I’ve seen a lot of posts out there in social media by well-meaning liberals who proclaim that they will not be bullied into voting for Hillary Clinton. Here is my rebuttal.
We have to face facts: Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination, and we need to support her just as enthusiastically as we supported Bernie Sanders. The people have spoken. Sanders ran a great–even historic–campaign, but came up short. Clinton has won more pledged delegates: 2219 to 1832. She won more primaries and caucuses: 34 to 23. She won more total votes: 16.8 million to 13 million. Hillary Clinton won. Period.
I say this as someone who fully supported Sanders, and found his unabashed liberalism incredibly refreshing. I agree with his position that higher education should not just be affordable, but free. I agree that climate change is the most important issue of our time. I agree that healthcare should be a right, and that our current privatized model cannot continue. I agree with his position that income inequality has grown extreme in the U.S. I think on all of these issues Sanders has staked out a better position than Clinton, and for much longer.
However, Sanders is not perfect. No candidate is. His stance against NAFTA and other free trade agreements is dangerously misguided. Canceling NAFTA would not bring back jobs, as most manufacturing jobs have been outsourced beyond North America, while some were simply outsourced to time (i.e. replaced by technological progress). And in hearing Sanders and Clinton speak about foreign policy issues, it is clear that the latter (with her Secretary of State experience) has a better grasp of global politics, even if she has supported some poor decisions in retrospect.
No, Clinton isn’t as liberal as we’d all like her to be. Neither was her husband. Neither was Obama.
But look at the current situation that is staring us in the face. Our choice is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump.
Take a moment to imagine the world where Secretary Clinton lost. Imagine a world where Trump is taking the oath of office with a Republican majority in the House and Senate, and think about the pain and suffering they could inflict both at home and abroad.
The Affordable Care Act, though imperfect, would be repealed on Day 1. With a quick vote, and an even quicker signature, 22 million Americans would lose their healthcare, insurance companies would go back to refusing to care for those with pre-existing conditions, and medical bankruptcies (already one of the most pernicious aspects of American life) would increase. With a Democratic president, Obamacare could conceivably be improved incrementally, even to the point of having a public option. If it’s repealed, it would likely take decades to have another opportunity to reinstate some sort of national healthcare scheme.
There’s also the small matter of the Supreme Court. Republicans, out of (at best) spite, or (at worst) racial hatred, have decided that Obama doesn’t get to pick a replacement for Antonin Scalia. So, the Court currently stands with 4 liberals, 3 conservatives, and 1 conservative-leaning quasi-swing vote. Over the past couple of decades, liberals have lost a lot of 5-4 votes in the Supreme Court, including the devastating Bush v. Gore decision that ultimately won W. the Oval Office. If Trump is elected, he will undoubtedly nominate a conservative justice, thus restoring the 5-4 conservative advantage. Additionally, Ruth Bader Ginsberg will be pushing 84, and fellow liberal justice Stephen Breyer will be 78. Conservative-leaning (and decisive vote in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage and abortion rights) Anthony Kennedy will be 80. It seems likely that in addition to the one vacancy, the next four years would see at least one or two of these justices retire or otherwise depart the Supreme Court. It could potentially create a 6-3, or even 7-2 conservative advantage in the Court, one which might stand for decades. This in turn would bring up the very real possibility of making same-sex marriage once again illegal in America. Abortion rights would almost certainly be struck down. The Citizens United ruling, allowing unlimited money in politics, would continue to stand.
That’s a lot of pain that will be inflicted upon millions of Americans if Trump wins the presidency.
And this doesn’t even get to the suffering that will be inflicted on the world at large. For purely selfish reasons, I’m going to talk about us American expats first. From my personal experience, America’s image has already taken a hit because of Trump, but it can get a lot worse. During Bush’s presidency, Canadian flags became a popular accessory for Americans traveling abroad. Personally, I was verbally accosted several times. I had to hang my head and try not to be spotted as an American in Prague where they were protesting Bush’s missile defense program. When Obama took office, everything changed. Now Americans are generally perceived as annoying and loud, but mostly harmless.
Moving past my personal experience as an American under different regimes, let’s not forget the clusterfuck Bush #43 left behind in the Middle East, one that directly led to the rise of ISIS. Nor, should we stand by and idly ignore Trump’s admiration of dictators like Vladimir Putin, and his repeated suggestions that we should abandon our NATO allies. Trump fully denies the existence of climate change, and wishes to cancel the Paris Agreement. In doing so, he shows just how little he knows about international law (as well as science). Mr. Trump is an unabashed nationalist, who has no qualms about playing up xenophobic fears among the poorest and least educated Americans. As I alluded to before, globalization is a force that cannot be ignored or reversed; we need a president who can recognize its transformative effects, and work within its perimeters to create the best, and most adaptive America we possibly can. Nationalism and isolationism cannot work in today’s world. To pretend otherwise will cause great suffering at home and abroad (just ask Britain).
International relations is not a game, and a relationship that took decades to build could be easily deconstructed with a few choice words and actions. Successful international leaders are ones that think long and hard about decisions, and keep their calm in the face of enormous pressures (e.g. Kennedy and Khrushchev during the Cuban Missile Crisis), not quick-tempered and thin-skinned.
Obviously, I don’t expect those who are still Feeling the Bern to go out and vote for Trump. But staying home or voting for a third party candidate can have exactly the same effect.
And let’s talk about third party candidates for a moment. Sure, the Libertarian ticket has a great deal more governing experience (with two former two-term Republican governors) than the Republican ticket will have, and Johnson is currently polling at around 10%. But where are all the Libertarian senators, representatives, city councilmen, and dog catchers? The same question applies to the Green Party.
Every four years these fringe parties come out with their own candidates, conventions, and platforms, and every four years these parties have zero impact on American politics. They give an outlet to a few disaffected voices, and that’s it. If they want to build a movement, they need to do so from the bottom up, not from the top down. And unless Johnson or Jill Stein somehow surges a full 25-30 points between now and November, they really have no shot at winning, leaving us with the same two choices as before: Clinton or Trump.
One last cautionary tale before I wrap up this ramble: Ralph Nader. Nader earned about 1% of the vote nationally in the 2000 contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush. That one 1% proved more than enough to swing the state of Florida, and thus the election, for Bush (with an assist from the aforementioned Supreme Court). We couldn’t have Bush without Nader. We wouldn’t have had Iraq without Nader. We wouldn’t have ISIS without Nader. We wouldn’t have had Citizens United without Nader. And maybe, just maybe, we would have done something about climate change in the past 16 years. Elections matter.
If you still see no real difference between the candidates, by all means vote Green or Libertarian. If, however, you feel (as I do) that Trump should never, ever take The Oath, you must support Secretary Clinton for President of the United States.
Zachary A. Marx