It has been over 2 years since I last posted on my blog. However, given the ridiculous state of the upcoming political discourse around the 2016 election, I figure it is a good time as any to break the silence.
A very good friend of mine posted on Facebook “How can anyone vote for Hillary?” I took that inquiry seriously and decided to take the time to fully flesh out why I am voting the way I am. It seems (from my limited perspective) that this election has devolved into visceral reactions and soundbites. Instead of resorting to generalizations, I wanted to actually address the validity of each candidate. Below is my (much too long) response to the original post:
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I have actually been looking for a reason to flesh out my thoughts on this election cycle (which by the way, is fascinating to watch from an “outsider” perspective here in Africa).
In my opinion, elections are primarily about voting for someone who shares your ideals and whom you think is mostly likely to advance the causes you believe in. Unfortunately, very little of this election cycle has focused on policies and instead has been emotional and personal. There is a place for that, but I think it should be secondary.
With that in mind, the main reason I am supporting Hillary is because she most closely represents my political values. I would list the following as issues I care about (in no particular order):
1.) I support gay marriage and including sexual identity among protected statuses
2.) I support the end of the “war on drugs”, the legalization of marijuana and the decriminalization of some other drugs
3.) I am never in favor of abortion, but I do think it should be a legal option for women in the first trimester (I also believe we should invest in things that decrease unwanted pregnancy like free access to sexual and reproductive services and efforts to reduce the impact of poverty on young women)
4.) I would advocate for a decrease in military spending, especially interventions in foreign matters
5.) I think our national budget should always be balanced and that national debt should be paid down
6.) I would maintain our current levels of international development support
7.) I support a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants and for loosening the immigration requirements (while still maintaining strict background and risk checks)
8.) I am for a gradual increase in the minimum wage over at least a decade to return it to the purchasing power it had when first passed
9.) We should have basic universal health care for all people while also allowing people to pay for private insurance in order to obtain higher level services
10.) I am a strong supporter of first amendment rights, particularly allowing for religious freedom and protection
11.) I would like to see the supreme court depoliticized (but have no idea how that would happen)
12.) I am in favor of term limits for congress
13.) I generally prefer federalism over state’s control
14.) I think there is a way to increase gun control without going against the second amendment
15.) Just like universal health care, I also think basic access to higher education should be universal, but that doesn’t mean everyone should have free access to everything
16.) I am opposed to the death penalty
17.) I am in favor of allowing for physician assisted suicide in some cases
18.) I am generally in favor of more government oversight, but not to the level of Europe or Australia
19.) I support stronger environmental protections (as well as things like protection of national parks and forests)
20.) If given the choice or more taxes or more services, I would generally choose more taxes
21.) I am for progressive tax brackets (and think there should be higher tax brackets)
22.) We should make the drawing of congressional districts a bi-partisan affair
23.) I think the electoral college is a dated model that should be re-evaluated (at a minimum, we should go to either proportional electors or votes based on congressional districts) in order to reduce the power of only a handful of swing states
24.) I am not a favor of affirmative action in its strictest sense, but I do think there should be safeguard to ensure equal consideration
25.) There should be more restrictions on corporate rights – the wishes of a corporation should not trump the wishes of individuals (i.e. imminent domain) and corporations should be taxed on earnings
26.) I think our international interventionism has increased the risk of terrorism instead of decreased it
27.) I think the federal reserve is too powerful in its influence, but don’t recommend disbanding it
28.) White collar crime should be dealt with more harshly
29.) I am in favor of a two state solution in the middle east and think we have not been critical enough in our support of Israel
30.) Social security should be saved, reformed, and returned to its original intent and design
So there are 30 political stances I have. Looking at them, none of them seem to me to be too extreme. I would imagine at least a third of American agree with me on all of them. And more importantly, I think that reasonable people on the other side can disagree with me and we can have a civilized conversation about why we disagree. (That is to say, I don’t automatically demonize people who don’t share my views on these issues.) In fact, I would expect a mainline republican to disagree with me on many/most and thus would expect and respect them to support a different candidate than me.
Looking at this election and my views above, it is obvious that Hillary is significantly more aligned with what I believe than Donald Trump is. So, to answer you original question “How can anyone vote for Hillary?” the simple answer for me is that she shares more of my views than Trump does.
Now policy isn’t everything because at the end of the day you have to vote for an individual. Personally, I would rather vote for a moderate (even a republican) whom I believe would be able to compromise and work across the political spectrum than an extremist on “my side” who causes more division. (For what it’s worth, I would most likely have voted for Kasich over Hillary if he had won the nomination for that exact reason.) Unfortunately, as we have seen, this election has not primarily been about policy or compromise, but has been more about the candidates themselves. There is a place for that discussion, but I never think it should be the primary content of election discussions.
That being said, given the political climate (and the particular nominees) of this election cycle, I do think there is a place to talk about issues we have with the individuals. Let me start by addressing what I don’t like about Hillary. Most significantly, I don’t like that she represents political dynasty – we don’t need 6 (or 7 if Hillary is two-term) of the last 8 (or 9) elections to go to only two families. I don’t like that she voted for the Iraq war. What she did with the email servers was just dumb (although I don’t think it was malicious). She represents career politicians, which while not being automatically bad, I do think raises questions. I don’t find her to be a particularly likable person and her communication style often seems disingenuous. In my opinion, she acted like she was entitled to the nomination (and you could argue the presidency) and that doesn’t sit well with me. I am not a fan of the connections she has with Wall Street and her reliance on such a large “war chest” of political donations.
