Why I’m With Her

In response to a friend regarding the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s email server:

My friend’s question

To paraphrase what I believe is the primary question here: in light of the email server scandal, why do I feel Hillary Clinton should be elected President of the United States?

To start, after reading many of the emails and detailed reports on her email fiasco (I have not always been a Clinton supporter, and even while I have been, I try to keep an open mind as much as I can about these things), I did not come away with the same rage and calls for indictment some have. My position here comes from a few places:

  • I was not as predisposed against Hillary prior to any of the email server new — which cannot be said for many of the people calling for her imprisonment.
  • As someone who has tinkered in web development and programming since I was a kid, I know a little bit about the history of the internet. Applying that knowledge, the unreleased background (found via the Podesta leak) on why the server was used makes complete sense. Take a few minutes and read it. 
    If this account is true (and it does not take any stretching for one to get there), I don’t see how this is any more than a regret of Clinton’s. Again, if you are predisposed against Clinton and wanted her locked up prior to the email server story coming to light, you have to admit your perspective on this is a bit biased, as mine would be if I was a supporter when this news broke.
  • Let’s say for argument’s sake the prior reason did not exist. Given the long history of Republicans berating Clinton since she was First Lady in Arkansas in the 80s (and public awareness of anti-Hillary strategies in the early 90s), I would not have been the slightest bit surprised if she did intentionally want to hide her emails from Hillary-haters. Not because she has some secret to hide (it would have been found by now via the countless investigations and hearings by partisan committees and agencies), but because every little thing she says or does gets picked apart by her opposition (see all the insane conspiracy kill lists and claims she is dying of all sorts of diseases anytime she sneezes or coughs).
  • Finally, some simple logic: email is not the only way to communicate, and going through all this effort for the sole purpose of hiding things from others does not pass the sniff test. We know that other Secretary of State administrations have used private email in addition to their state.gov accounts, and pure reasoning would make this more doubtful than someone who never used their state.gov email. If Hillary wanted to hide things from the public, it would have been far easier to use a separate account for things she wanted to keep hidden, rather than dedicating incredible time and resources to printing and archiving email history. It just doesn’t hold water.

For a more in-depth perspective on this subject, Matthew Yglesias wrote an excellent piece over at Vox. He brings up some striking data in this piece indicating that more network news airtime has been dedicated to this story than all policy issues combined:

Now that we’ve covered the emails, here are the core reasons why I support Hillary Clinton for President:

Her policy plan

As a humanitarian, the most important issues to me (this election cycle and otherwise) tend to sum under the umbrellas of equality and human welfare. Hillary’s platform provides real plans (many built from Bernie Sander’s policies) that have the best shot at progress in these area — far more than any other candidate, and many of these plans have been vetted and supported by more economists than any other candidate in the running. Her platform includes:

  • For families making less than $125,000 a year, eliminating tuition for in-state students at public colleges.
  • Passing comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship that keeps families together. Notice: not “open borders” as Trump and many of his supporters assert.
  • Standing up to Republican-led attacks on the Affordable Care Act — and build on its success to bring the promise of affordable health care to more people and make a ‘public option’ possible. While the ACA needs work, it has made great progress (contrary to opponent’s arguments mostly coming from people who have been against the policy since it was first introduced). On the other side, the minimal plan we have from Trump is to repeal ACA, which leaves millions uninsured. Even the most defined Republican plan (backed by Paul Ryan) is essentially the continuing the Marketplace aspect of ACA — the part pundits from all sides agree has struggled the most.
  • Overturning Citizens United.
  • Fighting for equal pay. If I have to make a case for this, you should probably just stop reading now.
  • Not raising middle-class taxes.
  • Saying no to attacks on working families and no to bad trade deals and unfair trade practices, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Increasing the federal minimum wage. Writing to President Obama and congressional leaders, over 600 economists, including 7 Nobel Prize winners defend this policy:
In recent years there have been important developments in the academic literature on the effect of increases in the minimum wage on employment, with the weight of evidence now showing that increases in the minimum wage have had little or no negative effect on the employment of minimum-wage workers, even during times of weakness in the labor market. Research suggests that a minimum-wage increase could have a small stimulative effect on the economy as low-wage workers spend their additional earnings, raising demand and job growth, and providing some help on the jobs front.
  • Expanding background checks to more gun sales.
“Wait, I heard she wanted to ban guns?”
  • Increasing federal infrastructure funding by $275 billion over a five-year period.

