The Choice for 2016

Election Day is finally upon us (or almost upon us), and we get to make our choice for President, for the House of Representatives, and depending on where you vote (and if one is up for re-election), for United States Senator.[1] I think we can all agree that this two-year Presidential campaign is about eighteen months too long. When Canada recently elected Justin Trudeau the Prime Minister of Canada, their election took about five weeks. Granted, they have a parliamentary system, but still.

When it comes to the office of the President, we now have the choice between the most qualified non-incumbent and the least qualified major party candidate who has ever run for President. We now have the choice between a serious, albeit ambitious policy wonk and a man who has certifiable mental health issues. Donald Trump is a man with an extreme case of Narcissistic Personality Disorder,[2] and he may also be a sociopath. Hillary Clinton is a professional politician, with all the good and bad that designation suggests. But she is also an exceedingly bright, stable and sensible politician who has been unjustly vilified for years.

The Importance of the Supreme Court

When Republicans who are offended by his personality defend voting for Donald Trump, their most substantial argument is often the fate of the Supreme Court. Since Antonin Scalia’s passing on the evening of February 12, 2016,[3] the Republicans have been petrified that the Court – which at one time had been left leaning and “activist” – will slip back to being left leaning after a quarter of a century of tilting to the right. So, let’s review:

In 1953, Earl Warren became the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and ushered in an era of activist, progressive judging. Prominent members of the Court during the Warren era besides the Chief Justice included Justices William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Hugo Black, Felix Frankfurter, and John Marshall Harlan II. The court authored several famous opinions, the most famous of which is Brown v. Board of Education (1954), which banned racial segregation in the public schools.

After Earl Warren retired in 1969, Richard Nixon chose Warren Burger as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. The Burger Court was a much more centrist court, but it was during this period that Harry Blackmun authored the majority opinion in Roe v. Wade (1973), the decision that legalized abortion nation-wide (and that pro-life advocates have been seeking to overturn for the last 43 years).

Following the Burger Court we had the Rhenquist Court, which beginning in 1986 finally moved the court solidly to the right. The Rhenquist Court does not have any one “signature” achievement, but it did decide the Bush v. Gore case in 2000, as well as the 1992 case of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which modified (but did not overturn) Roe v. Wade.

The Rhenquist court eventually morphed into the Roberts Court in 2005, but as more Democratic Presidents made appointments, the court once again became fairly evenly divided, although still listing to the right. The Roberts Court’s signature achievement is arguably the 2010 Citizen’s United case, in which the court obliterated the campaign finance rules by granting a 1st amendment right to corporations to essentially spend as money as they want on elections (albeit through the mechanism of a political action committee or a “Super PAC” instead of through direct contributions). In addition, two cases reflect the court’s schizophrenic personality: first, finding a personal “2nd amendment” right to carry a firearm in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), and second, establishing the right of gays to marry in Obergefell v. Hodges (2015). A win for the right, a win for the left.

As I like to point out to my Republican friends, the late champion of civil rights, Thurgood Marshall, was replaced by Clarence Thomas on the Court. There could be no more dramatic substitution by one justice for another than that. But there had been many years of Republican Presidents when Clarence Thomas was nominated by George H.W. Bush, and that’s what happens when you lose a succession of Presidential elections.

This time it’s the right who lost their guy, Antonin Scalia. It’s their turn to suffer the same fate. In fact, they already would have suffered a much less draconian fate if they had not unreasonably refused to confirm President Obama’s compromise nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. Garland, who is a very moderate justice, would have swung the court slightly over to the left.

With Hillary Clinton, progressives now have an opportunity to influence the court for the next generation. Hillary would not only be given the opportunity to nominate Scalia’s replacement – unless the hypocritical and hyper-partisan Republican Senate reverses itself after the election and let’s Garland’s nomination go through – but potentially she could nominate replacements for anywhere from one to three additional justices.

This is why it’s so crucial to make sure that the Senate swings back to Democratic control. Because the Republicans, in their desperation, are likely to block any nominee no matter how qualified.

