Trump or Hillary: Who Cares?
Robert Richey

I’m sorry, Robert, but you’re flat wrong. Donald Trump is a spiteful charlatan who embodies nearly everything risible and despicable about 21st-century America in the eyes of a solid majority in every other developed nation in the world. Hillary Clinton is a courageous, hard-working, lifelong public servant who has been on the receiving end of over 25 years and tens of billions of dollars of the most powerful hate machine in the post-Cold-War era. That doesn’t make him inhuman or her flawless; in fact, he has some legitimate backers and a number of magnanimous gestures in his past, and she’s got some disappointing lapses and blind spots and entangling alliances with an assortment of minor devils occupying the circles that wield money and power in this frustrating, distressing, ill-assorted world. But there is not just a difference in degree, there is a difference of kind. And it reflects a difference of kind in America’s two major political parties and the financial/geopolitical consortia that fund them and supply their ground troops.

Clinton may be no heroic angel and no font of charisma, but she’s not the lesser of two evils. She’s good, she’s tougher than rawhide, and she’s determined not to let America — the America that actually exists, not some atavistic Wonder Bread fantasyland — go to the dogs on her watch. She’s going to be the next President of the United States, and in ten years even the people who despise her today are going to look back and shudder with gratitude to her at the bullet she is choosing to take, standing between us and the rogue wave of cynical, self-interested nihilism masquerading as patriotic bluster.

You’re also flat wrong about how the U. S. government — even the Federal government considered in isolation — functions, either on paper or in recent decades of practice. Congress is primarily in the business of ratifying international treaties, establishing priorities and standards of review for Federal spending, and codifying law in the fairly limited areas assigned to it under the Constitution and its amendments. The emphasis here is on “codifying”, because in fact most law is judicially created — or more accurately, judicially discovered, in a conscious attempt to reconcile timeless principles of equity with changes in prevailing practice in private commerce and civil society. This does not reflect some kind of power grab by activist judges gone wild; it is how the common-law system that the US inherited from the UK actually works, and has for close to ten centuries.

Congress can sometimes speed up the process of discovering law or slow it down, and on rare occasions throws a spanner directly into the works. And the executive branch — both the political segment and what’s left of the career non-partisan staff — can botch or corrupt the execution of the law as discovered. But where they hold real and frightening power is in their ability to ignore the recommendations of the legal profession and install unfit judges. Some of that happened under the Reagan presidency, but the Congress we had then wasn’t entirely asleep at the wheel. (I deeply disagreed with the late Antonin Scalia’s politics and philosophy, but you couldn’t call him unfit. The same could not be said for Robert Bork.) The consequences of eight, or even four, years of Trump appointees, on top of the Bush/Bush crop — especially at the Circuit Court level, where most Federal law is made — would be appalling.