During much of the 2016 campaign, there’s been an attempt by some media – and some voters – to paint Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with one brush, implying that this election is a choice between two bad candidates. That simply isn’t true. The differences couldn’t be starker. Clinton and Trump are not equals.
We strongly endorse Clinton for president. Her resume and list of achievements are unmatched by most of her contemporaries; she is easily one of the most experienced and capable candidates we’ve had in recent history.
Our endorsement of Clinton is not just an anti-Trump stand. We embrace Clinton because she is exceptionally well qualified. And we embrace her because her vision for America’s future is the progressive movement’s firmest wall against the right’s fixation on otherness – one that would splinter America into voiceless, powerless factions.
Even some of the most conservative editorial pages in the country are uncharacteristically endorsing Clinton. They recognize that Trump is a threat to an inclusive, multi-cultural, fully functioning democracy.
Admittedly, some voters will be troubled by FBI director James Comey’s decision to review new emails. At this point, no one knows whether this has any relevance at all. Given the FBI’s previous findings, the chance that it will now find something incriminating is unlikely. But if it does, the federal government has institutions and procedures in place to deal with it.
Comey’s decision has injected confusion and suspicion into an already volatile campaign. Some Americans may stay home on Election Day, exhausted by the continuing suspicion about Clinton, believing she isn’t liberal enough, or figuring she’ll win without their help. But Great Britain’s Brexit vote is a chilling reminder of what happens when voters disengage.
The case for electing Clinton isn’t based on a desire to elect our first woman president. Though its significance can’t be ignored, Clinton has earned the credibility to hold the office irrespective of her gender.
Her nearly 40-year commitment to public service began when she was a young woman. She has long championed the needs of women, children, and working families, beginning by co-founding Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families. She was an active First Lady in Arkansas and First Lady of the US, where she made a serious but unsuccessful attempt to reform health care. She became an outspoken advocate of human rights, once stirring controversy during a speaking engagement in China.
New Yorkers elected her twice to the Senate, where she was praised for her ability to work with members of both parties. She served as Secretary of State under President Obama in an extremely challenging time. As Clinton enters the White House, she’ll already have the relationships with leaders – here and abroad – needed by a president.
During the 2016 campaign, she has turned her attention to the need for criminal and social-justice reform, reducing college debt, and making public college free for low- and middle-income students and their families. Her grasp of serious, complex issues was evident in all three presidential debates. And she’s shown an ability to evolve, a willingness to listen and change her views on issues like trade agreements.
Most important, Clinton has shown that she can be calm and rational under intense pressure. These are demanding times for the US at home and abroad. She’s fully prepared to address international challenges, whether it’s an erratic leader in North Korea, the spread of terrorism and violence, the rise of China and India as economic powers, or the growing strength of Russian and Chinese militaries.
Clinton has faults, and we’re not naïve about them. Anyone who has worked in the public realm as long as Clinton has a record of highs and lows. The FBI investigation into her email is clearly a low point. Another was her vote in favor of the Iraq War, a decision that many Americans opposed.
More recently, Clinton encouraged the Obama administration to use force in Libya to overthrow Qaddafi, and her hawkish tendencies worry many Americans. The country has been in a near constant state of conflict for decades, and as we have learned, there are limitations – and long-lasting repercussions – to using force to achieve peace.
Clinton’s years in the national spotlight have come with some of the most withering and personal attacks laid on any politician in recent memory. She has been the focus of countless unfounded, convoluted accusations. While that has shown that she is resilient and has remarkably tough armor, the intense scrutiny seems to have made her reflexively less transparent. And that has resulted in even more questioning of her character – and of her instincts. Who does she turn to for expert advice? Does she listen to them, or does she surround herself with loyalists and sycophants who tell her what she wants to hear?
Clinton was advised, for instance, not to use a private server, and as reports about that use broke, she was urged to quickly apologize. She didn’t listen. She was also warned about the potential for conflicts of interest involving the Clinton Foundation while she was serving as Secretary of State.
So Clinton herself has sometimes handed her critics ammunition. But it’s worth noting that she acknowledges her mistakes. And her missteps and her tendency to be secretive are nowhere near as serious a problem as her opponent’s defects.
In contrast, Donald Trump has run one of the most troubling political campaigns in the modern era, sending his party into a tailspin, fomenting racial and religious hostility, and inciting violence. He has merrily reduced the 2016 elections into an episode of reality TV, complete with name-calling, angry outbursts, and sexual innuendo – what author Gore Vidal characterized as the results of an “unfed mind.” He is so unqualified that he should never have become the GOP candidate.
“Trump’s manipulation of racism and xenophobia,” the Nation said in its endorsement, “his attacks on the press and the judiciary, his demonization of his opponents and gleeful encouragement of violence by his supporters, may not fit the definition of fascism, but they pose a clear and present danger to our Republic.”
Overlooked, by the way, because of all of Trump’s other problems is his choice in a running mate, Indiana Governor Mike Pence. A conservative who is far to the right of Trump, Pence has been at the center of some of the most controversial anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ legislative proposals in the country.
The danger of a Trump victory is real. Aided by a Republican Congress that is almost absent of moderates and bipartisan thinking, Trump would appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold legislation limiting the rights of voters and the LGBTQ community. Trump court appointments would be hostile to any attempt to overturn Citizens United, restrictions on campaign finance, and regulations to protect the environment.
Nothing would stand in the way of repealing Roe v. Wade or the Affordable Care Act.
Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid could be privatized and converted into some type of voucher system. Public education would also be at the mercy of the market and, like most commodities, a college education would be available primarily to those families with money. Gains in middle-income wages, the first in 30 years, would be lost as Republicans dashed back to a trickle-down economy.
A compassionate people do not break up families and deport parents, grandparents, and young people. A people who value education, science, and the environment do not ignore the findings on climate change. They don’t ignore the financial, environmental, and human costs associated with our continued reliance on fossil fuels.
Hillary Clinton is not a perfect candidate, but she is smart, experienced, and exceptionally well qualified. She should enter the presidency with strong support. The size of the popular vote, then, is important.
Even in a “safe” Clinton state like New York, this is no time for a protest vote. Americans who are appalled by Trump, and by Republicans who have danced around him, must send a message to the Republican leadership, nationally and locally. They must send a message to Congress, the nation, and the international community, rejecting Donald Trump and all that he stands for.
Ultimately, this election is as much about us as it is about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. It’s about who we are as a people. What we do on November 8 will speak volumes, to us, and to the world, about who we are as Americans and the principles we believe in.