The Alternatives on the Right and on the Left

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are, of course, not the only two choices for President in 2016. Aside from some totally obscure and gimmick candidates, we also have Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin on the right, and Jill Stein on the left. Whether these are “serious” candidates for President is a matter of interpretation. None of them has a serious chance to be President, but all three have the potential to be spoilers.[4]

Gary Johnson is the standard bearer for the Libertarian Party, as he has been in the past.[5] As the former two-term Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson has real governmental experience, something that cannot be said for Donald Trump. His record as Governor of New Mexico was not uncontroversial, and as a libertarian Johnson is a zealot for the idea of the smallest government possible. His running mate William Weld, the two-term Governor of Massachusetts, is equally qualified, or maybe even more qualified than Johnson.

Unfortunately, Johnson has not distinguished himself in this campaign. He famously didn’t know where Aleppo was, couldn’t name a single foreign leader that he admired, and did a bizarre interview with a reporter in which he spoke with his tongue out. Not that it matters. For conservatives looking for a choice other than Donald Trump, Johnson and Weld would at least provide a substantial alternative. However, Johnson and Weld, like most libertarians, are pro-choice. For pro-life voters Weld and Johnson may not fit the bill.

On the other hand, for voters needing a credible pro-life conservative alternative, there is always Evan McMullin. Never heard of him? I hadn’t either until a few weeks ago, when Tom Ashbrook had him on his radio show, “On Point.” McMullin has risen something like the mythological Phoenix out of the political wilderness. A mormon, McMullin is the former Chief Policy Director for the House Republican Conference. He was also a CIA operations officer, a volunteer refugee resettlement officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Jordan, as well as an investment banker. On August 8, 2016, he announced he would run as an independent candidate in the 2016 election for President of the United States, backed by the organization Better for America.[6]  His running mate is the even more obscure Mindy Finn, described in some publications as “an American political consultant and digital media strategist,” whatever that means.

Nobody would really take McMullin’s candidacy seriously but for one thing: unlike Johnson or Jill Stein, McMullin actually has the chance to win some delegates. According to Nate Silver’s 538 Website, McMullin has a good chance of winning his home state of Utah, and if the electoral delegate race between Trump and Clinton ends in a dead heat – which is not very likely – McMullin could potentially be a kingmaker in this scenario.

Finally, on the left we have Jill Stein, who like Gary Johnson has been a repeat standard bearer for her party, which in this case is the Green Party of the United States. I like Jill Stein very much. She’s an honorable woman who has been fighting the good fight for a long time. Unfortunately, she hasn’t made much progress.

Stein has run for Governor of Massachusetts (twice), for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, for Massachusetts Secretary of State, for President of the United States (twice), and for Town Meeting Representative in the Town of Lexington (twice), one town over from the “shot heard around the world.” The only election she has won were the ones for Town Meeting Representative. The others weren’t even close. I voted for Stein when she ran for Secretary of State, and I’m sorry that she didn’t win. I’m guessing she would have been better in that position than the guy we have there now.

I’ve thought about voting for Stein in this election to “send a message” one more time, but I’ve already sent a message with Bernie Sanders. When March 1, 2016 rolled around, I voted for Bernie Sanders in the Massachusetts primary because I wanted to send a message to Hillary Clinton that I thought Bernie was right on so many issues, and especially with the attention he’s paid to the growing problem of income inequality. Also, as I’ve said before, the thought that I could vote for a septuagenarian socialist Jew as a serious candidate for the Presidency of the United States filled me with a kind of childish delight that I can barely describe. But I knew all along that it was unlikely that Bernie Sanders would actually be the party’s nominee just as I knew that there was little chance that Donald Trump would actually be the Republican’s nominee (wrong!), so this was my best chance to send that message to Hillary.

This time I want to send a message on behalf of Hillary Clinton to the rest of America.

