This election cycle has pushed all Progessives to and beyond our breaking points. It’s time to take a look past the grand spectacle of the presidential election and focus instead on what we can do to further improve our already ‘great’ nation, and – whether we like it or not, no matter how much I might have wanted to see it be Bernie Sanders – the only way that will happen is with Hillary Clinton as our next President. To that end, I encourage reading to support her candidacy on November 8th; I realize that is a huge thing to ask, given her questionable track record, so I will try to address some of the most prominent questions to the best of my abilities. I know I won’t convince everyone – and I know some people might call me a sell-out, or worse – but I hope you’ll take a second to consider it. I might not have a laser-like precision, but no decision this grave is carried out without some generalization in mind. The goal is to avoid oversimplification and to prove a case for her earning your vote.
What exactly has Clinton done to earn our vote?
I’ll start off by discussing her time as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund. A favorite story of mine is when she went under-cover to fight against segregation. She would ask people, sometimes point-blank, ‘do you let Black people in?’ Of course, the law of the land said segregation was illegal but that didn’t mean that certain ‘unspoken rules’ weren’t enforced. It certainly doesn’t mean that people wouldn’t look, deliberately, for non-integrated communities. And guess what? Clinton fought this tooth-and-nail.
Another example of her doing good in the world comes with the Children’s Health Insurance Program, a sort of victory-out-of-defeat when her attempt to expand health-care in general failed. That’s right! Before it was “Obamacare” it was “Hillarycare.” Of course, Obamacare also was Romneycare and even HeritageFoundationCare, but I digress from the main point – Clinton actively fought to create a program which provides healthcare to millions of children who otherwise would get sick, perhaps die, and go un-cared for.
In the third Presidential debate, she spoke highly of the oft-controversial Clinton Foundation. Her donors are certainly unsavory and there’s the risk of that unfairly influencing anyone, but she also argued for the good it’s done across the globe. This honestly isn’t my area of expertise, so I’ll cite Charity Navigator’s rating, which is four stars out of four.
As you’ll see below, I have some questions about her and there are others competing for your vote – all of whom are far better qualified than Donald Trump, by the by – but I think my main reason for this endorsement comes from Paul Ryan’s nervous lips. When he says, paraphrased, that if Clinton wins and wins big we’ll get Bernie Sanders in charge of the Senate budget department I start salivating. You see, that’s the real ticket to change – should the Democrats manage to flip the Senate (a likely possibility) and/or (a less likely one) the House of Representatives, we’ll get both a Progressive caucus which can hold Clinton accountable to campaign promises such as her efforts on Climate Change (which she unilaterally raised in at least the second and third debates), overturning Citizens United, and more. It’s those promises we should vote for, hoping that in that vote that we get a Congress which will actually do its damned job, and that is the embodiment of the Political Revolution that Bernie Sanders leads. He still leads it! And I will follow it, even if that means voting for Hillary Clinton.
But isn’t she crooked, among any other weaknesses?
Surely, Clinton doesn’t come off as the most empathetic politician. Her connection to big money is a huge reason why I supported Bernie Sanders, and why in 2008 I supported – wait for it – Bill Richardson. However, just as when I supported her in 2008’s primary defeat, I can look past some of her least glorious moments in order to critique her overall body of work, and that is why this is a tepid – lukewarm, dispassionate, un-thrilled – endorsement. The third Presidential debate was what hit it home for me; for the first time in a long time I heard the Hillary Clinton of 2008 poking through the haze of this insane election.
My biggest concern isn’t that she’s going to sell the proverbial farm for a dollar (although something-something-Russia-Uranium was worrysome, it’s also been called inaccurate), it’s that she’s not genuinely progressive and won’t offer real advancement to the nation. This is the underlying “Which Hillary?” controversy that I believe stems from the Democratic party (Oh, we’ll get to them) as a whole accepting big money into its bed. She’s also a foreign conflict hawk, and her argument in favor of creating a No-Fly-Zone in Syria is well intentioned but flat-out dangerous if she can’t convince the Russians to go along with it. Then there’s her e-mail scandal which does not appear to have concealed anything terribly nor was it deemed worthy of actual charges – and, no, Benghazi wasn’t her fault, go back and try researching it at least from when Congressional Republicans denied funding for security enhancements to the tune of about $330,000,000.
When I look back at Clinton’s actual body of work, however, again I find myself sighing in resignaton and mumbling, “Well, with a Progressive Congress there’s a shot, here.” It’s the only shot we have, even in a 2016 landscape that maximized the chances of a third party forming a coherent, composed challenge.
But Gary Johnson is free from all of those negatives! Why not support him?
The 2016 election is very different than 2012. In 2012, President Obama was not only faced with a reasonably confident shot at re-election, but he was actually running against a rather sane Republican opponent. If Mitt Romney had acceded to the Presidency, the nation would have still kept ticking. Furthermore, in 2012 there were two very clear objectives for the Libertarian party: Number one, to reach 5% of the national poll and receive ‘major party status’ with respect to general election funding; number two, to create a lasting Libertarian infrastructure which could propel the 2016 Libertarian candidate (Johnson/Weld/Weed) to a legitimate challenge.
Again, in 2016 the political landscape couldn’t be any more in favor of a third-party vote. Think back to right after the Primaries, when #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary were at their peaks. Especially for Republicans who noticed early on that Trump was a madman, Gary Johnson seemed like a natural choice. It seemed, at least to me, like he stood a serious shot of earning endorsements from folks like the aforementioned Mitt Romney. Surely if any year was a year for the Republican party to fracture, it was this one!
And, yet, that didn’t happen. Worse, Johnson’s primary news coverage came as the result of “Aleppo Moments” (Which any Human being has, but not with regularity on national TV), and while some people considered this a possible strategy to boost his name recognition, I feel like it was a sign that Johnson’s candidacy had simply fallen apart.
