First, a disclaimer: I am not a ‘true believer’ of any political party. No US political party fully represents my worldview, and I have significant objections to the philosophies and actions of them all. Over the years I have voted for Republican, Independent, and Democratic candidates, and I am willing to vote for any candidate that I feel is best for the job.
All that being said, in recent years I have primarily voted Democrat. My basic political underpinnings are as follows:
- The entire US election and campaign system needs to be completely overhauled to insure modern, free, and fair elections at every level (local, state, federal). This includes getting the current obscene amounts of money out of the system and eliminating gerrymandering. This, to me, is the single most important issue of our time, because solving all the other issues depends on first solving this one.
- The level of destructive animosity and hate in politics needs to be dialed way down, and the level of constructive, civil discourse needs to be dialed way up.
- We need to return our focus to a fact-based, science-based government.
- Governmental fraud, waste, and cronyism needs to be ruthlessly ferreted out and punished to the point where it is no longer a profitable risk to undertake.
- While every person is entitled to their own spiritual beliefs, no one is entitled to impose those beliefs on others.
- Our tax system needs to be simplified and rationalized, and the overall tax burden reduced.
- Peace and diplomacy are better alternatives to war, except in the most dire circumstances, which in my opinion we have not experienced since World War II.
- The US is a wealthy nation, to the point where none of our citizens should be homeless, hungry, or lack basic health care.
- Institutions that are necessary, but whose goals are to reduce or eliminate their need to exist (health care, prisons, national defense, police and fire departments, etc), should not be for-profit.
- Capitalism is a great system, unregulated capitalism is a disaster, and over-regulated capitalism stifles progress. There needs to be a balance, and there needs to be non-partisan system created to achieve and maintain this balance.
To make a long story short, in the 2016 election there has been only one candidate that I have seen as viable, and that is Hillary Clinton. Do I love her? No, she’s done some questionable things, but so has every single other POTUS candidate in my lifetime, and my take is that her mistakes have been amplified by a multi-decade witch hunt by her enemies. Would she be my first choice? No, and I’m not sure who would be, at this point, because virtually every single candidate at the national federal level is tainted enough, in my opinion, to be unworthy of office.
The one exception to that is Bernie Sanders, and while I think Bernie is the cleanest and most honest national politician of my lifetime, I also think that he would have been unable to get anything done due to his admirable, but politically paralyzing, refusal/inability to compromise for the sake of progress. My hope is that his candidacy has revealed a valuable voting bloc, and that over time that philosophy can become a factor in US politics.
And Trump? Where to begin. First of all, on paper, Trump represents a lot of things that I was looking for in a non-traditional candidate – for example, here’s a list of traits I talked about in a previous post way back in 2007:
- Career outside of politics – Asking a career politician to help change the existing system would be like asking a Creationist to help carbon date some fossils.
- Not Republican or Democrat – I’m tired of vanilla. Also, since there is no serious competition to keep them sharp, the quality of their products just keeps declining. Think the US auto industry in the 1970’s.
- Speak extemporaneously – I’m tired of electing speechwriters.
- No lawyers, please – We hold this truth to be self-evident.
- Acknowledgement that the system is broken – Admitting there is a problem is the first step in fixing it.
- Sense of humor – I don’t mean grabbing the mic and doing an hour at The Improv. I mean being able to see the ridiculousness of the process, to be truly self-deprecating, and to speak with wit and verve.
- Warts – Everybody has flaws. If a candidate has no apparent flaws, that means they’re hiding something.
Trump arguably hits at least four of those for me (career outside politics, speaks extemporaneously, not a lawyer, says the system is broken). He is running as the Republican nominee, so that one’s right out, he doesn’t have a sense of humor that I’ve ever seen, and while he has warts galore from my perspective, *he* doesn’t acknowledge that he was warts – think if the ridiculousness of expecting him to apologize for any one of his dozens/hundreds of gaffes for an example of that.
What I had left off that bullet list were “Presumption of sanity”, “At least some relevant experience”, and “Possesses human decency in the relatively normal range”, none of which Trump has, in my opinion. The bottom line, for me, is that Trump is a trumped up carnival huckster and a nut, looking to stand center stage in the national spotlight, dazzle the rubes, and take their money.
I considered trying to come up with a short list of disqualifying characteristics for Trump, but there’s no way to even begin narrowing it down, so I’m not even going to try. Suffice to say that I have not seen a single moment from him, in his entire life and career, where I thought he had even a fleeting instant of altruistic intent. Some may see him differently, but Trump has never been a serious candidate, from my perspective. If, through some lightning strike, he becomes POTUS, I truly, and without exaggeration, fear for the survival of our way of life.