Sending a Message for Hillary Clinton

I’ve been tough on Hillary Clinton at times, as she is much more centrist and much more of a politician’s politician than I would ordinarily like. I’ve written about how she has lived in a bubble for too long; I’ve called her the “candidate of the liberal corporatocracy”; I’ve upbraided her for her “tendency to prevaricate” and her shifting stance on the free trade issue;[7] I’ve taken her to task for making multi-million dollar speeches to bankers at a time when she clearly knew she was going to run for President; I’ve argued that she is the female and liberal equivalent of Mitt Romney (a “highly ambitious policy wonk who has wanted to be President forever”) and I’ve talked about how she used to be a “cool chick” who became a politician when Bill Clinton lost his re-election bid for Governor of Arkansas back in 1980. Those are legitimate criticisms, I believe, and I’m not backing away from any of them.[8]

But there are also many reasons for me to like Hillary Clinton, and I’ve talked about these as well. First, she is an incredibly bright woman, and she has been a fighter for the causes that she believes in for a very long time. Many people forget that right out of law school she was invited to work on the staff of the Congressional Watergate investigation. She was a protégé of Marian Wright Edelman and has been fighting the good fight, especially for women and for children, for just about all of her political life. When she was in the Senate she won over many of her colleagues by being a work horse instead of a show horse. During her eight years in the Senate, Hillary sponsored or co-sponsored  literally hundreds of pieces of legislation, including the Elder Justice Act of 2008, the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act, the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2007, the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2009 the Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2007, the Free Flow of Information Act of 2007, and the Equal Justice for United States Military Personnel Act of 2007, to name just a few. In addition, while she may have voted for the war in Iraq (along with a majority of Democratic Senators) she also voted against the Bush troop surge in 2007. As Secretary of State, Clinton worked for the Obama administration, and she did not make independent decisions against the administration’s wishes. By all objective accounts she acquitted herself well and worked hard to further the administration’s objectives. In other words, she was a good soldier for Obama.

These things make her a solid and well-qualified candidate on the center-left, just as Mitt Romney was a solid and well-qualified candidate on the center-right back in 2012. But what makes me actually want to vote for Hillary Clinton (and not Jill Stein) is the way that she has been vilified and demonized without justification for a quarter of a century. As Chaz Pazienza recently wrote in the Daily Banter, “if you’re liberal and you think Hillary Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy, you’re rewarding 25 years of GOP smears.”

Bernie Sanders said in the very first Democratic primary debate on October 13, 2015 (or more than a year ago) that the American people are “sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” And yet, we’ve been hearing about her damn emails ever since. There’s no there there. Hillary has already admitted long ago that it was a mistake. The FBI investigated and found sloppy practices but no criminal intent. There is no evidence that any national security secrets were ever breached.[9]

It’s not just the obsession with her private email server (while completely ignoring the Bush administration’s deliberate destruction of millions of emails during the U.S. Attorney crisis); it’s not just the ten investigations into Benghazi that only turned up one thing: her private email server (while completely ignoring that far more embassy personnel died during the George W. Bush administration than during the Obama administration); it’s not just that lies about her alleged lying (while completely ignoring that every independent fact-checking organization put Hillary at or near the top for honesty in the 2016 campaign, while Donald Trump was proven over and over again to be a compulsive liar and completely at the bottom of the ratings). It’s also that the GOP has been at it, lying about Hillary without any compunction, for 25 years. And there is no penalty to them for doing so. As I’ve said before, Hillary’s personal slogan could be, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get me.”

The Short-Fingered Vulgarian

And that brings us to Donald John Trump, the short-fingered vulgarian.[10] One could write a book on all the ways in which Donald Trump is unfit to be President of the United States. One could write a book about all of the insulting and incomprehensible things that he has said, starting with his labeling the majority of Mexicans who immigrate to the United States as “rapists” (but some, he assumes, are “good people”) and ending with his threat to sue all of the women who have recently accused him of sexual assault in the wake of the Billy Bush bus tape.[11] In between there is a proverbial laundry list of insults that is far too long to replicate here.

Faced with the almost certain prospect of losing, Trump has done what his mentor Roy Cohn taught him – yes, that Roy Cohn, the almost universally loathed Roy Cohn of McCarthy hearings fame – which is to double down on every falsehood and to just attack, attack, attack. Now Trump is attacking the mainstream media for being “dishonest,” even though this is the same mainstream media that gave him millions upon millions of dollars of free on-air time because they just couldn’t look away. Now he is attacking the nonpartisan fact checkers, because they have proven over and over again that Trump is by far the biggest liar in this campaign. Now he is attacking all the women who have accused him of sexual assault, even though he urged us to believe all of Bill Clinton’s accusers when that was convenient for him. Now he is even attacking the credibility of the pollsters, even though he trumpeted every poll that had him in the lead during the primary season and beyond. As Van Jones said recently, he “lies about the lies that he lies about.”

