Analyzing The Question: ‘Why Hillary?’

The Democrats made it official last night: Hillary Clinton is their nominee for president.

Perhaps because of the conventions — or because I’ve ramped up my politicking on social media — many of my friends have come to me, publicly or privately, to ask the same question: “Why do you support Hillary Clinton?”

I could dive into the extensive list of her accomplishments, but I think the question surfaces from a different rhetorical perspective.

I’ve been thinking really hard about why this question confounds so many people. I’m not conservative, but I can comprehend why someone voted for Mitt Romney. I can even connect the dots on why people are voting for Donald Trump!

I recently came to the opinion that many Americans don’t actually hold strong policy beliefs. They have general ideas on things, like abortion and Wall Street, but they don’t often give the time of day to actual approaches. I’ve tried, on more than a few occasions, to have policy and implementation discussions and more often than not it devolves into “well, I just believe…”

This isn’t to say that people are stupid. It’s to say that people have better things to spend their time and energy on. That’s kindof the entire point of a representative democracy.

And this isn’t to say that the candidates themselves don’t have real policies (except Donald Trump; he has no policies other than the word “great”). I’m not talking about the candidates. I’m talking about how we talk about the candidates.

Presidential elections are an abnormal time when we inject major policy decisions into pop culture. When you don’t have deeply nuanced opinions about Dodd-Frank or an 1800-page trade deal, you need to fill the void. So elections become a contest to find a candidate that makes you feel good.

Bernie Sanders was exceptionally good at this. He said all the right things and he was really good at saying them. But Elaine Karmarck notes that a successful president needs to be good at policy, communication, and execution.

But a campaign is only designed to test communication. Just look at how debates work: candidates must distill a potentially world-changing decision into a 30-second answer.

If policy was really at the forefront, you wouldn’t be seeing this weird embrace of Gary Johnson from former Sanders supporters.

If execution was really at the forefront, Jill Stein wouldn’t even be in the conversation.

People perceive these candidates as pure. They view them as uncorrupted by the system. The policies and abilities of the candidate are secondary to the perception that they are pursuing said policies in good heart. And people want to feel good about their vote, as if it’s some reflection of their own character.

Of course this isn’t universal. There are people that do identify with, and are excited about, democratic socialism or libertarianism. But to somehow identify with both in the same election shows that there are other factors in these support blocs. And I’ve asked! To no surprise, “they aren’t corrupt” is the first thing I hear.

So why am I with her?

I like Hillary Clinton because she’s an extremely effective politician who, in my mind, will further the policies and priorities that I have.

There’s been comprehensive writing about her accomplishments that I won’t try to reproduce here:

And I invite you to actually listen when she talks about policy. Think about how different it is when she’s not forced to boil everything down to debate-sized answers:

Hillary Clinton: The Vox Conversation

I don’t disagree that she has baggage, but I’m not voting for a friend or a life partner or a saint. I’m voting for a president.

Maybe for you, the baggage is too much. I’m not here to tell you how to vote. I’m here to say that I approve of the changes America has gone through over the last 8 years, and I want to see that trajectory continue.

I think Hillary Clinton will be able to help make that happen.

Like this post? There are more like it, including I’m Okay With Shaming You Into Voting, Bigger Data: A Case For Voting, and So What Are Hillary Clinton’s Accomplishments? I also tweet.
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