My Endorsement for President, 2016: Hillary Clinton

Original photo by Neverbutterfly, used under Creative Commons license. Click on picture to be taken to the original.

Today is the beginning of early voting here in Ohio, which means that it is a good day for me to formally make the following announcement regarding my vote for President of the United States:

I am voting for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States, and I think you should too.

And now, let me explain why, in points that go (roughly) from external to internal, both in a political and personal sense. This entry is long, but this year, I think, longer is probably better.

1. Because she is not Donald Trump. I wrote yesterday on why I believe Donald Trump is an unmitigated and unprecedented disaster as a presidential candidate, so I don’t need to do it again. But I think it’s important to acknowledge that while I am affirmatively voting for Hillary Clinton as president — I want her in the White House — I am also actively and affirmatively voting against Donald Trump. Indeed, even if I wasn’t enthusiastically voting for Clinton, this year of all years I would pull the lever for her because as the candidate of one of the two major parties, she is the only realistic bulwark against Trump being in office. It’s that important that he be denied the presidency.

However, let me go into in detail here about one thing. I want to be clear that in voting against Trump, I’m not only voting against him as an individual, although given who he is as an individual — a racist, a misogynist, a liar and a cheat — that would be more than enough. I am also voting against the people who I see as the shock troops of the Trump campaign: the racists, the anti-semites, the religiously intolerant, the sexists and bullies, the toxic stew of hate, stupidity and sociopathy that has tried to pass into respectability with the jazzy new title of “alt-right,” but which is just the Klan and the neo-Nazis all over again.

In voting against Trump, I’m voting against the alt-right and larger pool of hate in which they fester, against the people who slur women, blacks, latinos, Jews, Muslims, LGBT folks and others on social media and elsewhere, against the ones who promise them a march to the ovens or a noose over a tree branch or a rape in an alley, against the ones who glory in the fact that Trump’s candidacy lends their bigotry mainstream cover, and the ones who, should Trump win, have plans for anyone and everyone who isn’t them. I’m voting against the people who believe, when Trump says “Make America great again,” it means “Make everyone else afraid again.”

To Hell with them, and to Hell with Trump for lifting them up and giving them cover and succor. I don’t believe and would not abide the idea that every person who might vote for Trump is the sort of person I describe above. But everyone who votes for Trump has to know that these are the people with whom they ride. I will not ride with them. I will vote against them and Trump, and gladly so. The best way to do that is to vote for Hillary Clinton.

2. Because she is not the GOP candidate. First, the practical: If Trump were to win the presidency, that would likely mean that the House and Senate would remain in GOP hands. Which means that I strongly suspect the first 100 days of a Trump presidency would be a fantastic orgy of the GOP rolling back every single Obama law and policy that it could. Not because doing so would make the lives of Americans better — it manifestly would not — but because they just fucking hate Barack Obama so much that giving him the middle finger for a hundred days would fill them with glee. I’m not down with that.

Likewise, not down with the GOP plan to pack the Supreme Court with Scalia clones; there are already two, in the form of Thomas and Alito. That’s more than enough for one court, I think.

Both the legislative and the judicial issues outlined above, I would note, would be a disincentive for me to vote for any presidential candidate the GOP might have picked in 2016, especially considering the generally atrocious primary field of candidates, of whom the only one I might have been willing to consider even briefly for my vote would have been John Kasich. But Kasich was too moderate and sensible for the GOP primary voters, which given how conservative Kasich is, is a vaguely terrifying thing.

Second, the philosophical: Look, I’m not a straight-ticket voter. In almost every election I vote for more than a single party, because — here’s a wacky idea — I consider each position up for election and who among the listed candidates will be the best for the role. I expect this year I will do the same.

But not on the national level. On the national level I don’t think the GOP has earned my vote, nor has it for years. Even before the moment where the GOP primary voters appallingly selected Donald Trump as their standard bearer, the national party’s philosophical and political tenets had been long abandoned for the simpler and uglier strategy of “deny Barack Obama everything.”

To what purpose? To what end? Well, not for the purpose of actually making the United States a better place for its citizens, or to practice active governance of the nation. From the outside at least — and I rather strongly suspect from the inside as well — it just looked like “sooner or later they have to let one of us be president, so let’s just throw a fit until then.” Fortunately, if you want to call it that, the GOP has spent decades training its electoral base to reward intransigence over actual action to make their lives better, and wasn’t above poking at the base’s latent (and not-so-latent) bigotry to delegitimize the president.

