5 Nov 2016

Vote Hillary Clinton

Hello readers!

You may be wondering what Alex is up to. How goes the new edition of the Necromancer? Will it be out this November? Has Alex contacted reviewers and built up an audience?

The answer to all those questions is of course yes: I have been most occupied with republishing the new edition of the Necromancer. However, as you may be able to guess, that is not the topic of this post. Rather, it is indeed—as the title alludes—to that most vexing of political questions: American presidential elections.

Alex’s reasons for entertaining this topic are relatively straightforward: American elections are more important than, say, Icelandic elections; and this particular election has some particularly interesting politics involved. Being a student of political science, I am inevitably drawn to it.

Anyway, let’s proceed to the introduction.

Introduction

Ordinarily, I do not partake in American politics. I don’t write about it; I scarcely even follow it; and I don’t waste time thinking about it. The reasons are multifold—the most compelling is that I live 5000 kilometres away. And directly inline with that, I don’t consider them relevant to my life.

Oh sure: American politics is Trumped up (yes, I know) to no end. But in reality, the French, German, Spanish and Italian elections—while rather less glamorous—are far more important in the scope of European politics. They will determine the deal that Britain gets after Brexit, or the EU funds available to construct infrastructure projects in Romania, or the specifics of monetary policy that affect Dutch exporters.

This leads me to my third gripe with American politics: it is excessively sensationalised. In fact it resembles not so much an election as a national popularity contest (intermixed with a healthy dose of showbiz, naturally). It’s hard to take seriously—the unseriousness of it is terribly offputting.

Another explanation may be my own personal politics. I am a Socialist; I make Bernie Sanders look like a laidback moderate. Being far to the left of the American political spectrum can make the whole debate resemble a popularity contest between a billionaire whose favourite colour is red, and another who prefers blue.

I admit it does breed a certain contempt. I do not speak here of nationalism, or even the voguish Anti-Americanism of the kind espoused by critics of American foreign policy. I mean an ideological contempt; the whole of American politics seems altogether sordid to me. The eminent HL Mencken, an American strongly critical of that nation’s government, put it more eloquently than I:

In the present case it is a little inaccurate to say I hate everything. I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible to any public office of trust or profit in the Republic

But, let us move on. Now that you know my background and the perspective I am approaching the issue from, allow me to elucidate on my stance.

Clinton versus Trump: Crook versus Crook?

On one side of the arena we have Donald Trump. He is a walking embodiment of every American stereotype I’ve come across: unctuously nationalist, blatantly avaricious, clearly ignorant, spectacularly sexist, and of course racist.

Opposing him, there is Hillary Clinton. Numerous criticisms have been levelled at her: she’s arrogant, hawkish, and in the pockets of Wall Street. The narrative of some among the American left—and several commentators of various political stripes here on the Continent—is that the two are virtually indistinguishable. Crook versus crook, or perhaps even Satan versus the Devil.

This narrative is plausible, but wrong.

It is, in fact, dangerously wrong. You may be surprised to hear this: after all, am I not a Socialist? How can I possibly support Hillary Clinton?

You’d be right on one level—I would have preferred a Sanders presidency. Nonetheless, we must deal with what we have. The registered Democrats chose not to elect Sanders, so now the US must face a stark choice: the presidency of a moron, bully, and megalomaniac; or the presidency of a less than ideal woman.

And that, at the end of the day, is the reality. Clinton is not the devil. I do not mean to say that she is perfect—indeed her links to Wall Street all but guarantee she won’t try anything too radical. America needs someone better than Clinton. The millions in poverty, and the grotesque face of American inequality, will not be resolved by a little centrist tinkering.

Incidentally, I am aware that Clinton’s language has become more Berniesque following her succession to the Democratic mantle. Some of it is genuine: she does strongly support the right of a woman to have an abortion, or the need for serious gun control.

I don’t believe she will usher a new era in economic thought, however—that was Bernie’s ticket. Clinton is just a centrist employing the language of the left, because it is politically expedient to do so. This is not to disparage her necessarily—sometimes it is smart to make the right noises—but merely to highlight that Clinton’s plans for a fair economy are grounded more in rhetoric than in real substance.

