Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Why I'm Voting For Clinton

My friend Marta posted something the other day that encapsulated some things I keep saying in people's comments, so I am going to paraphrase her and myself here again for my #NeverHillary friends, particularly those on the left rather than the right.

We can vote for candidates based on how much we align with their expressed ideologies and how much we admire them as human beings, but our political system was founded by very flawed human beings -- slave-owners and wife-beaters and wealthy men who didn't feel like paying taxes. I wouldn't throw out Thomas Jefferson's words, but I cringe when I think about the fact that he could rationalize owning human beings. Eleanor Roosevelt said many things with which I agree, but she forged political alliances with bigots and bullies when she felt it was necessary.

We don't vote solely because we agree with or even like a particular candidate. There have been many politicians in my lifetime for whom I voted while holding my nose -- pretty much everyone from either major party in Chicago when I lived there -- and none I have universally admired. I think Jimmy Carter genuinely cares for the poor and has spent decades being a devoted and invaluable public servant, but his foreign policies were disastrous and his willingness to get in bed with Yasser Arafat made even a pro-Palestinian J Street Jew like me dislike and distrust him. Bill Clinton I know to be a serial harasser of women and extremely insensitive on racial issues, yet many of his policies were laudable and paved the way for progressive gains even under Republican administrations.

Politics is about compromise and consensus. It sounds great, in principle, to be an independent and to be able to say exactly what you think and vote exactly as you wish, and we need strong independent voices in Congress. But we also need people who know when to compromise for something imperfect that they can have today -- say, a health care bill to cover all Americans -- than to refuse to pass any legislation until it's precisely what they hoped to achieve. We sometimes choose to vote for people just because they can get important things done, even if they aren't the people we think would be ideal to do those things. The ideal people aren't always running or winning.

And sometimes one of the people in a particular race represents such a threat that it's far more important to vote against that person than to vote for any particular candidate. When I was young and segregationist Democrats were running for Maryland's top offices, I'd have voted Republican in a heartbeat, even though I disagree with a lot that was in the Republican party platform at the time and there were plenty of criminals in the running (hello, Spiro T. Agnew). Blocking the racists was far more important at the time than cleaning up the petty crooks. Refusing to vote, or voting for a respectable third party with no chance of winning, would not have addressed the real threat to the state from the bigots.

It sounds great to talk about revolution and major change, but I'd love for someone to point me to one revolution that didn't come at massive cost to large numbers of people, often people who didn't get any say in whether they felt strongly enough about the ends to sacrifice their families and homes. This is true whether we're talking about a war, a regime change, or a shift toward industrialization, centralization, globalization. That doesn't mean it's never worth doing but I am really uncomfortable when the word "revolution" gets thrown around as if it's a better solution than the long hard work of negotiation where sometimes it's harder to see concrete gains at any particular moment. It's only afterward, when, say, voting rights have been secured or health care has been established or same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land, that it's obvious the progress was slow but steady.

I am far more comfortable seeing my vote as a way to get someone in office who will do the things I want done than as a declaration of my admiration for or approval of a politician. Even if I thought a third party candidate had a ideal platform that best represented my personal views, I'd be much more invested in keeping the candidate who clearly would do a great deal of damage out of office than I would be in electing someone of whom I consider myself a fan. There's no one running who has policies and positions that I agree with completely, but even if there was, if I didn't see any way that person could implement those policies, I'd choose to vote for someone who could get some part of the biggest issues addressed rather than risk allowing someone who would actively oppose many of those things to take office.

I've supported Hillary Clinton this entire election cycle, not because I find her personally more admirable nor her positions more desirable than those of Bernie Sanders, but because she's been the candidate with by far the most progressive policies that a president can implement even while facing an obstructionist Congress. I'm glad Sanders pushed her to the left on several issues, I'm sorry the Democratic Party itself is leaning toward the right on several issues, but neither of those comes close to being a reason to "make a statement" by voting Green and watching Donald Trump become president. I'm sure Jill Stein is a perfectly fine person, but I might as well write in my mother, who is also a perfectly fine person with no chance of winning. Using my vote to express my personal dissatisfaction rather than to elect someone who can accomplish what I consider important for all of us goes against my values far more than anything Clinton has ever said or done.

2 comments:

Gin G said...

Johnson is also running for President and is on the ballot for the Libertarian party. I don't know what they stand for, but know people who are voting for him.
I particularly like this statement from your post: "I am far more comfortable seeing my vote as a way to get someone in office who will do the things I want done than as a declaration of my admiration for or approval of a politician." I agree with that. Great writing here, Michelle.

Michelle Erica Green said...

Ask the people who are voting for him whether they know what he and the Libertarian Party stand for apart from legalizing all guns, marijuana, and whatever health care you personally can afford (keep abortion legal but no tax money should go to public health care or medicaid) -- and ask whether they're ready to pave their own roads. I don't worry much about the Libertarians because the pull more from the Republicans and Tea Party than from the Democrats, so they're biting into Trump more than Clinton, but if I thought he had a snowball's chance in hell of winning, I'd be ranting about it, believe me. Stein on the other hand is merely a loon -- believes in homeopathy, anti-vaxxer (reformed now that she's running for president and doesn't want to be embarrassed by her position), NOT Sanders' logical heir on a whole host of issues.