For what it’s worth, I wasn’t a fan of Bernie either. While his views were probably more aligned with mine, I was never convinced he had a plan for advancing his policies. I think it would have been too big of a shift politically and it would have caused more division. I also don’t think another old white man was the best representative of a political revolution.
Now, what do I like about Hillary as a person? I like her international experience as Secretary of State. People like to point to Benghazi, but her overall service record was excellent and she did more to represent the US overseas than any other SofS I know. She visited 112 countries in her time of service and I think that international perspective will help her. She also has experience in the Senate. That combination of domestic and foreign experience will help her govern. I think her faith is authentic. She hasn’t been too vocal about it, but my impression is that it has been consistent and depoliticized. It is shallow, but I like that she is a woman – I think we are ready for a female president (although I would never vote for a person just for that reason and I can think of several women I would rather see as our first female president). I think she has a more positive view of the situation in America and that resonates with me more than other candidates. The Clinton Foundation has been a force for good in the world. I can personally attest to the strong impact their work has done in Swaziland and in Southern Africa.
Even with similarities in policy views, Hillary is far from a perfect candidate for me. I would have preferred a different representative, but the critiques I have of her are not enough for me to dismiss her as a prime contender for my vote.
Now on to Trump…
Most importantly for me is that fact that I disagree with many of policies that Trump has put forth (although admittedly there hasn’t been a lot of formal policy outlines), but I also have to realize that there are people who politically align more with Trump, yet still have to deal with him as an individual candidate so it is important to also look at his personal character.
I think what has bothered me the most watching the rise of the Trump candidacy has been how inconsistently Republicans have judged him in comparison to the standards they have held previous Democrats. The same people who crucified Bill Clinton over infidelity are supporting a man who has been married three times, has admitted to multiple cases of infidelity in marriage, has a wife who posed nude in his private jet, and who owns strip clubs. The same people who criticized Kerry for flip flopping on policy are supporting a man who has been a democrat, an independent and a republican. He has changed his view on essential party issues such as abortion. There are also significant discrepancies in the standards Trump is held to versus what Hillary is held to. People are okay calling Hillary a liar, but the fact checkers show that Trump has consistently been looser with the truth than Hillary. People are okay calling Hillary corrupt, but multiple examples of shady business deals have emerged with Trump that have gone unacknowledged. People criticize Hillary for not supporting the military, but Trump has openly attacked war heroes and POWs. I don’t want to contribute to the blanket statements against either candidate, but I do want to point out that that criticisms raised against Hillary can often be equally or more so leveled against Trump. Many many candidates in previous cycles have been dismissed for much much less.
I can appreciate that he is not a career politician, but I think his absolute lack of political experience will hurt him in the long run.
I can appreciate his concern for national security, but I think his rhetoric puts the US at greater risk of attack and retribution.
I can appreciate that he speaks his mind, but I think that the commander in chief should be more nuanced
I can appreciate that he talks about issues that matter to middle America, but it rings hollow for me to hear it coming from a man who revels in the fact that he is so wealthy and privileged.
I can appreciate his business background, but it has been shown that simply investing in a market fund would have yielded greater returns.
I can appreciate his willingness to identify issues that seem to be concentrated in certain ethic / religious groups, but I think his approach is leading to a justification of stereotypes and bigotry.
I can appreciate that Trump best represents the historic republican values, but the fact that he won the nomination in the first place is concerning.
I can appreciate that Trump stands up to his critics, but his tendency to resort to broad personal attacks seems immature and reactionary.
In terms of singular issues that may disqualify a candidate, there are a few things worth talking about. I think that Benghazi was extremely unfortunate, but I have yet to see any evidence that Hillary was personally responsible (she was cleared by a bi-partisan panel), nor that she made decisions inconsistent with any other previous Secretary of State. I think her use of a personal email server was incredibly stupid and probably an example of her sense of entitlement, but I have yet to see any evidence that her actions were intentionally malicious, nefarious or ultimately dangerous. Lying about the sniper fire in Bosnia was dumb, but isn’t reason to disqualify a person for office – many more have said much worse with much less criticism.
With Trump, my biggest concern is his personality and approach to governance. He has said some very dumb stuff, but I generally chalk that up to a total lack of filter and a complete unwillingness to admit being wrong. I have been amazed at his willingness to make such aggressive statements about groups like women, immigrants and muslims. But at the end of the day, I don’t think he represents the best of America and that he has an approach to power that concerns me.
Looking at the major political parties, Trump is much more of the surprise. In the democratic camp, we didn’t have great options – there was Hillary (who is not a popular choice), and Bernie who was so far left that he would have alienated the general electorate. On the Republican side, there were significantly more options that ran the political gamut. You had Jeb if you wanted to keep it in the family, you had Kasich as a moderate, you had Rubio if you wanted strict conservative, you had Cruz if you wanted a neo-con, you had Rand if you wanted a tea-partier, you had Carson if you wanted a representative Christian. When people complain about Trump being the only conservative option, it doesn’t really make sense to me because the representatives of the party intentionally selected Trump over all the others. The final candidates suck, but at least the Republicans had more options to begin with.
Given the situation we are currently in, I can see two main reasons why people would vote for Trump: he still is the most conservative candidate that has a chance to win; and, a vote for Hillary will most likely result in a more liberal supreme court – I recognize that is very significant.
As for me… why am I am voting for Hillary… mostly it is because she most represents my political ideals, but I also I think the flaws of Trump are more significant than her flaws.