Unlike Trump’s plan, independent analysis of Clinton’s plans show that she is within a margin of error of breaking even as a result of her detailed funding plans (Trump’s policies are projected to add $7.2T to the national debt over the next decade). Yes, this means slightly increasing taxes on the rich — but before jumping onto your preferred partisan bandwagon, I highly recommend this analysis from one of my favorite researchers, Dan Ariely:

Her accomplishments and experience

Among many others, Clinton,

  • Laid the groundwork for the ACA (again, while many like to rail against it, but while it needs improvement, statistically it has made great progress)
  • Started her career working for the Children’s Defense Fund (instead of taking one of many job offers from major law firms)
  • Championed the improvement of health benefits to Reserve and National Guard members
  • Led development of State Children’s Health Insurance Program, which provides the much-needed state support for children whose parents cannot afford nor provide them with adequate healthcare coverage
  • Co-created the Adoption and Safe Families Act and the Foster Care Independence Act
  • Fought (successfully) to increase research funding for prostate cancer and asthma at the National Institute of Health
  • Spearheaded investigations into mental illness affecting Gulf War veterans
  • Created office on Violence Against Women
  • Led investigation into health issues plaguing first responders and drafted the first bill to compensate and offer far better healthcare to our first responders
  • Pushed and implemented the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Equity Act
  • Conducted a bi-partisan compromise to address civil liberty abuses for the renewal of the U.S. Patriot Act
  • Proposed reworking of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation to help homeowners refinance their mortgages in the wake of the 2008 recession
  • The Pediatric Research Equity Act “Having worked with her in the Senate and on the HELP Committee, the first thing that came to mind was her authorship of the Pediatric Research Equity Act. This law requires drug companies to study their products in children. The Act is responsible for changing the drug labeling of hundreds of drugs with important information about safety and dosing of drugs for children. It has improved the health of millions of children who take medications to treat diseases ranging from HIV to epilepsy to asthma. Millions of kids are in better shape and alive because of the law Senator Clinton authored.” — Chris Dodd, former U.S. Senator for Connecticut

Hillary Clinton has been heavily involved and instrumental in policy, negotiations, and relationships that provide her with more knowledge and experience than any other candidate. While it is fashionable to think that it would be so much better if someone from the outside came in to fix problems, there are few circumstances where an approach like this would actually work or make sense, and the Presidency is certainly not one of them.

“But Clinton is arguably better at that than anyone in American politics today. In 2000, she won a Senate seat that meant serving amidst Republicans who had destroyed her health care bill and sought to impeach her husband. And she kept her head down, found common ground, and won them over.
We have become, actually, good friends,” said Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who served as one of the Republican prosecutors during impeachment. “And that was a surprise to both of us.” (It is perhaps not coincidental that Graham is one of the few elected Republicans now calling on his fellow Republicans to retract their endorsements of Donald Trump.)
And Clinton isn’t just better — she’s relentless. After losing to Barack Obama, she rebuilt those relationships, campaigning hard for him in the general, serving as his secretary of state, reaching out to longtime allies who had crushed her campaign by endorsing him over her. (This, by the way, is why I don’t think you can dismiss Clinton’s victory as reflections of her husband’s success: She’s won her own elections and secured a major appointment in a subsequent administration.)

The rest of that Ezra Klein piece is a great read, and I highly recommend a couple others providing additional context and analysis.

Finally, one of the things I have learned this year is the importance of compromise in government. While it may feel morally admirable to back an idealist candidate, it takes negotiation and working with those with opposing views in order to make progress in a democracy. Hillary Clinton is an expert at this, as stated by many colleagues from all different political positions. While we are on the subject, contrary to what his ghostwritten book would lead one to believe, Donald Trump is not a skilled negotiator.

In a government constantly challenged by partisan roadblocks and only getting worse, we need someone who can compromise. We know she can because she has.

The other options

Donald Trump

The other top contender this election cycle is Donald Trump. No need to spend much time here because my positions above should make it clear why I completely opposed to Trump — not to mention his embarrassing business record, severe lack of knowledge in policy or how government works in general, and his blatant and braggadocios disrespect for women, minorities, and anyone who challenges anything he says or does.

Many of the few plans Donald Trump does have were clearly stolen from other campaigns and policy writers, and in the way he talks about them, it is clear he has no idea how they work. Others that are more original do not make sense. The rest are simply rhetoric.

