By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features
Most elections involve some measure of hysteria, assertions that they are “transformative,” “historic,” and “the election of our lifetime.” This election between Hillary Clinton, the most qualified candidate ever to seek the most powerful office on the planet and the first woman to ascend to the Presidency, and Donald Trump, the most unfit, is just such an election.
“We’ve never had such a stark contrast – of character, of vision. The stakes in this election could not be more clear,” First Lady Michelle Obama declared.
Their differences are not merely matters of degree, these two individuals are diametrically opposed in every conceivable way.
But even if Donald Trump weren’t the most temperamentally unfit, inexperienced, morally bankrupt and wrong-headed candidate to ever seek the presidency, I would still whole-heartedly endorse Hillary Clinton, beginning with her biography, her career, her values, and finally, her experience, her competence, her platform and agenda.
I could go down the list of the extraordinarily detailed policy plans she has presented – to address income inequality, immigration reform, criminal justice reform, climate action, education, college affordability, health care, drug prices, infrastructure development, research and development, women’s reproductive rights, gun violence prevention, voting rights, workers rights, parental leave (I could go on and on and on). (Go to her website, hillaryclinton.com, for details.)
I am cheered that at last, a Presidential candidate really “gets it” – prioritizing issues that have never before been at the forefront precisely because she is a woman and understands what families are going through, what women are still going through, the struggle the middle class is going through. She knows the slings and arrows of being the first woman to have crashed through the barriers to become a major party’s nominee for President and (hopefully) and would be the first woman to hold the office in our history. She brings that sensibility, that understanding, that lifetime of triumphing over adversity as a true trailblazer for women’s equality, going back to her earliest years after Yale Law School, fighting against discrimination and the backlash in Arkansas until she dropped her “Rodham” name for a married name of “Clinton.”
And in the same way as I whole-heartedly supported Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders, she has the skills, the big-picture vision, the pragmatism and the tools to actually get these done (assuming she isn’t blocked, obstructed, stymied and delegitimized by the Republicans as they already promise they will do as they did to Obama). I am excited about a pragmatic progressive as President.
But while Hillary Clinton has been specific in her long, long list of policy proposals, which indicate her sensibilities and priorities, Donald Trump, has been vague, offering pie-in-sky – promising on Day 1 to end criminal violence, restore law and order, defeat ISIS (the list goes on and on giving you the idea that Day 1 will be Biblical in length). To the extent he has been more detailed, he has been frankly, frightening.
His pronouncements of what he would do to the nation domestically (repeal Obamacare, rescind the Clean Power Plan, withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, shut down the EPA, overturn regulations, eliminate corporate taxes, round up millions of undocumented immigrants), would destroy millions of jobs, raise the national debt and plunge the US into another recession. But while what he would do domestically is chilling, his outrageous, erratic statements about military and foreign policy are horrifying.
His fawning over dictators, strongmen and tyrants like Vladimir Putin and North Korea’s Kim Jong-un, while gushing in the admiration they express for him, and indeed, his close collaboration with Russian interests (including encouraging Russian espionage and interference in US elections) is unsettling, but his willful ignorance, naivete about his role as Commander-in-Chief should strike terror.
Trump has said he knows more than the generals, has touted using torture and killing family members of suspected terrorists. He has said he would not come to the support of NATO allies who don’t pay and would advocate nuclear weapons for Saudi Arabia, Japan and South Korea, and is cavalier about using nuclear weapons in Europe (“If you have weapons, why wouldn’t you use them?” “I would bomb the shit out of them.”). He tries to disguise is lack of an actual plan by saying he wants to keep it “secret” and he wants to be “unpredictable.”
Trump has demonstrated over and over that he is temperamentally, intellectually and morally unfit as commander-in-chief, and completely ignorant and inept in anything approaching foreign policy. His undisclosed but suspected business dealings, including Russian oligarchs and debt to the Chinese National Bank, coupled with his propensity to use his campaign to enrich his business, are warnings that he would run foreign policy for his own self-interest. Indeed, as a narcissist, he would conflate the national interest with his own.
Since declaring his candidacy, he has swept away decades that have slowly led to a cultural acceptance of diversity, reinvigorating racism, misogyny, religious bias. He’s made it okay to hate “others” and brought White Nationalists and Neo-Nazis unbelievably out of shadows and into the mainstream.
