead, progressive liberals would substitute cradle-to-grave entitlements for competition, individual responsibility, economic growth and national exceptionalisim.

The other side of our great divide is now represented by the phenomenon known as The Donald. From the archives of reality TV, the star of “The Apprentice” has emerged as hero of the unsuspecting. Prospective voters recognize him — he is a celebrity. Frankly, voters don’t recognize most of the other Republican candidates.

What Trump is selling may not make common sense, but it appeals to the angst and anger of many voters. Trump is telling them what they want to hear.

Two powerful emotions are fear and envy. Trump taps into fear of immigrants, while Sanders uses jealousy against those achieving success and wealth.

As voters veer sharply to the left or right, reality is left behind.

The next president will accomplish nothing without courage, compassion, compromise and common sense.

When the smoke clears, hopefully voters will demand specific positions on issues, sensible approaches to our serious problems, and the strongest national defense possible to protect us from the greatest threats to homeland security in our nation’s history.

The number of candidates competing to succeed President Barack Obama makes the winnowing process very difficult. But one thing is certain, those who say “none of the above” will never be satisfied. This field of candidates offers an amazing array of choices.

Sanders continues to be the underdog against his top Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton. It is doubtful that Vice President Joe Biden could have beaten Clinton, who with all her warts may yet survive — if a FBI email investigation or Benghazi don’t get her.

On the Republican side, reasonable alternatives to Trump abound. Bush is certainly qualified, but stuck on the family launch pad.

Marco Rubio is a charismatic young senator (like John Fitzgerald Kennedy), who has Hispanic appeal and who demonstrated his foreign policy bona fides with a prescient prediction on Russian President Vladimir Putin’s move into Syria. Correct on foreign policy, the economy and immigration, Rubio may need just one more good debate.

The political consultant in me sees a ticket pairing Rubio with Carly Fiorina as a demographic winner (attracting minorities and women) for the Republicans. Fiorina would be a strong pick as a “jobs” vice president.

There are others on the list qualified by experience. All that is necessary to identify the best choice is to decide on their individual qualifications and to study their specific plans as your next president.

Forget the urge to purge by forging alliances with those who promote unrealistic, unreasonable ideas and positions that have no chance to work for America. We must throw off the shackles of fear and envy while seeking practical solutions.

If we do not, then we face ruin visited upon ourselves by giving in to our worst instincts.

From among the long list of contenders, I believe we can certainly find a president with the character, plan and experience necessary to give us hope and to lead the free world again.

We cannot give in to government dependency or unrealistic extremism. If we choose either of those routes to the future — then history could judge us only as having been “not guilty by reason of insanity.”

Don Roberts, a former city councilor and former vice chairman of the Charter Commission in Augusta, is a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District.


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