Take a closer look at Trump’s budget platform, for example. The Economist has run detailed comparisons of the two leading candidate’s policies, including a section on their budget plans. Most conservatives I know, at least outside of election season, care more about the national debt and conservative fiscal policy than just about any other issue. But for some reason, the facts of Trump’s fiscal policy do not appear to be concerning many of them.

[Trump’s fiscal policy plan] would come at great expense: perhaps $7.2trn over a decade, according to the Tax Policy Centre, a think-tank (for comparison, America’s entire national debt is currently about $14 trillion). Fear not, say Mr Trump’s advisors: tax cuts and deregulation will boost economic growth to 3.5–4%, up from an average of 2.1% since the end of the recession, boosting the Treasury’s coffers enough to pay for both lost revenues and spending increases. But that is a fantasy. America is growing slowly for two reasons: the working-age population is shrinking, and productivity growth is low. If, as he promises, Mr Trump were to crack down on immigration and to shred trade deals, both problems would get worse, not better. For that reason, Mr Trump’s fiscal policy would send the national debt soaring.

I could write so much more here, but it has all been said. If none of the above means anything to you, nothing else I can say will make a difference.

Gary Johnson

This section won’t take long. I don’t agree with Johnson on very many things — I mostly align with Derek Thompson’s point of view on the candidate, so I’ll let you read him if you are curious. I tend to disagree with Thompson and others on the claim that Johnson is an idiot because of his Aleppo and foreign leader blunders — while his clowning around can be quite hilarious, I don’t put a lot of serious weight into these missteps.

Even if we did agree on more of his claimed policy, Johnson is not the genuine, wholesome, normal candidate. Unfortunately, because many are so polarized about Trump and Hillary, some think he looks like the reasonable candidate and then fail to do any more research (I am not waiving that statement over all Johnson supporters, just those who I have met who are supporting him simply because he seems like the better option). Because I said I would keep this brief, here are my concerns if you are interested in doing more research on your own:

In 1998, Gov. Johnson announced that Koch Materials, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, was contracted by the state for a $323 million highway project that involved the widening of N.M. Highway 44 to four lanes. A loophole in the controversial $62 million (on top of the construction costs) warranty provision of the contract, as well as the relegation of payment to federal highway funds (after Johnson vetoed the use of a gas tax for such projects) ultimately cost the taxpayers of New Mexico some $20 million a year in federal highway funds over the course of the next five gubernatorial administrations. After winning the contract, Koch Industries donated the maximum allowable $5,000 to Johnson’s re-election campaign.

Jill Stein

While many of my idealistic policy stances do align with Stein’s, there are a few key areas that kept me from joining her campaign. The most concerning to me is her encouragement/pandering to those who prefer to believe falsified research from a corrupt researcher over the truth and as a result, put the rest of our children in danger by not vaccinating their own. This is not meant to be an attack on those who believe this rhetoric — I understand where that perspective comes from, and it is a scary, highly emotional subject. But please read the facts.

As Jordan Weissman put it, “ There is a lot of snake oil in the system. And she’s selling it.”

Ultimately, as many before me have pointed out, this election comes down to two choices. At this point, Jill Stein does not have a chance at the White House even if she did have my support. And above-average support for third-party Presidential candidates will not “get the attention of the two party system,” as some would suggest. Side note: if you are not a fan of our mostly two-party system, get involved in local government and support candidates there by volunteering, donating, and voting — and not just once every four years.

That’s all, folks.

If you are struggling with the idea of supporting HRC because of all the scandals and alleged dishonesty surrounding her past, I ask that you take some time to read about the specific events that concern you. Before I was a supporter, I spent a few weeks digging into the Benghazi scandal trying to get to the bottom of all the controversy, and there is nothing there. Much of this is a case of argument by assertion, as described by many of the linked articles in the first section. Clinton has been attacked her entire career, and almost everything she has said or done has been scrutinized by people looking for something to keep her from introducing policies different from their own. After hearing these arguments and concerns from friends, family, and all over the news, it is no surprise so many people doubt her. Please do your due diligence and get above simply regurgitating talking points — you have nothing to lose by doing this much.

I’ll close by saying Hillary Clinton was not my first choice, and I am not in full agreement with her policy decisions historically. But to say she is not only the best option in this election, but a damn good one at that, would be misguided. While I doubt this will change anyone’s minds, and I wish I had time to write more, I hope this will help explain my positions and provide for constructive dialog going forward.

Looking for more? Read one woman’s fantastic quest to find reasons of her own:

Additional Reading & References:

Please forgive any grammatical errors. I hoped to have more time to write this but that turned out to be a challenge!