Trump has given the latter part of the game away — Trump doesn’t dog whistle his bigotry, he uses a megaphone — but the other part, the part about the intransigence, I don’t see the GOP, as it’s currently constituted on the national level, ever letting go of. Let’s not pretend that Hillary Clinton will have an easier time with the GOP than Obama did. The GOP already hates her just for being who she is, and it’ll be happy to slide the bigoted setting they use to on its base from “racism” to “sexism,” even if Trump’s blown its cover on that. So I expect that the new policy for the GOP will be the same as the old policy, with a new name slotted in: “Deny Hillary Clinton everything.”

And that’s just not acceptable. I’m not foolish enough to assume the GOP would give a President Hillary Clinton everything she wanted even in the best of times. But there’s a difference between an opposition party and an antagonistic party. The former is a participant and perhaps even a partner in governance. The latter, which is what we have, reduces politics down to a football game and in doing so makes life worse for every American. We can argue about how this has come about — training the base, gerrymandering safe districts which incline toward polarization, just plain rampant stupidity — but we can’t argue it’s not there.

This year of all years the national GOP needs to lose, and it needs to lose so comprehensively that the message is clear: Stop obstructing and start governing again. Now, as it happens, it might lose comprehensively because Trump and the GOP are fighting, and if Trump is going to go down, he might as well take the GOP down with him. Which would be a delightful irony! But just to be sure, and to use my vote to make a larger point, I won’t be voting for the GOP this year for president or US senator or US representative. I don’t imagine it will matter for US representative (my district hasn’t gone Democratic since the Great Depression) but for the senate and the presidency, it might help.

3. Because I largely agree with Hillary Clinton’s platform and positions. I’ve mentioned before that had I been born roughly 40 years earlier than I was, I probably would have become what’s known as a “Rockefeller Republican,” which is to say someone largely to the right on fiscal issues, and largely to the left on social issues. Rockefeller Republicans don’t exist anymore, or more accurately, they’re best known today as “mainstream Democrats.” And, hey, guess which of the two candidates for President of the United States could be described as a “mainstream Democrat”? Why, yes, that’s right, it’s Hillary Clinton.

So it’s not particularly surprising that I find many of her policy positions congenial, both in themselves and in contrast to Trump’s positions — that is, when Trump actually has a position that’s more than “trust me, it’ll be great.” As an example, let’s take, oh, say, Clinton’s tax policy, which essentially tweaks the existing code to make those of us on the top pay a slightly higher amount for our top marginal rate on income and investments, close some corporate loopholes, and essentially leave everyone else alone (or offer them slightly larger tax breaks). It’s not sexy, but it’s pretty sensible, particularly in contrast to Trump’s, which basically gives rich people really big tax cuts and as a result adds trillions to our debt (author John Green, who laudably does public service-related videos, has a ten minute video comparing and contrasting the plans, which I would recommend).

“Not sexy, but sensible” in fact describes most of her policies on everything from climate change to farm issues to voting rights to national security, and while I don’t necessarily agree with every single thing she proposes right down the line, when I don’t, what I still generally see is that the policy is based on a cogent reason or rationale in the real world, and not just some angry bellow from a fear-gravid id, which is how a large number of Trump policies come across.

And this is good, people. I want a policy nerd in the White House, and someone who has had real-world experience with how the political sausage gets made, and who both gets the value of having policies that have some relationship to the world outside their head and has the wherewithal, interest and capability to understand and express them. I’m not under the impression that Clinton will get everything she wants in terms of policy — despite the unbridled optimism on the left due to the events of recent days, I expect the House will stay in GOP hands (but, you know, prove me wrong!) — but I like most of what she has, and will likely be happy with whatever she manages to get through Congress.

4. Because I like what I know of Hillary Clinton. But! But! BenghaziWhitewaterEmailVincentFosterBillIsSkeevy
Ggggwwwaaaaaaarrrrggghhhnnffffnf

I’m going to skip over the vast majority of this right now by noting that there are very few people in the world whose personal and public conduct has been so aggressively and punitively investigated, and for so long, as Hillary Clinton, and yet she continues to walk among us, a free woman whose errors, when they have been made, are usually of the venial rather than the mortal sort. Which probably means one of two things: Either this decades-long persecution of Hillary Clinton on the part of her enemies is largely motivated for their own political and financial benefit, or that Hillary Clinton is a criminal mastermind so good at evading the forces of justice that holy shit we should be glad that she’s finally decided to use her evil-honed skills for the forces of good. Better give her eight years, just to make sure.

