Economist Robert Reich, a man whose insights on matters of economics and public policy I respect dearly, and whom I’ve referenced numerous times on this blog, took to his own website to weigh on the refrain he’s heard from numerous Bernie Sanders supporters who see little difference between the two major-party candidates for President of the United States this election cycle. In a piece entitled “Why You Must Get Behind Hillary, Now,” Reich makes an impassioned plea to those voters contemplating a protest vote, whether based on the notion Hillary Clinton is no better than Donald Trump, that if she is better she’s still corrupt, or that the Democratic Party doesn’t deserve our vote owing to their shenanigans. His response to these justifications for choosing anyone but Hillary is threefold:
1. Trump is a crazy asshole.
Robert Reich here is not so much making a defense of Hillary Clinton, who he acknowledges is not perfect, as much as he is pointing out Donald Trump’s flaws. Namely that he’s dangerously unqualified, full of himself, and racist as all hell. Clinton, at the very least, is very qualified. As we’ve heard 10,000 times this campaign, HRC is supremely qualified.
2. Trump is an evil, crazy asshole.
Forget the “lesser of two evils,” says Reich. Trump may actually be pure evil. I’ve talked about how voting him into office is making a deal with the Devil, but this literally may be the case. In all seriousness, Robert Reich here is urging Bernie supporters to be “realistic and practical” in making their choice, insisting they are not abandoning their progressive principles or “selling out” by voting for Clinton. Even though that’s totally what it feels like.
3. I know you don’t want to reward the stupid Democratic Party for being stupid, but don’t potentially punish future generations because of it.
Here, Reich stresses again the need to advance progressive values in accordance with the formation of an economic and political system that adequately represents working Americans. The first priority, however, is beating Donald Trump. Without that, argues Robert Reich, the revolution can’t get started, and will only get set back further because of it.
Of course, I am paraphrasing Reich’s more tactful verbiage for (debatable) entertainment value. Creative license aside, I agree, broadly speaking, with the above points. Certainly, I submit to the assertion Trump does not deserve your vote, and assuming the lesser of two evils paradigm, Hillary wins on that count as well. As for voting for Donald Trump to stick it to Clinton and the other establishment Democrats, by punishing the DNC, you are by proxy rewarding a self-destructive Republican Party that should have never allowed Trump to rise so high in the first place. While voting for Hillary Clinton does not equal a vote for a true progressive, electing Donald Trump is moving even further from these ideals. To borrow an analogy I witnessed on Twitter, voting for Trump instead of Clinton after supporting Bernie Sanders is like ordering, because you can’t have the hot dogs you really want, a bowl of scorpions instead. Robert Reich closes his entry with this stark reminder:
There are just over seven weeks until Election Day. My request to those of you who still don’t want to vote for Hillary Clinton: please reconsider. It is no exaggeration to say the fate of the nation and the world are at stake.
Rather doom-and-gloom, no? Still, I believe Reich is only speaking in such a sobering way because of the gravity of the situation. Donald Trump should not be President of the United States, and if he does win the race, he will probably be a disaster in this role. There’s no need to mince words in this regard—not at this late hour.
Robert Reich is completely right to make this appeal to voters’ better judgment. That we’re less than two months away from the election in November, however, and he’s still having to try to convince Bernie supporters and other would-be protest voters there is a difference between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, does not bode well for his ability or anyone else’s, for that matter, to sway their opinions. Having far fewer Facebook subscribers to my name, I am in a yet worse position to change the minds of those in dissent. This notwithstanding, let’s review their charges as enumerated by Mr. Reich which may be key to understanding the depths of the #HillNo resistance:
1. Hillary Clinton is no better than Donald Trump.
As Matthew Berry of ESPN fantasy sports might say, “This is factually incorrect.” Hillary Clinton is certainly better than Donald Trump. Trump has not only built a campaign on a Mexican wall that is absurdly ill-advised and would be incredibly wasteful, but he has run on a platform of jingoistic hate speech. Clinton, for her part, has tried to capitalize on her primary competitor’s most offensive remarks, even busting out the slogan “love trumps hate” with obvious allusion to her Republican rival as part of this attempt to distinguish herself to independent and undecided voters. Of course, the concern with Hillary is that she has repressed genuine emotion for so long she can’t actually feel love anymore, much as an android might claim to express love for a pet cat, so that is its own issue. Regardless of her robo-feelings, Hillary Clinton is a better choice than Donald Trump. This does not necessarily mean she is good, mind you, just better than the major-party alternative.
