Wednesday, June 1, 2016

We are choosing a president, not a friend

Several of my close friends are still Feeling the Bern. That's awesome. Bernie's great. If he somehow pulls a Leicester and gets the nomination, I will campaign for him and vote for him.

However, many Bernie supporters also hate on Hillary to such a degree that they say they would refuse to vote for her if she gets the nomination. They just won't vote, or they'll write in Bernie, or vote for that Libertarian guy, or even vote for Donald Trump.  As recently as March, only 9% of Bernie supporters said they'd consider voting for Trump over Hilary. At last count, it's 20%.

Do I really think most of those people will all actually vote for Trump? No, I don't. He's too much of an ass-hat to win and keep their support through November.

But let's be clear: If you're a progressive / liberal / historically Democratic voter, and you do any of those things, you are effectively voting for Trump. (Remember Ralph Nader in 2000? I do.)

So here's my question to all the Bernie supporters out there: What kind of future do you want for this country? 

 I suggest that we should all vote based on that question. I further suggest the following criteria:
  1. Demonstrated political competence (e.g. results).
  2. Articulated policies and priorities (both foreign and domestic).
  3. Stated positions on issues that matter to you. (For me, those are climate change, the economy and job creation, immigration and civil rights, and healthcare including reproductive rights.)
  4. Likely cabinet and judicial appointments.
  5. Probability of issuing effective or dangerous executive orders.
You can make a reasoned argument that Bernie beats Hillary on those criteria, but the margins are pretty small. But the gap between either Bernie or Hillary and Trump is massive on every one. And that's my point.

Trump fails on #1 and #2 either because he has no political track record to examine, or because he's failed to offer any substance within the rhetoric. #3 is a mixed bag. (You can dig in here or here or here or a thousand other places.) #4 and #5 scare the shit out of me.

(Keep in mind... I'm not even mentioning Trump's general sleazy bully persona, or his specific statements about women, minorities, veterans - including P.O.W.'s in his own party - or our allies and adversaries abroad. I hope that would be enough to convince people not to vote for him.) 

When you elect a president, you also elect a cabinet and other high level policy functionaries, and with political newbie Trump, early evidence suggests that you'll get an equally unqualified cast of supporters.

Meanwhile, Bernie and Hilary both have long careers in public office. Plenty of track record to examine there for both. Hilary is far from perfect, as the long list of scandals associated with the Clinton family would suggest. But when it comes to understanding policy, arguing a position, moving legislation forward, and just doing the daily blocking and tackling of political office, we don't have to wonder. Her record demonstrates considerable political competence.

Notice that my criteria does not include the following:
  1. Superior moral and ethical character. (Bernie's the clear winner.)
  2. Personally likeable, aka "I'd like to have a beer with him/her." (Bernie again.)
I don't know about you, but I've never had a beer with Barack Obama. And I have no secret window into his soul. But I have consistently been impressed with his political competence, policy priorities, appointments, and his use of the pen on executive orders and in signing or veto'ing legislation. Has he been a perfect president? No. Has he been a good president? Absolutely. And I say so because of the results on the first list, not the second. Those are the things that matter.

One more thing: Are you SURE you're not the unwitting victim of a decades-long, well-funded conservative campaign to tear down Hilary Clinton? Or have you made up your own mind, entirely and consciously, on direct evidence? I guess the answer doesn't really matter, but it's good to think about.

So when it comes time to vote in November, ask yourself: Which of the two major party candidates will be more aggressive on climate change, more progressive on social issues, will maintain better relations with our allies and keep us safe while avoiding senseless military conflicts? And which one will act in a manner consistent with your values when making appointments and signing legislation? Bernie and Hillary are pretty well aligned, for the most part. (Yes, Hilary's been far more hawkish, but she's also shown a willingness to revise her position based on evidence. That's not flip-flopping in my book; that's pragmatism.)

Meanwhile, Trump would use the power of the Presidency to push very a different - and at this point, pretty mysterious - agenda. (We don't really know what he'd do. He's been pretty light on policy positions and tactical details so far. We just know it'll be crazy and dangerous and sad.)

If you won't listen to me, listen to Moby: 

"Neither Hilary nor Bernie will save us… Because they are politicians. But I do believe that either one of them would make a perfectly fine president and would be about 1 million times better than president Donald Trump. This election should not be about personalities, it should be exclusively about the issues." [Moby's full post]