Dear Bernie or busters, basketed deplorables, third party flirts and other Hillary haters:
Some of you have challenged me to provide an affirmative defense for why I’m voting for Hillary Clinton for president, rather than mere disgust with her opponent. No problem.
First, let me admit my bias. I voted for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama in 2008 because I thought she was more experienced, especially in regards to dealing with Republicans and the right-wing slime machine. But after Obama beat Clinton in the primaries, I voted for him, twice, and believe that despite a recalcitrant Congress, he moved the country in the right direction, including Obamacare and a less interventionist foreign policy. I would hate to see his legacy sullied by someone who wants to destroy it for reasons that are more personal than political.
As for Hillary, when Bill Clinton wasn’t being Philanderer in Chief, he was being Triangulator in Chief. Hillary is also a triangulator, so one way to think of her is to imagine Bill Clinton without a penis. It’s not sexy or inspiring, but one reason I’m voting for Clinton is because she’s boring.
Triangulate means taking a position on a political issue that is neither liberal nor conservative, but a balance or synthesis of both sides. Ironically, the term “triangulate” was coined in 1996 by then-President Bill Clinton’s chief political strategist, Republican political operative (and vociferous Hillary hater) Dick Morris. Actually, it’s a repackaging of an old idea that has also been called “the art of the possible,” “bipartisanship,” “deal-making,” “moderation” and “compromise.”
But in an age when compromise has become a dirty word, so has triangulate. Splitting the difference tends to alienate activists on both sides, and the more polarized a society becomes, the fewer centrists are left to create a winning coalition. As the oft quoted poet W.B. Yeats once put it, “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Anarchy doesn’t hold the same allure for me that it once did. Neither does becoming part of a revolution, or a movement to “make America great again.” As a white male, I recognize the world is changing, and a reshuffling of the social order is not just inevitable but appropriate. Thus, I’m all for change, but I prefer incremental to disruptive change. America has many problems, but I don’t believe the apocalypse is near, so I’m not looking for a messiah, just a reasonably competent person with moderately progressive values.
And that’s the second reason I’m voting for Clinton. Love her or hate her (or somewhere in between), you know she’s a moderate progressive, or what was once called a liberal. She believes in capitalism, but she also believes that government should help those who can’t help themselves. She believes in personal freedoms, but she also believes in inclusion, diversity and equality. She believes in a robust but cautious foreign policy. She’s a champion for women’s rights, including a woman’s right to choose, and she will choose Supreme Court judges who will preserve personal liberties. And she believes in science.
She’s close to Bernie Sanders on economic issues. She wants to tax the rich more and the middle class less. She wants to raise the minimum wage and repair our decaying infrastructure. She wants to make a college education more affordable. And she’s for fixing, rather than repealing, Obamacare.
She’s for “comprehensive” immigration reform, meaning that in addition to beefing up border security and screening, she’s also for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants already here, and for taking in our fair share of refugees from Middle Eastern wars we helped start. She’s pro-trade, including trade agreements, as opposed to protectionism and tariffs. And she has worked across party lines as well as international borders to pound out agreements.
It’s hard to know what Clinton’s foreign policy might look like, since it will likely be shaped by unpredicted events. She’s far from perfect, but she didn’t order special forces to “stand down” at Benghazi, she’s not a serial killer, and she didn’t commit espionage with her private email server. It’s unclear what her opponent stands for because he has no track record, and except for the bit about building a wall, his message can change with his mood, audience and whether he’s using a teleprompter.
The third, and most visceral, reason I’m voting for Clinton is because she’s still here. Think about it. She’s been betrayed by her husband, abandoned by her party, especially its left wing, investigated by Congress, reviled by the media, and yet she’s still standing. Even her opponent said he respected that, “She doesn’t quit. She doesn’t give up.”
She was ridiculed in 1998 for describing the anti-Clinton forces as a “vast, right-wing conspiracy.” But since then it has become an entire industry, spawning anti-Hillary books and movies, tabloid “news” on her health, marriage and sexual proclivities, and websites that keep a running tally of her associates who have been “found dead.” Radio and TV commentators have made careers out of Hillary bashing, while conservative foundations funded by conservative billionaires have spent fortunes filing lawsuits, pursuing records, exposing alleged corruption, and generally harassing and smearing the Clintons, especially Hillary after Bill became an ex-president, which was 15 years ago.
For standing by her husband she has been branded an enabler and accomplice. For creating a world-changing charitable foundation she has been accused of “pay to play.” And for being in charge when four people were tragically killed in Benghazi, she has been called a liar and a coward. Little wonder she has become a deeply guarded person, who wrongly but understandably used a private server to (unsuccessfully) keep her emails away from her many political enemies.
The so-called Clinton wars go back more than 30 years, to when Bill was the attorney general of Arkansas, and she was a private attorney who was once ordered to defend a rapist. After he became governor, and then president, his affairs and their involvement in a failed business venture called the Whitewater Development Corporation eventually metastasized into the Monica Lewinsky scandal and impeachment trial. Lewinsky has since described herself as one of the first victims of mass cyberbullying as well as public shaming, and anyone who lived through that spectacle knows what she means.
The Clintons have also been bullied and shamed ever since. Through Travelgate, Chinagate, Filegate, Pardongate, allegedly looting the White House, and now the unending so-called Hillary email scandal, all the accusations have been exhaustively investigated, and she has yet to be found guilty of anything. But over time the slanderous allegations and debunked stories of Hillary’s misdeeds have created a Cosby effect — so many claims pile up that it seems at least some of them must be true. Whole generations of people have grown up hearing that Hillary Clinton is nothing but a liar and a cheat who is just out for herself, and over time they have essentially been brainwashed into believing it. The unrelenting negative publicity has also created what is known as Clinton fatigue. Yet despite the amount of hate and derision that has been directed her way, and despite the fact that she and her husband have become wealthy through giving speeches and making personal appearances, she has remained in public service, becoming a senator from New York, secretary of state, and now presidential candidate.
Perhaps it is only fitting that someone who has had to survive such withering and often sexist attacks over her entire career would find that the last hurdle she must cross to become the first female president of the United States would be the most demagogic, divisive, snarling, insulting, sexist, crass candidate imaginable. The Don Rickles of politics. A man who would bring her husband’s jilted girlfriends, the grieving parents of Benghazi victims, and the woman who’d been raped by the man she had defended decades ago, to their debates. A man who would yell in her face that she should be ashamed, and whose minions would chant “lock her up.”
I admit it. As much as I want to see Clinton win, I want to see her opponent lose. And as much as I want to see him lose, I want to see the nativists, racists, sexists and other deplorables who have been trying to bring Clinton down for more than three decades to not just be defeated but repudiated. As her opponent noted, she’s a fighter. So another way to think of Hillary Clinton is to imagine Bill Clinton with balls.