2. Clinton is corrupt.
Um, yeah, but so is Trump. For all that has been said about Hillary Clinton, her E-mails and potential ethical and legal violations occurring with respect to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Victory Fund, Donald Trump still hasn’t released his tax returns, and has a history of cheating people out of money. In fact, it often seems, when they are not intentionally trying to lose the race by saying something stupid (especially Trump), some unsavory detail about their present situation or past misdeeds surfaces to make us wonder whether or not they have been purposely aiming to out-corrupt one another. In my mind, calling Hillary Clinton corrupt without indicting Donald Trump of the same is allowing a professional con man to fool you by deflecting or by using legal smoke and mirrors to hide his wrongdoing. Clinton’s no saint, but Trump very well may be going to Hell at the end of his story. You know, assuming he’s not Beelzebub to begin with.
3. The Democratic Party doesn’t deserve our vote.
This is probably true. Concordant with Robert Reich’s aforementioned arguments, however, neither does the backwards Republican Party, whose convention was eschewed by both Justin Bieber and Tim Tebow, and which Third Eye Blind—yes, “Semi-Charmed Life” playing Third Eye f**king Blind—performed at just to troll the attendees. The GOP has allowed itself to essentially become an enemy of homosexuals, minorities, sensible gun laws, science, women’s rights and the working class, among other groups. The Democratic establishment may not have done much to earn our vote, but much of the Republican establishment is an embarrassment to the American freedoms it claims to protect.
While perhaps unlikely, this thinking could become moot once the presidential debates begin and a yet larger segment of the population gets to witness how completely deficient Donald Trump is in the areas of domestic and foreign policy. Which is pretty much all the policy there is to discuss, so here’s hoping Trump can really put his proverbial foot in his mouth—and often. Still, less than 50 days away from the general election, if we’re still having to wax theoretical about whether the American public might comprehend how deeply unfit Donald Trump is for the highest office in the United States, perhaps we’re barking up the wrong tree. That is, even putting aside his incredible insensitivity toward blacks, the disabled, Jews, members of the media, Mexicans, Muslims, spouses of political rivals, veterans, victims of gun violence, women, and probably scores more groups I can’t immediately bring to mind—admittedly a tough ask, by the way—that the man has nothing developed to his political credit beyond a very costly plan for immigration reform which will only alienate the international community, and that voters don’t see through this fatal flaw, gives many among us pause and makes us wonder why they don’t get this. Unless they do grasp this much, and support him anyway, which, I submit, is ten times worse. If they can’t appreciate this simple truth, then appeals to logic along the lines of Robert Reich’s probably won’t make much of an impact either. For his avid supporters, Trump and his “truthiness” tends to win over more objective measures.
Knowing this, from a campaign strategy perspective, how do we pursue the necessary votes to keep Donald Trump from the White House? As per the usual, the results of polls may vary, but despite her best efforts, Hillary Clinton is still ahead nationally by a slim margin of about 5%. Of course, if we’re familiar with our old friend the electoral college, we know that presidential races are not won based on overall votes, but owing to performance in individual states, necessitating the elaboration of convoluted what-if scenarios and giving John King another chance to satisfy his apparent touch-screen map fetish. With this in mind, on the state-by-state front, other polls would indicate that the race is more or less neck-and-neck in key battleground/swing states, and with Hillary possibly galvanizing the cause for Trump among his potential supporters with her “basket of deplorables” comment, the presidential race may be even closer than most of us think. Taking this all into account, let’s finally talk turkey on how to address the looming specter of a Donald Trump presidency:
1. Look to recent history to demonstrate that Donald Trump could totally f**king win.
For all the doomsday bluster about Donald Trump possibly winning the presidency that I’ve seen contained in the litany of E-mails I currently receive because of my affiliation as a registered Democrat (which only came about because I wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders in my state primary), as well as my contributions to charitable causes and political campaigns, Democrats, on the whole, don’t seem to be taking this whole voting thing as seriously as the Republican base is, or at least not seriously enough to inspire any real sense of confidence heading into November.
By now, we should understand that if there’s one thing cranky old whites—or COWs, as I call them—like to do: it’s vote. (Presumably, this is second among their favorite things next to telling kids to get off their lawn.) In recent American history, the 2010 mid-term elections were a shellacking of Democratic Party candidates, likely at the hands of voters who were either already disenfranchised with President Obama’s policies, or never wanted a black president in the first place. This occurred, in part, to an overall low voter turnout rate. In international history, but even more recently, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. It still feels weird to say. Turnout was higher in this referendum vote, and the victory for Team Leave was much less decisive than in the 2010 U.S. mid-terms, but on the strength of—you guessed it, herd-mentality COWs scared about Muslims and convinced by unrealistic economic processes—pro-Brexit forces were able to win the day, and as many submit, endanger Britain’s economic future. (Good job, lords and ladies!) The parallels to this presidential election are, by now, obvious. If nothing else, Democrats who avidly support Hillary Clinton need to vote to cancel out the likely-more-committed GOP voters. You wanted her—now you have to elect her.