But for all that, the woman is still infinitely preferable to the alternative.

It’s not just that she’s less bad; that she’s not misogynistic, racist, or actively engaged in trampling over the proletariat by dodging taxes and outsourcing to Mexico. (Ironically, in the case of the latter.)

The woman is genuinely a nicer alternative. Despite some of her politics, there is a great deal to commend in her. She is highly competent, having proven herself in various roles of upper government; her grasp of public policy is strong, particularly in (for example) carbon-free energy and corporate taxation; and while not likely to shake the nest too much, she is also unlikely to bring it down.

A particularly striking example of the latter would be foreign policy. Trump’s misdeavours in this regard are almost without parallel: from building a wall with Mexico, weakening NATO, being friends with the Russian kleptocracy, and—worst of all—threatening to use nuclear weapons render him temperamentally unfit to be president.

Some of us here in the Continent are sadly naive about Trump’s foreign policy regime. Typically, these are young, naive, left-leaning students who are angry with Clinton’s interventions in Iraq and Libya.

Even setting aside the complexities of those cases—and they are complex, far beyond the narrow-minded narratives of the Anti-American psyche—believing that Donald Trump will be better in this regard is foolish, to put it mildly. It’s not just that the man is foolhardy, ignorant, and has a towering vanity matched only by his nationalist fervour; it’s that Trump is fundamentally more inclined to war than even Hillary Clinton.

One should not confuse Trump’s professed trade isolationism with military isolationism. Throughout history, the two have been rather distinct. Trump may want to build a wall and impose tariffs—but he also wants to spend money in the military, and put it to use fighting Isis. He does, after all, regularly attack Clinton for being too soft on terrorists. Is that really what you want, Stop the War advocates?

The Third Party Question

The final question I wish to address is that of the alternative: why not vote for a third party?

There are two very good reasons for why you shouldn’t. The first is often repeated: in the American electoral system, a vote for Jill Stein is de facto a vote for Trump, and a vote for Johnson is de facto a vote for Clinton.

The other reason—which is perhaps even better—is that the other two candidates are piss-poor. Johnson, a libertarian, is no better than Trump: his socioeconomic policy will prove a disaster so profound even Trump won’t be able to match it. People will literally die of cold, hunger, and disease on America’s streets. (And let’s not even touch on the man’s ignorance of Aleppo, documented live on television.)

As for Jill Stein? She lives in cloud cuckoo land. 100% renewable energy by 2030? Impossible: there is nowhere near enough storage capacity in the grid to allow it. Creating 20 million jobs by doing it? Pure fantasy. A return to 18th century agriculture? The world will starve.

Conclusion

My conclusion mirrors my title: vote Hillary Clinton. Of course I do not hand out my recommendation without caveats (you should know that I always caveat). The woman isn’t perfect: her economic policy will not be sufficient to deal with that country’s problems; her record on LGBT rights is complex; and there is reason to be weary of her links with Wall Street. America is a corrupt country. (Yes, it’s true.)

But if the worst that can be said about Hillary is that she’s not ideal, than far worse can be leveled against Trump: diplomatically, he would be a disaster; in foreign policy there’s no telling what he would do; and his economic policy will be worse than Hillary’s. Clinton just won’t make things much better than they are; Trump will make sure they worsen.

Aside from being unfit to lead, the man himself is odious. He’s a corrupt businessman who bankrupted himself 70 times and doesn’t pay taxes; he believes Mexicans are rapists; he thinks all Muslims are unconditionally evil; and he likes to grope women. The only good thing I can say about him is that he’s not homophobic.

And for all of Hillary’s problems, I like her. She’s competent—and I deeply admire competence. Her position on renewable energy, climate change, and fracking is one I find particularly well-informed. One need not vote for her with an upturned nose; in fact she will make a decent President, no worse than the others that have gone before her.

Anyway, that’s it for today. I will conclude with a warming, handed out by HL Mencken eighty years ago, but still all too relevant today:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

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