Don’t get me wrong, I strongly urge all Conservatives to vote for him! As awkward as he’s handled specific policy topics, his overarching grasp of why Syria is a massive problem we should be avoiding is sound. So he forgot the second-largest city’s name! The truth is, at least Johnson is idealistically consistent if completely opposed to what Bernie Sanders believes in, and that matters. And if he gets to that 5% mark? Good! The 2016 Republican Party deserves to wander in the political wilderness for a while.
But what about Jill Stein, the only other Progressive in this race?
I like Jill Stein. I’ve contributed to the Green Party, too! I gave her a serious and long look. I certainly expect many people to vote for her out of disgust for the (again, we’ll get to them) Democratic party as well as distrust of Clinton. As long as people are voting their conscience, I can’t argue with that!
However, once more, Stein’s ultimate test during this campaign actually stems back to her 2012 run, and that test was simple: Building a party infrastructure that would propel her, in the course of four years, to a reasonable chance of victory in the Presidential election, to say nothing of state-and-local Green candidates. Stein did not accomplish this task. She has consistently polled at around two percent, maybe hitting as high as four percent. She simply cannot and will not win this election.
Does that mean you shouldn’t vote for her? Well, I’m suggesting you vote for Clinton so I’m clearly biased, but as much as John Oliver has gotten flak for questioning her plan to cancel out student debt, the truth of the mechanics of quantitative easing is simple: The President can’t just print more money to end problems. Quantitative easing could definitely be part of the solution, but since the U.S. government controls most of the student loans (Federal Stanford being the #1) anyway, why wouldn’t Stein just press Congress to sign off on debt reduction directly? Why devalue our currency? In fact, why is the Green Party so interested in student loans when I’ve always understood them to be an environment-first party?
Why didn’t she focus on the Green New Deal? Because I think the political calculation was that college students propelled Bernie, so college students could propel Jill. I’m sorry, but that’s not what I (as someone who has struggled but paid off some but not all of my debts) wanted to hear. Paying off college is nice, but that jobs package? Getting energy independent?
Last, but not least, I have to mention the Green Party’s overall approach to newcomers – and that is to say, when I attempted to get to know the rank-and-file, I found a lot of venom. I found a lot of people who regard the slightest deviation from the agreed-upon norm were downright brutal. I am sure they will not take this endorsement happily, but I hope they’ll understand that we can disagree on who the best candidate for President is and still work together on the issues that really matter. Believe it or not, I would love to see Jill Stein play some kind of role in Clinton’s administration – and, from the bottom of my heart, I really think that if Bernie had taken up Stein’s offer to lead the Green party he would have won the 2016 Presidency as a Third Party.
But that’s not the reality we live in.
As to Donald Trump…
I have perhaps one bias in my life, instilled by my grandparents, both my grandfathers who fought in World War Two and my grandmothers who were at home for it: Fascism is an obvious face of tyranny, and I must oppose tyranny at all costs.
Donald Trump, frankly, is an incompetent neo-nazi wearing the thinnest possible veil over his swastika-laden heart, and a vote for him is in my eyes equivalent to a vote for Hitler.
Trump has repeatedly called for (and appears to have received!) not only foreign espionage against his political opponents, not just the incarceration of anyone who opposes him and their lawyers, but has subtextually suggested someone shoot Hillary Clinton. His supporters listen. Not since the Civil War have we faced a situation where someone threatens not to recognize the fundamental legitimacy of the election. No, we aren’t talking about the right to a legal challenge such as Bush V Gore in Florida (at least part of which was mandated by Florida law); we’re talking about refusing to acknowledge any election result other than his own victory. He literally parrots Benito Mussolini.
Perhaps he is part of the reason Clinton’s flaws are so minimal. Jill Stein argues that a vote for the lesser of two evils is still evil, and she isn’t wrong; however, I do not see Clinton and Trump as equivalent, let alone seeing Clinton as somehow worse than Trump. Trump is subverting this nation’s good people and intentions in an almost unprecedented manner by appealing to racism, sexism, and many other lesser bigotries I can’t even begin to count.
Simply put: If you believe in the democratic process and the American Constitution, you can’t walk through the maze and vote for Trump without throwing both of those values aside.
But doesn’t this reward the Democrats for screwing Sanders over?
I hate that fact almost as much as I hate the fact that over one hundred thousand of my fellow New Yorkers were stripped of their right to vote in the primaries. It’s clear that the Democratic party had its thumbs on the scale (and, really, I’m not surprised), and it’s clear that Sanders probably would have come within a hair’s breadth of winning the nomination had it not been for this bias. On the other hand, Sanders campaign aides have said that the campaign lacked, among other things, a lot of the data optimization that the Obama campaign used in 2008. It was always going to be an uphill battle considering Clinton’s popularity with minority voters, and the Democratic party’s bias towards its long-time member just didn’t help.
Was Bernie screwed? At least halfway! But here’s the beautiful thing about this election: In four more years we get to try again if we don’t like what we see. On January 20th, 2017, we get to start holding Clinton accountable as President. Even today, we get to push Obama to do things like recall his nomination of the moderate Merrick Garland and nominate a Supreme Court Justice that more befits the Progressives who will rescue his party from an orange totalitarian lunatic. We get to make sure Clinton and her allies know exactly who put her over the top in this election, and that they know who will determine whether or not they retain power in the 2018 House and Senate elections; in the various governorships and state-and-local races; in the 2020 Presidential cycle that will come affixed with a chance to un-gerrymander the actual election rigging that has taken place in states like Florida.
So, no; I am not thrilled to offer this endorsement, nor am I a particularly potent person to be giving it. I offer it regardless, hoping you will consider it when you cast your ballot on November 8th.