I believe that the vast majority of the bullshit said about Hillary Clinton is just that: bullshit. Hillary Clinton gets shit because apparently she’s always been an ambitious woman who is not here for your nonsense. And maybe, like any human who is not here for your nonsense, but especially a woman who is not here for your nonsense (and who has gotten more of it because she is a woman), she just gets tired of the unremitting flood of nonsense she has to deal with every single goddamn day of her life. Maybe she she gets tired of being told to smile and when she’s smiles being told she shouldn’t smile. Maybe she gets tired of being called a bitch and c*nt and a demon. Maybe she gets tired of having to be up on a stage with bullies who try to intimidate her with their physical presence in her physical space, and if you think that second presidential debate was the first time that happened, look up her senatorial debate just for fun. Maybe she gets tired of it but knows she has to take it and smile, because that’s the deal.

People, I flat out fucking admire Hillary Clinton for having dealt with all that bullshit for 30 years and yet not burning the whole world down.

So that’s the first thing, and it’s unfair that it’s the first thing, but since that’s what gets shoved on you the moment you open your mouth about Hillary Clinton, that’s what the first thing has to be.

But let me also tell you that I like her intelligence, her attention to detail, her ability to speak at length about the subjects that matter to her and that she thinks would matter to you, too. I like she doesn’t have a problem being the smartest person in the room, even if you do. I like the work that she did on her own, without reference to her husband and his own ambitions. I liked when she said that she wasn’t here to bake cookies, and I liked that you could see how much she hated having to bake the cookies when shit blew up around that statement (I like that I believe that in her personal life she probably likes baking cookies just fine, just on her terms, not yours). I like that she tried things and failed at them and picked herself up and kept going and got better at them because of it. I like that she cares about people who aren’t just like her. I like that she’s ambitious. I like that she’s fearless. I like that all the right people hate and loathe her. I like that she plows through them anyway.

There are things I don’t like about her too, but not nearly as many, and none of them enough, to reduce my admiration for her for these other things.

I don’t expect Hillary Clinton to be perfect, or not to fail, or to be a president whose actions I agree with straight down the line. I’ve never had that in any president and I think it would be foolish to expect it in her. What I do expect, based on what I’ve known of her since 1992, when she first entered my consciousness, is that she will never not try. Try to be a good president, and try to be a president whose administration does the most good for the largest number of Americans. Now, maybe she’ll succeed and maybe she won’t — it’s not all up to her and even if it was, you never know what happens to you in this life. But everything I know about her from the last quarter century convinces me that she has earned this opportunity, perhaps more than anyone else who has ever run for president.

5. Because I like what she represents for our country. I have written at length about the idea that being a straight white male is living life on the lowest difficulty setting, and if you should ever doubt that it’s the case, look at the 2016 election, in which a racist, sexist, ignorant boor of a straight white male, with no experience in public service and no policies he could personally articulate beyond “it’ll be great, believe me” went up against a woman who spent the better part of four decades in and around public service, including occupying some of the highest positions in government, and who had exhaustive, detailed policy positions on nearly every point of public interest — and was ahead of her in some polls on the day they had their first debate.

If that tape in which Trump bragged about sexual assault hadn’t hit the air, the polls might yet still be close. It literally took “grab ’em by the pussy” to get some air between arguably the most qualified candidate ever to run for president, who is a woman, and inarguably the worst major party presidential candidate in living memory, who is a straight, white man. I cannot know that fact and not be confronted by the immense and absolutely real privilege straight white men have — and just how much better a woman has to be to compete.

I am not voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she is a woman — but at the same time I cannot deny, and actively celebrate the fact, that much of what makes Hillary Clinton the person I want to vote for is because she is a woman. Everything that our culture has put on her, all the expectations it has had for her, all the expectations she’s had for herself, all the things that she’s taken on, or fought against, because she’s a woman, all of that has shaped the person she is and the character she has, and has become: A person who has talents and flaws, a person I admire, and a person who I want to see in the Oval Office.

When she becomes president, as I believe she will, it won’t only be because she is a woman. But her experience being a woman will have prepared her for the job and will be integral to how she will be president. Her simply being our first woman president will make her a symbol and an icon and almost certainly in time an inspiration (all of these more than she already is, to be clear), and I am glad for those. But it’s how her life and her experiences will bear on the day-to-day aspects of presidency that to me is key, and which I think in time should be what inspires people, as much as if not more than what she represents symbolically. It’s something we haven’t had yet. It matters to our country, and it matters to me.

And so: with a full heart and with no small amount of joy, I endorse Hillary Clinton for President of the United States.