So that leaves Hillary, who, while flawed, is orders of magnitude preferable to the Roman candle of blinding bullshit blasts that is Trump. Hillary has the experience to be effective, and also isn’t dogmatic to the point where she is unwilling to compromise to make progress. There are those who reject Hillary because of her “scandals”, virtually all of which I see as BS, as follows:
Benghazi: I keep an open mind about things, and can usually see the other person’s perspective even if I don’t agree with it, but that is not the case here. This ‘issue’ is a complete and utter smokescreen based on absolutely nothing. The lack of funding for security? See Congress. Stand down order? Complete fabrication. Lying about a video? Two things here, first of all, the video was causing massive disturbances across the Muslim world, including violent protests in Benghazi.
In retrospect, it appears clear that the Benghazi attack organizers took advantage of the larger violence to mask their attacks, and I fully acknowledge that the administration was very likely publicly referring to the video even after they had intelligence that the embassy attack was unrelated. But, and this is a huge but, when you are attempting to catch and potentially kill the perpetrators of a crime, you do *not* tell them what you know, because that gives them the advantage.
I mean, think about it, say you were the leader of the Benghazi attack, and afterwards you were trying to escape detection. If you heard the administration saying that the attack was a spontaneous result of the very real violence erupting due to the video, you may be likely to relax your guard thinking you had fooled them. If, however, those trying to find you stupidly revealed everything that they knew, such as the fact that you were part of a specific group and not part of the general violence, you may be very likely to redouble your efforts to stay hidden.
So, do I think the administration referred to the attacks publicly as being related to the video even after they knew differently? Yes. Do I think that was ‘lying’? Absolutely not, I think that was absolutely correct management of critical intelligence and public perceptions with the goal of increasing the chances of capturing or killing the perpetrators by keeping them misinformed and off-guard. Also, speaking to the families of the victims is, from an intelligence perspective, a public communication, because those people could very easily reveal, either purposely or accidentally, the information while it was still critical to keep it private.
Last but not least, there was zero, and I mean *zero* outrage, and not even so much as a concerned look, when there were 13 embassy attacks and 60 deaths under a Republican president. So, this, to me, was nothing but a prolonged witch hunt for no reason other than to try and derail Hillary’s potential candidacy.
Private email server: First, a caveat – I work in the email world for a living, so this is right in my wheelhouse. On the face of it, it’s easy to say Hillary should not have set up a private email server, and my preference is that she wouldn’t have done so, because it clouds the issues facing us. However, deconstructing the use of this email server, to me, reveals a more nuanced story.
For reference, when Hillary became Secretary of State she asked to have an always-on communication device (BlackBerry) in order to keep up with the furious pace of modern-day communications, including the ability to use the BlackBerry within her offices. The State Department was unable to provide such services, so Hillary’s choices were to either do without electronic communications while in her office, which is ludicrous, or provide an alternative method, which she did.
Also, Trump continues to harp on the “30,000 emails” that were deleted, see this post for my take on that (which is that it’s not an issue).
Clinton death toll: For those who may be unfamiliar, there is a conspiracy theory that the Clintons tend to eliminate their opposition by assassinating them. This one is complete and utter baloney.
Bill Clinton’s affairs and/or assaults: First, the affairs – there is a long history of Presidential dalliances, and in fact a confirmed one (from long ago) that reaches into my extended family (no, not telling!). That doesn’t make it right. However, the group of men who pushed the investigation and subsequent attempted impeachment of Bill Clinton were and are no better than he was. Also, remember that the only thing they even got close to getting him on is that he denied a consensual affair under oath.
With regards to the alleged assaults, they are disturbing. However, they are also unsubstantiated. That doesn’t mean they didn’t happen, but like it or not there are false rape and assault claims, although estimates of frequency vary widely due to the difficult nature of quantifying such accusations. If you factor in the high-visibility nature of the accused (Bill Clinton) and the lack of any tangible evidence (Monica’s dress was from a consensual encounter), it’s not a black-and-white situation.
I’m not saying Bill Clinton’s accusers are lying, but I’m also not able to simply accept their accusations at face value given the potential political or personal motivations. However, it’s clear that Bill Clinton is, at best, a hound dog and, at worst, a rapist, and at this point it’s not possible to know the truth.
On top of that, it wasn’t Hillary who perpetrated these events, it was Bill, and he’s not running. The latest spin is that Hillary has attacked the accusers and is an ‘enabler’ of Bill’s abuse of women. Well, I don’t know about your marriage, but if I thought my marriage was under assault from someone making claims that I thought were false, I’d defend my family as well. It’s also interesting to me that those slinging these accusations at Hillary are also primarily males with histories of unfaithfulness who are on their second or third wives, while she is still married to her first husband.