2. Stop treating Hillary as more than the alternative to Trump.
This is perhaps a microcosm of the race as a whole, and if nothing else, is telling as to where we are in the seemingly never-ending 2016 presidential campaign. In explaining why he plans to vote for Hillary Clinton in the upcoming election at a public debate against Rep. David Jolly (R), former governor of Florida and Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist said this of the potential Madam President: “The thing I like most about her is steady. I believe she is strong. I believe she is honest.” After that last bit, though, the crowd didn’t cheer or applaud. They laughed—and since there was no one to laugh with, they must have been laughing at her. See, here’s the thing: for all the people who think Hillary Clinton has been unfairly targeted by Republicans and has come out of all her trials by fire unburnt, there are as many people or more who just aren’t buying what the Clinton campaign and an army of Democratic supporters are selling. They don’t see her as a sound decision-maker, especially when considering her tenure as Secretary of State and her penchant for promoting regime change. They don’t view her as likely to keep her progressive promises if she makes it to the White House. They don’t reckon she is particularly strong, though this likely has something to do with presumed doubts about her physical health, something I feel should be off-limits, but tell that to her detractors. And most importantly, they don’t believe she is honest. Not in the slightest.
So, let’s dispense with the rhetoric for all but the bottiest of the Hillbots and the staunchest of the Democratic Party loyalists. If you’re voting for Hillary Clinton, there’s a strong likelihood you’re not voting for Hillary Clinton. You’re voting for cold neoliberal pragmatism. You’re voting for incremental progress. Perhaps you’re voting strictly to usher in the first female president, or to continue the legacy/precedent set by Barack Obama—whatever you think that entails. But you’re voting first and foremost to block Donald Trump. We don’t need any more than that.
3. Specifically for the woman herself, don’t try to be likable. (After all, it hasn’t really worked all that well anyway.)
This is akin to what Bill Maher was asking of Hillary Clinton a short while back when he told her to embrace her dark side and become the “Notorious HRC,” the “super-villain” Republicans and Bernie-or-Busters conceive of her to be. Hillary apologized after her “basket of deplorables” remark, but only on the aspect of calling “half” of Trump’s supporters by this term, and without a hint of irony, at that. While it was indeed an ill-advised comment by Clinton, for once, it would be refreshing if she would simply double-down on what many see as a gaffe by her, refuse to apologize—even though she didn’t really give a full apology to begin with—and do something to inspire her base of support. “You want me to say sorry for calling half of you ‘deplorables.” Well, I am sorry—sorry I didn’t call all of you that! My opponent is an asshole. If you like him, you’re probably one too! Don’t care for what I’m telling you? Want to call me a ‘bitch’ about it? Good. I’m the baddest bitch in these United States! Sorry—I ain’t sorry.”
In this way, Hillary Clinton could take a cue from Beyoncé, or perhaps even channel her inner Kelis. In the lead-in to her 2006 single “Bossy,” Kelis speaks, “You don’t have to love me/You don’t even have to like me/But you will respect me.” Why? Because she’s a motherf**king boss! That’s the kind of attitude that galvanizes your own base as much as it does the other side. That’s the Democratic Party representative we need! Show them who wears the pantsuits in this race, Hillary!
Suggestion #3 is obviously unlikely to be put into practice, even though, like Tyrion Lannister telling the witnesses to his trial he wishes he could be the monster they’ve made him out to be—and that he had enough poison to wipe out the lot of them—I’m sure a lot of people would love the chutzpah Hillary Clinton would demonstrate to tell millions of prospective voters she doesn’t care what they think about her and that she can run the country a hell of a lot better than stupid Donald Trump. Then, presumably, there would be a trial by combat or something. Maybe a head smashed in or two. Now that would be some sort of political process!
Unfortunately, we aren’t apt to see HRC throw shade on a sizable portion of the electorate, drop the mic, and walk away, nor is it conceivable we would observe Donald Trump being mutilated by a gargantuan man likened to a geological formation. Instead, though, arguably the best approach for the Clinton campaign would be to encourage the most fervent supporters to cast their vote, cut their losses with potential voters who can’t see past Trump’s more glaring flaws, and in general, give less of a shit about what people think outside of actual polling numbers. Hillary, you’ve been dancing with Trump and around the truth for months now. It’s time to punch him in the mouth and see if he has the glass jaw we imagine he does.