I’m Voting for Clinton Because Things Can Always Get Worse
Hillary Clinton is a bad candidate. There is a wide range of positions Clinton has taken, both today and during her long history in American politics, that would make support for the former Secretary of State less than palatable to young, left-leaning voters. I know many people who are suspicious of her sudden reversal on the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, and still more who see her role promoting the “tough on crime” policies of the 1990s as disqualifying. A huge stumbling block for me is Clinton’s vow to establish a no-fly zone over Syria, a de-facto declaration of war with both the Assad regime and its ally Russia that would all but guarantee that the conflict there will continue for years to come.
And yet in spite of all this, and in spite of the fact that there is virtually no chance that Donald Trump will take New York’s 29 electoral votes, I am writing to you that I plan on voting for Hillary Clinton. My goal is not so much to convince you to do the same as it is to challenge some of the ideas I hear from the many people I know who plan on voting for a third-party candidate or not voting at all. Below are a list of arguments I have heard from people who are not voting for Clinton.
Clinton and Trump Are the Same
This one has been floating around for quite some time for a reason: there is some truth to it. When the Boston Globe printed a fake front page reporting record deportations under an imagined Trump administration, it failed to acknowledge that deportations are already at record highs under President Obama, a status quo that Clinton campaigns on continuing. When Trump advocated for halting all immigration from Middle Eastern countries, obscured by our collective outrage was the fact that Clinton has personally bombed people from such countries before they had a chance to emigrate. It is important to sound the alarm about Trump, but for all the hand-wringing on these subjects, the truth is that the horror is already here.
But one can acknowledge that both Clinton and Trump represent a kind of evil while still having the force of mind to distinguish between them. It is almost certainly true that either president would do evil things (as all executives of an imperial power like the U.S. must), but to speak as though those actions would be equally dangerous is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst.
There’s no denying that Trump would be more likely to appoint a swollen, bug-eyed conservative judge like Antonin Scalia than Clinton would. Twitter personality and part-time lawyer @kept_simple has laid out a fairly excellent case for exactly how important this distinction is, so I will leave the finer points of the argument to him. Suffice it to say that however lacking in integrity liberalism may be, it tends to erode our social services at a much slower rate than what we might expect from a government unilaterally controlled by the Republican party.
Beyond that, failing to distinguish between Clinton and Trump is something akin to believing Bush and Obama to be the same. It’s true that Obama continued many of Bush’s most objectionable policies, but it’s hard to believe that Obama would have made any of the decisions that the worst president in U.S. history made following 9/11. The fact that all presidents plug into the same military-industrial complex does not erase substantive differences in their beliefs. Consider the fact that the Iraq war started out as an oversized reaction to a problem that could have been solved much more quietly and quickly, and how given Trump is to exactly those kinds of reactions.
Under Clinton, the same kind of nightmares we’ve all gotten used to would more than likely continue: soaring income inequality, deepening turmoil in the Middle East, and the unabated advance of corporate interest in political life. Under Trump, these nightmares would almost certainly evolve into something much more terrifying.
Trump Isn’t Really a Fascist
Leftists spend much of their time and political capital fighting the moderate Democratic party, and with good reason: you can’t make the case for radicalism without first demonstrating why moderation is inadequate. But the other primary goal of any radical left group is to fight fascism, and Donald Trump is a fascist.
There has been much tedious debate over what constitutes a fascist during this election cycle, and it seems to me both boring and unnecessary. If a person rises to power without original ideas or policies simply by affirming anti-immigrant, anti-minority ideas and promising to solve the problem of law and order himself, that person is a fascist.
It’s unfortunate that our culture has overused the term to the point of rendering it meaningless, but in this case, it happens to have been properly deployed. So let’s consider what a fascist president might really mean.
Over the course of the past thirty to forty years, the moral arc of our legal environment has been bending towards authoritarianism. Thanks to the actions of justices like William Rehnquist, the fourth amendment has been chipped away to the point that it is essentially meaningless for all but the most privileged Americans. A president elected on the mandate of law and order would without doubt inflict more damage on over-policed communities than one with a mandate to, if nothing else, slow the advance of these forces. It isn’t clear that many of the Constitutional freedoms currently in need of restoration will survive a Trump presidency.
Having campaigned explicitly on the protection of white Americans at the expense of everyone else, imagine how Trump would advance this march towards authoritarianism. Imagine the capitulation of our media, which tends to normalize the politics of whatever administration they’re covering at the moment, to fabricated narratives about murderous illegal aliens and covert terrorists in our midst. Imagine how much more difficult it will be to offer a radical vision when we are working from a position so far to the right that even bland hacks like Jonathan Chait will appear radical.
It’s fun to puncture the shared illusion of Republicans and Democrats that this country isn’t dominated by a centuries-old strain of white supremacy. But we shouldn’t underestimate the consequences of pushing these toxic beliefs to the forefront of our political life.
Let’s Burn the Whole System Down
Some people claim they want to see Trump elected so that they can watch the entire US system crumble and build something better in the wreckage. Buddy, if you’re starting a communist anti-government militia and are steadily building up an arms cache, send me the Google spreadsheet and I’ll volunteer to do Guard duty at the Compound on Wednesdays. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.
Your Vote Is Not Precious
If you or your family has suffered the brunt of some of Clinton’s policies at home or abroad, I can understand a deep emotional resistance to pulling the lever for another Clinton presidency. If you aren’t voting for Clinton because you feel it impugns your moral integrity, I would remind you that you have zero moral integrity to begin with.
The phrase “there is no ethical consumption under capitalism” may be the stuff of Tumblr memes, but it is also an indisputable fact. As most of us would acknowledge, our economy functions on a diet of extracted resources and exploitative labor. There is virtually no good or service that we can consume that isn’t made possible by some some spilled blood or sweatshop along the supply chain. I’d wager you made bigger moral compromises buying groceries last week than you would make with a vote for Clinton.
Furthermore, there are much more important things you can do to influence the election than simply voting. The most noble of these, I think, is to protect the rights of people who are often shut out of the voting process by becoming a voting rights volunteer or poll worker, who can help to ensure that people who show up at the polls have every resource they need to ensure their vote is counted. As resistant as you might be to voting for Clinton, I don’t imagine you could theoretically object to helping marginalized people to do so.
I want to reiterate that my goal is not to convince you to vote for Clinton. I believe that third parties are a necessary component of any healthy democracy, and while I don’t think either Stein or Johnson is a compelling candidate, I support your right to vote for them (though if you have the choice, I’d recommend Gloria La Riva over both those dummies). And if you live somewhere like New York or California, it doesn’t really matter who you vote for.
But I’m voting for Clinton because I know that things can always get worse. It is the one fundamental truth about government and about existence in general, and it’s something I’d like to be on record about recognizing. Some people today are saying that life under a Trump presidency would not change for most people. If Trump wins, I imagine those people will be singing a different tune in 2017.