#NeverTrump

TLDR: I never thought I’d write this: I want to share why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for President. I hope my independent-minded friends on both the left and right will as well instead of casting a protest vote for a third party, as tempting as that may be this election.

Some quick background. Before Thumbtack, I was a White House staffer in a Republican administration. I loved every minute of my time at the White House; it truly felt like an honor and privilege every morning I walked into the West Wing. Since leaving politics for tech I’ve been heads down building Thumbtack and less engaged politically.

Until this year.

I’m a very optimistic person by disposition, but for the first time in my life I’ve felt a different emotion during this election: fear and sorrow. Fear for what could happen, and sorrow for what already has.

My fundamental political philosophy is opposition to concentrated power in all its forms: Power corrupts — whether it is centralized political power, anti-competitive business power, and even soft power over social norms and stigmas. That means I support: (1) expanding free markets to support small businesses, technological progress, and economic growth and (2) advancing a pluralistic, socially inclusive society. I hold only tentative opinions on foreign policy; I think most people underestimate the complexity and asymmetry of information inherent in foreign affairs.

I’ve never registered with either party because I think they both offer incomplete, flawed visions for the country. Democrats are more socially inclusive, but denigrate and undermine one of the greatest forces driving human progress: free market capitalism. Republicans (used to) defend free markets and free trade, but have resisted efforts to build a more pluralistic society.

Elections over the past couple decades have involved candidates who, in the grand sweep of our American experiment, offer visions that are modestly different shades of gray. Unfortunately, election dynamics are such that every cycle is billed as “the most consequential of our lifetime”. David Hume observed this hyperbolic tendency 250+ years ago. The unfortunate effect of this long history of wolf-crying is that we now lack differentiated language to express how important and consequential this election actually is.

So, here is why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for President.

  • Trump embodies and feeds the ugliest human impulses. Trump is either a racist himself or a demagogue for racists, a lifelong misogynist who treats women as objects, and peddles (and seems to even believe) conspiracy theories grounded in only malice. My truly heart breaks for the 8 year-old girl who hears Trump call women “fat” “disgusting” “pigs”, the teenager struggling with their own disability who hears Trump mocking a disabled reporter, the immigrant (many who work at Thumbtack!) who feels unwelcome in their new country, and the billion+ people around the world who are watching and learning about the character of the world’s oldest (modern) republic. [I drafted this post many weeks ago and just didn’t get around to publishing…none of the recent revelations are at all surprising.]
  • Trump is the demagogue our founders warned us of. Trump is unmoored philosophically; his only compass is the expansion of his ego. He’s not even moored to himself: he has changed parties in the last decade more times than he’s changed wives, and when politically expedient has even changed positions in the same day. His demagoguery and pride are so unrestrained he is even proud of his ignorance and his lack of preparation for assuming the most awesome of powers in the world. Trump is exactly who Hamilton told us to fear in Federalist #1: “commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants”.
  • Trump has no respect for the Constitution or for limits on executive power. President Trump would have wanton disregard for Constitutional protections and traditions. During the course of the election, he has already attacked a member of the judiciary (for being Mexican), a corporate leader (for funding media companies who oppose him), public transparency (not releasing tax returns), and even our most sacred political institution: agreeing to support the winner of the democratic process. Trump is literally sowing unwarranted seeds of doubt about the democratic process that people have died to protect for hundreds of years…just so he has an excuse to protect his ego when he loses.
  • The worst caricature of Hillary is still better than Trump. For the sake of argument, let’s grant every single charge against Hillary: assume she has surreptitiously leveraged the Clinton Foundation to funnel money from foreign governments like Saudi Arabia, accept that she has been an active accessory to her husband’s sexual predation, grant that she is fundamentally corrupt. Even if every single aspersion against Hillary is true (unlikely) and more exist we don’t even know about (likely), Donald Trump is so dangerous she is still the only responsible choice.
  • Why not vote for Gary Johnson or another third party candidate? In another election I would likely vote for a third party. I really wish Michael Bloomberg had run. But this is not the year for a protest vote — we need Trump to lose in a landslide. If Hillary barely wins, it will normalize what Trump has done, it will empower him beyond the election, and it will spawn a new generation of demagogues who will see that Trump’s approach is an effective strategy. I’m afraid lots of the damage is already done, but if Trump loses dramatically, we can hope the election will become a stark warning to future up-and-coming demagogues.

The problems in our political system run much deeper than Trump. I’m nervous that technology is turning our Republic into a direct democracy (which our founders rightly feared) — and that Trump is just the beginning of things to come.

So, after this election we need to stop pointing our finger at Trump (and Hillary) and instead point our finger at ourselves. We spend too much time lamenting our terrible politicians and not enough grappling with the root cause of how we create the politicians.

But we can think about the long-term solutions on November 9th.

In the meantime: #NeverTrump,

Jonathan

PS-Whatever her flaws, it’s going to be amazing to finally have our first woman President. It’s about damn time!

PPS-I know that for friends coming from a Republican/conservative background, voting for Hillary is hard. If you are still on the fence, you may be inclined to ignore this San Francisco techie…so I pulled together a list of 634 prominent Republicans and conservatives — former Presidents, Senators, Mayors, writers and intellectuals — who are all #NeverTrump for your perusal: #NeverTrump.