Trump has run as the “successful businessman,” the anti-politician, the outsider with the predictable outsider, non-politician slogan of bringing “change” to Washington and “draining the swamp”. And during a campaign built upon one lie after another (75% of the time, according to fact checkers), the biggest lies are that he is a successful businessman, a philanthropist (he isn’t), and basically everything he has promised. Trump has basically boasted that he sees politics as a sales job – or more accurately, a Con Job – leaving a string of defaulted and defrauded investors, contractors, workers and customers. For him, getting sued and suing (3500 lawsuits, including pending ones concerning Trump University and an allegation of rape) are all par for the course – he thinks because he has more money than his adversary, he will win. (Not to mention his henchman, Roger Stone, who may well have been the connection between Russian hackers and Wikileaks, was a dirty trickster for Richard Nixon.)
He has stoked a strain of populism that is virulent, divisive, full of hatred and bigotry – because it has served his political purpose. He has shown contempt for the Bill of Rights protections of religious freedom, press freedom, freedom of speech and ignorance of the Constitution.
Consider who Trump, who has surrounded himself with bullies, misogynists, profligates, sexual predators, racists and corporatists, would appoint to key offices: Roger Ailes, Steve Bannon, Chris Christie, Rudy Giuliani, Newt Gingrich, Steve King, David Duke, Carl Icahn. And he has already provided a list of Supreme Court likely nominees, each and every one who would overturn Roe v Wade and continue down the anti-democratic path to oligarchy.
Finally, consider the fact that if Donald Trump wins the election, it means that the Senate and House will also remain in Republican hands, the Supreme Court will shift wildly further toward right wing extremism overturning civil rights, women’s rights, voting rights, criminal, economic and environmental justice for decades; all the committees will remain in control of Republicans who have been responsible for the stagnation, gridlock and dysfunction in government that is the source of national malaise.
“We can’t have a racist climate denier who lies about his personal fortune lead our country,” said Raúl Grijalva. “Our country needs a president who understands that issues like climate change, systemic racism and immigration reform are serious and demand a competent federal response.
“Donald Trump has nothing to offer but anger and grievance and blame. And so he – his closing argument asks, what do you have to lose? Well, I’m here to tell you: everything,” President Obama said at a campaign event in Miami Gardens, Florida. “Progress is on the ballot. Civility is on the ballot. Tolerance is on the ballot. Justice is on the ballot. Equality is on the ballot. Our democracy is on the ballot.”
Quite literally, all the values that America is supposed to stand for are on the ballot.
It’s why this is not an election where out of pique against Hillary Clinton (recognizing a 30-year propaganda campaign waged, yes, by a right-wing conspiracy), voters either cast a ballot for the absolutely unvetted third party choices, Gary Johnson (whose outrageous comments suggest he broke his own promise not to smoke marijuana during the campaign), or Jill Stein (if the same level of scrutiny had been leveled, or the same standard of measure, would they get a vote?), or stay home. Staying home is exactly the objective of Donald Trump’s campaign, whose officials have declared that the only way Trump can win is to suppress the vote of three key groups: idealistic white idealists, young women and African-Americans.
On the other hand, if Hillary Clinton is elected, there will be comprehensive immigration reform, a further move toward universal access to health care and rationality in drug prices, continued push to climate action and environmental protection, tax reform that both promotes jobs creation and narrows income inequality, pay parity and paid parental leave, more access to child care, affordable college tuition, and a wide array of policies that promote the well being of families and working people, and the biggest investment in infrastructure since World War II.
“This is truly an unprecedented election,” First Lady Michelle Obama declared in Winston-Salem. “I don’t think we’ve ever had two candidates with such dramatically different visions of who we are and how we move forward as a nation. One candidate has a vision that’s grounded in hopelessness and despair, a vision of a country that is weak and divided, where our communities are in chaos, our fellow citizens a threat. This candidate calls on us to turn against each other, to build walls, to be afraid.
“And then there’s Hillary’s vision for this country, a vision of a nation that is powerful and vibrant and strong, big enough to have a place for all of us, a nation where we each have something very special to contribute, and where we are always stronger together.”
What’s at stake? The Supreme Court. Climate Action. Immigration Reform. Civil Rights. Criminal Justice Reform. Tax Reform. Economic Justice. Environmental Justice. Women’s Reproductive Rights. Women’s Rights. Voting Rights. Gun Violence Prevention. Diplomacy. Alliances. National Security.
And on January 20, 2017, if she is elected – as I pray she is – I hope she will take the oath of office as Hillary Rodham Clinton and forever be known as President Rodham-Clinton. She never gave up her individuality and her personhood because she was married, and her legacy should be in her own name, as well.
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