Last night, I was driving home from work and listening to the Democratic National Convention on C-SPAN radio. On my way home, I stopped at a local CVS to pick up a prescription when history was made. For the first time in United States history, a woman was nominated as the presidential candidate by one of our major political parties. That woman: Hillary Clinton. And I couldn't be prouder to be a supporter of her campaign and I will definitely be voting for her in the fall.
If you've paid attention to my blog over the past couple of election cycles, you've witnessed my agony as I tried to decide on a presidential candidate to vote for. In 2008, I came within a hair of voting for then-Senator Barack Obama, but ultimately went with Senator John McCain. In 2010, I watched in horror as the Republican party was slowly being taken over by the Tea Party, a group of ideological purists whose fanaticism caused them to keep moving to the right and to denounce their initial heroes as villains and sell-outs. In 2012, I ultimately decided to vote for neither major presidential candidate, although I had the hardest time making that particular decision. In 2014, my swing from Republican to independent to Democrat was completed with the realization that the GOP had completely gone off the rails.
Then the 2016 election cycle started and the far-right xenophobia, sexism, and hatefulness found its personification in Donald Trump, a fascistic, narcissistic, thin skinned bully who takes pleasure in mocking other people and catering to the worst impulses in his moon-eyed followers. He is a man who recycles and retweets false information from racists and bigots, a man who refuses to condemn white supremacists who endorse him, and a man who is temperamentally unfit to be president of the United States. For over a year, I and other people were writing and talking about how dangerous he is, while most people just though of him as a sideshow. Then, he won the Republican presidential nomination and the GOP officially died as it was taken over by people who are as far-right as you can go.
On the Democratic side, you had two major and one minor presidential candidates, any of whom would have been good. Senator Bernie Sanders was an independent representative and then senator from the state of Vermont and self-described democratic socialist; Hillary Clinton, former first lady of Arkansas and the United States, former senator from New York, and former Secretary of State; and Martin O'Malley, former mayor of Baltimore and governor of Maryland. O'Malley dropped out early and then Clinton ended up winning over Sanders. To give him his proper credit, Sanders did bring in a lot of new people to the political process. The problem is that most of these people really had no clue how the system actually worked, rather they had vague ideas about how *THEY* thought it *SHOULD* operate, and when it didn't, they threw hissy fits worthy of a small child.
When this election cycle started, I was torn between Clinton and Sanders. I liked both of their platforms, and initially I was leaning towards Sanders. But as I thought about it (and as I watched the behavior of his supporters), I realized that I was closer to Clinton, so that is who I ultimately voted for. Fast forward to the conventions. The Republican Convention was what you would expect, a bombastic circus dedicated to the ego of Donald J. Trump. The lone exception was the speech by Senator Ted Cruz, who used the opportunity to subtly ding Trump and start his campaign for the 2020 election. The Democratic Convention's first night was an awesome night with stellar speeches by Michelle Obama, Elizabeth Warren, and a long speech by Bernie Sanders. Last night was started off historically and then there were some great speeches by Donna Brazile, the Mothers of the Movement, and Eric Holder.
Ok, so that is the history of getting to where we are today. Now, about my choice to back Hillary Clinton unreservedly for President of the United States.
I've been watching the Clintons since Bill Clinton first ran for president in 1992. In those (almost) 25 years, since they appeared on the national scene, an industry has popped up to discredit anything and everything that they have done or tried to do. I remember people talking about how Clinton was actually an illegitimate member of the Kennedy clan and other people talking about how the Clintons killing off people around them. Then there were the endless investigations of everything related to them. And the industry didn't stop when President Clinton left office. After Hillary was elected to the Senate, it kept going, only now focused on her.
In all my time paying attention to politics, I have never seen someone who has been attacked as much or as viciously as Hillary Clinton has. From heading the health insurance reform group during the first part of President Clinton's term to the present, Hillary Clinton has been attacked from all sides. Consequently, she tends to be less transparent and forthcoming than she should be, and I can't say that I blame her. If I had people after me for over twenty years the way she has, I would be reluctant to share things with people too.
Am I saying Hillary is perfect? No, I am not. What I am saying is that we have an amazing woman who has held up under attacks that would make most people run screaming in the other direction. We have someone who has grace and poise to make it through some really, really tough times. We have someone who has been shown to be fundamentally honest and trustworthy by non-partisans who have investigated her.
The one thing that always has to be kept in mind is that she is a politician and that means that she will sometimes alter her position on issues, which is a good thing. A good leader never gets too far in front of the people they want to lead, rather they do their best to show the way to go and let people get there. Sometimes that means that they need to take some time to reveal what they truly believe. For example, take marriage equality. Until relatively recently (the last 5-6 years) almost no one was for marriage equality. Most people (even LGBT groups) were going for something close like civil unions or something like that. So it is completely understandable that a politician would come closer to that.
While I understand what people are probably screaming about having principles and sticking to them no matter what, that sort of thing is a bad idea in governing. Having principles is good, but governing in a democracy is always going to require a certain amount of give and take, with each side conceding some of what they want. A great leader will take what they can right now and then come back later for more. That sort of pragmatic incrementalism is a quality particularly essential in a president. While a legislator can be more dogmatic and doctrinaire, a president has to be more flexible. I know that is not what the fanatics on the left or right want to hear, but it is reality. Some people think of it as "selling out", but it isn't. It is governing and getting things done.
Then there are people who are saying that there is no difference between the two parties or between Trump and Clinton. I won't say anything other than they are delusional, ignorant, or lying. Just look at what they each stand for. Clinton has always fought for children and families. Trump has fought for himself and his own self-aggrandizement. 'Nuff said.
And then there are the people who are saying that they will only vote for a third party. As you can probably guess from my journey, I don't have a problem with that in general. However, this election is anything but a standard election. This election has the potential to place a man who doesn't have the self-control of an infant in the White House. This election has a nominee who never should have gotten this far, except for the fact that the many, many GOP voters are being driven by a sense of racial ans sexual animus and are willing to support a man who I wouldn't trust with anything, much less the whole country. At this point, voting for a third party candidate means that it is that much more likely that Trump will be elected, meaning that other people will pay the price for your "clean conscience" and principles. That is extremely immoral. Only someone who is coming from a place of privilege can do such a thing. So don't expect me to applaud or even respect you for making that sort of decision, because I won't. In fact, I will lose so much respect for anyone who makes that sort of choice in an election which is this critical.
So vote for Hillary Clinton because she is a good and trustworthy person who we can and should place in the Oval Office.