If You Can’t Get Up for This Election

If you can’t get up for this election, you just can’t get it up. You’re flaccid, you’re impotent, you’re out of juice, regardless of what gender you are. This isn’t an election between left or right. This is an election between sane or insane. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve said before that after this election we will need a national conversation on how to heal the divisions in our country, but I’m not optimistic. It’s hard to have a conversation where one can’t even agree on basic facts. The Republicans have been drinking their own Kool Aid for so long that most them actually believe that Obama was born a Muslim in Kenya, and that Hillary Clinton conspired to have Vince Foster assassinated. If people refused to believe even the fact checkers on the assumption that everyone is in the bag and that everything is rigged, then there is no basis for a discussion going forward.

In any case, I’m voting for Hillary Clinton. Actually, I’ve already voted for her. She is almost certain to be our next President, but she is going to need a lot of luck (and a Democratic Senate!) to navigate these political shoals over the next four years.

[1] In states with an initiative and referendum process, such as California and Massachusetts, you might also have the chance to vote on one or more ballot questions.

[2] Some people have suggested that he has a narcotic personality disorder, which is to say that his personality is toxic.

[3] Most prognosticators thought it much more likely that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is older and has been much sicker for years, was likely to go before Antonin Scalia.

[4] A number of political historians argue that Ross Perot handed the 1992 election to Bill Clinton, and that Ralph Nader handed the 2000 election to George W. Bush.

[5] The Libertarian Party, formed in Colorado in 1971, has never won a seat in the United States Congress. With approximately 411,250 voters registered nationwide, the party has elected a few members to state legislatures.

[6] Better for America (BFA) is a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization that is dedicated to getting nationwide ballot access for an independent candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 election. The effort was inspired by the unpopularity of the two major party nominees, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, and was seen as part of the Stop Trump movement.

[7] I don’t think there’s much doubt that Hillary is in support of free trade, and she can’t run away from the fact that she did call the Trans-Pacific Partnership the “gold standard” for trade agreements.

[8] I’ve also talked about the shortcomings of Bill Clinton’s administration, which include his part in deregulating the financial industry, his support of the omnibus 1994 crime bill, and his pursuit of welfare reform.

[9] It’s nice that Wikileaks keep’s dribbling out new Hillary Clinton emails, but if they actually wanted to do something useful, they could leak the rest of the Donald’s tax returns. While Wikileaks was refreshing when they first burst on the scene, now they’ve devolved into Julian Assange’s personal revenge vehicle. But I’d be careful if I was Julian Assange, because once we have President Clinton, the Ecuadorian embassy might not that be excited about continuing to house Asange, and there are still sexual assault charges for him to face in Sweden.

[10] Sometimes original insults are the best insults. Graydon Carter and Kurt Andersen get the credit for this one.

[11] You can be guaranteed that this will never happen, because then Trump would have to put the truthfulness of these statements into evidence, and “believe me” when I tell you that he will never want to do that. The burden of proof would be on him and not on the women, and he would have to prove not only that the statements are untruthful, but that the women making them had malicious intent. Good luck with that, Donald.

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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2 Responses to The Choice for 2016

  1. Mary Lou says:

    I think this got to me the best in what you wrote: “These things make her a solid and well-qualified candidate on the center-left, just as Mitt Romney was a solid and well-qualified candidate on the center-right back in 2012. But what makes me actually want to vote for Hillary Clinton (and not Jill Stein) is the way that she has been vilified and demonized without justification for a quarter of a century. As Chaz Pazienza recently wrote in the Daily Banter, “if you’re liberal and you think Hillary Clinton is corrupt and untrustworthy, you’re rewarding 25 years of GOP smears.””

  2. Here in the UK our Supreme Court isn’t political but they are under huge political pressure already. Good luck Wednesday, by the way, hope you jump the correct way – unlike us!

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