There are more, but those are the big ones. From my perspective, all of the above are either non-issues or are not clear enough to be considered relevant. That doesn’t mean Hillary doesn’t have any negatives, with the key ones for me as follows:
Making money off Wall Street speeches: Although I am a capitalist by nature, I’m not a fan of unregulated, unrestrained capitalism that preys on the non-rich, and this is *exactly* where Wall Street has been making their money. From my perspective, Wall Street and other too-big-to-fail companies are currently the enemy of the American people, because they have been able to use their money to buy influence that allows them to change laws to make more money, which they use to buy more influence that allows them to change more laws to make even more money, and so on – it’s like the first big hill of a demented financial roller-coaster (clickety-clack, clickety-clack, clickety-clack) as the American people are put into higher and higher risk, before plummeting, screaming, into yet-another-financial-crisis where the perpetrators still get richer. The fact that she chose to make money by consorting with these people bothers me a great deal.
She’s not a dynamic speaker: Although I do not question her overall ability to govern effectively, sometimes what the American people need is a charismatic, inspiring communication from their Commander-in-Chief. Hillary can put together the right words, but her delivery is muted and unemotional, to me. Contrast that with Trump, who is unquestionably a charismatic personality, however the effect is lost when he opens his mouth and partially-chewed word salad spills out.
Over the history of major party presidential candidates during my voting lifetime, these folks have had the right combination of gravitas, charisma, intelligence, and sincerity to communicate effectively: Ronald Reagan, George H. Bush, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama.
And these have not: Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, Al Gore, George W. Bush, John Kerry, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump.
Again, this isn’t a pass/fail criteria for the Presidency, but it is one area where I wish Hillary had better capabilities.
She’s a lawyer: To me, by definition, lawyers are prepared with a set of elastic and opportunistic ethics that allows them to pervert ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to fit their desired outcomes. Many people, including myself, also attribute this character trait to politicians, but I think the root cause is the prevalence of lawyers in our elected offices (an estimated 40% of Congress have a JD), which pushes the entire political class to act similarly. Yes, their jobs are to be ‘lawmakers’, but at this point putting lawyers in charge of lawmaking looks to me to be about as effective as putting bankers in charge of banking – yes, they know the material, but they use that knowledge to create ever-larger advantages for their cohort.
There’s one more big one, but I’m not going to list it above because it is not based in reality, and that is the right-wing’s lunatic hatred of Hillary, to the point where they would do almost anything, including ruining the entire country, rather than allow her to succeed. This is similar to what happened to Obama, where the progress he made is actually astronomically great, in my opinion, due to the fact that the entire Republican Congress made it their single and only job to prevent him from being able to get anything done, regardless of if it hurt the American people. In addition, not only would they block his initiatives, they would then turn around and blame him for their absence.
And I see that happening to Hillary, as well. However, I’m not going to not vote for her simply because Republicans are holding progress hostage – *they* are the ones who need to change in this instance. Additionally, after the fiasco of nominating Donald Trump it’s entirely possible that Republicans will become more bipartisan in an attempt to salvage the wreckage of their party, but time will tell on that one.
Now, in this entire article thus far I haven’t really mentioned the things I *like* about Hillary as a candidate – well, here they are:
- She has devoted her life to public service, and her actions have primarily been in support of those other than the 1%
- She is tenacious – for example, when her husband was President her health care overhaul was blocked, but she came back and helped push through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which to this day helps provide health care to millions of disadvantaged children
- She’s effective – she knows how to get the job done, and she’s willing to both wheel-and-deal and to carry-a-big-stick in equal measure, as needed
- She’s willing to work with her opponents – see becoming Secretary of State after a bitter battle with Barack Obama as just one example
- Hillary tends to be honest, with 72% of her statements being rated on the ‘True’ side of the spectrum and only 2% Pants-on-Fire by Politifact, whereas Trump stands at an astonishingly dismal 30% ‘True’ and a whopping 17% Pants-on-Fire – meanwhile the Republicans paint Hillary as being ‘dishonest’, which is unbelievable
- Although it reads like campaign glurge, she may actually be one of the most qualified Presidential candidate in the history of US politics – she’s spent three terms in a Governor’s mansion, eight years in the White House, eight years as a Senator, and four years as Secretary of State
There are more, but those are the primary ones.
Put it all together and, for me, there is only one choice this year – Hillary Clinton.