On America’s Greatness, or, Why I’m With Her

Let me begin with him.

Donald J. Trump grew up insulated and entitled, built a business empire using million-dollar family loans and nepotistic favors, declared bankruptcy four times while bragging about his billions, and exploited every tax loophole available to avoid contributing a cent to the country whose “greatness” he boasts so much (and so vaguely) about. His professional background doesn’t remotely resemble civic service — it’s in casinos, beauty pageants, and reality television. He’s notorious for practicing the “art of the deal” by deceiving people, refusing to pay them for their work, and threatening litigation (a threat he hasn’t hesitated to act on as a power move against those who can’t afford to take him to court). His businesses have been sued for discrimination and corruption. His charity was ordered to cease and desist soliciting donations when it became clear it was operating outside the law, misrepresenting whether it actually donates any of Trump’s own money (it doesn’t). He’s likely a (proud) sexual predator. He’s racist. He’s xenophobic. He’s simultaneously isolationist and hawkish, with a disturbing lack of respect for the realities of war, the traumatic experiences of veterans, the service of POWs, or the significance of nuclear weapons and their potential proliferation or use. He denies the existence of global warming and the value of pursuing renewable energy. He lies, contradicts himself, and lies about contradicting himself. This is just what I can list off the top of my head.

In all his decades, he’s never made any attempt to contribute to the greater good or enter public service — yet here he is claiming to be the most qualified individual to represent us and lead us. I have to conclude that Trump is a narcissist who considers a bid for the presidency to be the last great beauty-pageant-cum-reality-show to crown his self-serving career. Somehow a corrupt businessman with five kids by three wives and a long history of well-known legal and ethical issues has commandeered the Grand Old Party, the self-proclaimed party of family values and old-fashioned virtue. How?

More importantly, how can anyone consider him a viable candidate for the presidency? He’s failed to articulate a single clear policy plan, certainly not one that offers any benefit to the majority of Americans through increased economic opportunities or social well-being. He can’t even communicate with his running mate — how could he possibly collaborate with his Cabinet or his Congress? He’s a demagogue who spouts frighteningly undemocratic rhetoric about shutting down the free press and prosecuting political opponents, not appearing to even comprehend the responsibilities and restrictions that come with leading the executive branch and serving as commander-in-chief.

The supporters who claim they want to “Make America Great Again” … What America are they picturing, and how do they think Trump will get them there? What vision does Trump represent in their disillusioned imaginations? Is it the founding years of the United States, when colonial governments placed bounties on Indian scalps to encourage frontiersmen to massacre whole communities and displace nation after nation of Indigenous people from their towns, farms, and hunting grounds? Is it the years of plantation slavery when Africans and their descendants were kidnapped, sold, raped, beaten, and worked to death or till the day they died? Is it the years of industrial growth when urban children were locked in factories to choke on soot and go deaf with machinery for fourteen hours a day, developing repetitive stress injuries and respiratory illnesses for mere pennies with no right to organize or hope to build a better life? Is it the years when women didn’t have the right to vote or to open a bank account without a male relative’s permission and participation, when husbands had the legal right to beat and rape their wives and wives had no legal recourse to divorce them or secure protection or child support? When businesses hung signs disparaging the ethnicities they considered unworthy of service or employment? When Japanese Americans were confined to concentration camps? When African Americans were segregated and lynched? When queer, bisexual, and homosexual people were assaulted and jailed for their identity?

I’m not hating on my country. I’m pointing out truths about our collective past to emphasize how incredibly far we’ve come. The fact that I’m an unmarried woman who’s earning her own living, managing her own finances, accessing her own affordable healthcare, controlling her own body, and — hey — writing all this without fear of government reprisal because I have guaranteed freedom of speech? It’s pretty great. It’s great that as a writer I can devote my time and talents to promoting the interests of Native populations that suffered genocide at the hands of my ancestors. It’s great that integrated social spaces and social media allow me to listen to the legitimate outrage of those who suffer at the hands of over-militarized, under-trained law enforcement and a criminal justice system that’s privatized, incentivized to convict, and entirely stacked against minority racial groups. (#BlackLivesMatter!) It’s great throughout the year we celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Black History Month, International Women’s Day, National Coming Out Day. It’s great that each and every day, we’re free to celebrate whatever identities we want and share them aloud, shouting when we need to, because we’re free, and we’re in this together. It’s unfortunate that we have a two-party political system, a campaign season that lasts a year and a half, districts that are gerrymandered, and an Electoral College that gives undue weight to votes cast in swing states. But you know what? It’s still pretty great that we all get to vote this week.

And when we vote? It’s pretty great that I get to vote for Hillary R. Clinton.

Let me continue to her.

I’m with her. Not just because the alternative means voting for Trump or “throwing away my vote” on a third-party candidate; not just because I like the idea of electing the nation’s first female president.

I’m with her because for over thirty years in public service — longer than she’s actually held an elected or appointed office — she’s dedicated herself to specific, meaningful social causes; spoken strongly for women’s rights, education, and healthcare; made measurable progress that benefits the families of America; and earned a documented reputation among her colleagues at all levels for intelligence, patience, preparation, and dedication.

I’m with her because I believe she’s as qualified as any candidate ever to hold the office of the presidency before her — not perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist anywhere, let alone in the world of politics, where every player is by definition egocentric and power-hungry and has a complicated history of fundraising and working to win over different constituencies. But she’s knowledgeable, rational, and level-headed: qualified to make the sort of long-term and last-minute decisions that are the responsibility of the executive branch and that help steer the country in appropriate, positive directions over the years.

I’m with her because she articulates clear, reasonable policy positions that she allows to evolve over time based on new information and new dynamics in the country she serves (“flip-flopping,” “pandering” — or just being flexible in representing the changing needs of the people who elected her to represent them).

I’m with her because she respects the offices she’s held so far and she respects the people she’s represented in them (including people on Wall Street and with hawkish tendencies, yes — like I said, she’s not my perfect candidate, but there’s something to be said for her pragmatism).

I’m with her because I believe as president she’ll continue all of the above — continue to push for causes that are meaningful to the American people (women’s rights, education, and healthcare), continue to display excellent qualities of leadership (intelligence, patience, preparation, dedication), and continue to articulate clear, reasonable policies with a pragmatic attention to the country’s shifting needs. That’s the kind of individual I want representing my people’s needs domestically and my country’s character abroad.

It’s great that in my first and second national elections, I got to vote for our nation’s first African American president. In my third, I’m looking forward to voting for our first female president. And if democracy doesn’t fall apart over calls to monitor polls, preemptive accusations of rigged elections, and an unprecedented failure to transfer power peacefully — if this tradition keeps living on, and the people of our country keep struggling and working together to become safer and fairer for people of all heritages, all races, all genders, all sexualities — rather than regressing to a romanticized past of rich white males who have all the power and manipulate every system to their personal advantage at the expense of the greater good, as Trump would have it — well, then I can’t wait to see who’s on the ballot the next time around. Maybe the next person I get to vote into office will represent even more historically abused, underrepresented demographics. I can’t wait to elect our first Native American president, our first transgender president, our first Muslim president, our first president who embodies too many as-of-now minority groups to bother listing all the old categories when we talk about them. Here’s to progress. Here’s to making American great — here’s to making America greater and greater with each passing year.