Today early voting started in my state, and because voting on November 8 would be a hassle, I made use of it. It probably won’t surprise any of my regular online friends that my vote went to Hillary Clinton.
To be upfront, the Republican candidate would not have gotten my vote, even if they had been calm, sober, competent, and upstanding, as were John McCain and Mitt Romney. I generally vote Democratic, mainly because I agree more with their vision of what our society should look like, and find the vision of many hardcore Republicans repugnant and, in the case of the Tea Party and “Freedom” Caucus people, outright dangerous.
I personally prefer a society where people can’t be discriminated against because they belong to the wrong religion, hold the wrong philosophy, have the wrong skin color or other ethnic marker, like the wrong kinds of sex, are the wrong gender or desire to be the wrong gender, or any other similar type of reason. I know libertarians often share the same outlook on these social matters, but I find them far too focused only on discrimination from the government, and too unconcerned with discrimination from other social institutions such as churches, civic organizations, businesses, or society overall.
And given that scientific data and history show that none of us are as self sufficient as we might like to think, I also prefer a society with a robust cradle to grave social safety net, including universal healthcare, free (or low cost) education, more generous unemployment benefits, better care for those in poverty, and a wide variety of other measures, all of which I perceive are more likely to happen with Democrats in power. At a minimum I perceive that the existing safety net, as incomplete as it is, won’t be further eroded if they hold at least one of branches of government.
I know conservatives often fear that providing this kind of safety net will somehow ruin our moral fiber or economic vitality, but that concern doesn’t hold up when you look at other developed democracies, most of which have stronger safety nets than we do, and none of which have descended into the kind of dystopian nightmare that we’re always assured will come about if we strengthen our own programs.
And I actually think we give up a lot of economic vitality by forgoing that robust safety net. How many more entrepreneurs would we have if potential risk takers didn’t have to worry about losing health insurance for their children? How many more people might follow their passion if doing so wasn’t so much more risky than simply working a job that, while safe, doesn’t maximize their contribution to society?
So that’s why I voted Democrat. Now, it’s become very chic among progressives to bemoan that Hillary Clinton is our only viable option. Many seem grudgingly willing to vote for her to avoid a President Trump, but are unhappy with Clinton herself. That’s not my outlook. My vote for her was moderately enthusiastic.
To be sure, Clinton is not perfect. But from everything I can see, she’s spent a lifetime fighting for something like the vision I outlined above. Yes she’s had to make compromises along the way, but if you’re not willing to get your hands dirty, you’re not going to make progress. My perception is that Clinton is extremely intelligent, a ferociously hard worker, cares deeply about public policy, and is more prepared for the Presidency than just about anyone who has ever run for the office. We can always imagine a more perfect candidate, but I think she’s in the upper tier of the people actually qualified to do the job.
But what about all the controversies? What about her emails, paid speeches, the Clinton foundation, Benghazi, and all the rest? I’ve followed all of these reasonably closely, and I can’t find anything actually nefarious in any of it (with the exception of Bill’s marriage infidelities, but holding that against his wife, the primary victim, is vicious stupidity). Yes there are mistakes, but again we’re talking about someone who is human, not a public policy machine. I certainly find nothing in any of it to justify all the hyperbolic outrage.
I can understand the amplified outrage from Republicans since it’s to their advantage to make as much political hay out any mistake that they can, but I’ve frequently been puzzled by the outrage from the left. When I talk with progressives about Clinton, as we cross off each “scandal” that turned out to be nothing but a partisan witch-hunt, I’m struck by how often their attitude boils down to some version of “I just don’t like her” or “I just don’t trust her”.
Ultimately, I think Clinton’s problem, from a political perspective, is her gender. I’m not talking about the knuckle dragging conservatives who might argue against the desirability of a woman President, but the unconscious bias many of us have against the idea of a woman commander in chief, even on the left, even among many women.
Clinton faces a trade-off that women vying for leadership positions today often face. If they act in the traditional manner that society expects of women, they’ll be considered too timid for leadership. If they’re strong and assertive, they’ll be perceived as annoying, grating, and bitchy. I think we as a society need to outgrow this double standard, and stop holding women like Clinton to standards we’d never hold a male candidate to.
As I said above, Clinton has my enthusiastic vote, but even if I weren’t enthusiastic, she’s become the choice of sanity. I’m not going to go on a rant about Donald Trump. If you still see him as an acceptable option at this point, there’s nothing I can say that would change your mind. For anyone else, including those holding their nose while voting for him, I’ll just note that a ranked voting system, particularly in the party primaries, might serve our country far better than the traditional first past the post system we now use.
I never seriously considered the third party candidates, Johnson for the reasons I laid out above on libertarians, and Stein because she has scant public leadership experience, and neither of them strike me as economically literate or particularly knowledgeable on public policy. But also because only one of two people will be elected President on November 8, Clinton or Trump, and doing anything other than voting for Clinton increases Trump’s chance of victory.
Every election people say that the stakes are enormous in a bid to convince you to vote. It’s often hyperbole. But this time I don’t think it is. Hopefully you’re registered, but if not, check your state’s deadlines, because many still allow you to register, and some allow same day registration. This is not the year to sit out the election. Consider doing early voting if there’s any chance you might not be able to make it on election day.
Your vote will matter. Even if you’re in a non-swing state, contributing to the popular vote gives information about the country’s overall attitude toward the candidates, which might become important if election results end up being contested. Don’t look at the polls and assume that the result is a foregone conclusion. Polls can be wrong, particularly in catching late breaking changes. Don’t take any chances with this election. Do your part. Get out and vote. If you don’t, your opinion literally won’t count.