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Monday, October 24, 2016

I'm Voting for Hillary Clinton

This is not an evisceration. It's not a take-down. Like most people this year, I've had many thoughts about our presidential candidates. I've avoided making one-off posts and getting into political arguments on social media this year. Instead, I wanted to write a researched, considered argument for why I plan to vote the way I do. I think Donald Trump would be a potentially catastrophic president. I also think that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are both unfit for the office. In the end, I'm planning to vote for Hillary Clinton, and I'm planning to be happy about it.

First, let's discuss Donald Trump. I worry about his intolerance, I worry about his temperament, and I don't believe that he's the economic genius he purports to be. Trump has famously spoken out against Mexican and Muslim immigrants,[1][2] and he seems to regard nonwhite Americans as lesser citizens.[3] Time and again, dictators have used this "us versus them" mentality to gain power. In my mind, this is a huge red flag. Trump has bragged about how he would be militarily unpredictable,[4] and he has become famous for his thin-skinned rants on Twitter.[5] I believe this shows he has a temperament unbecoming of a candidate for president of the United States. Still, many people excuse all these flaws, saying that he has the financial know-how to be a great president. I disagree. Trump has spent much of his campaign calling NAFTA a disaster[6] and lamenting America's loss of manufacturing jobs. But nonpartisan groups have called NAFTA's impact "relatively modest."[7] Rather than trade agreements, technology has eliminated the need for some jobs while creating others. Finally, Trump hasn't even done exceptionally well with his own finances. An article in The Federalist argued that Paris Hilton is better at business than he is,[8] and Fortune has pointed out that he be richer now if he'd invested his inheritance in index funds.[9] Based on his intolerance and temperament, I don't think Trump would make a good president, and I don't think his limited financial success means that we should ignore his rough edges.

Along with the two major-party candidates, I've also considered both third-party candidates. I don't fully buy the argument that a third-party vote is a throw-away vote. However, I'm not really impressed by either candidate. Johnson's politics are not really in line with mine, but even putting that aside, he's shown a surprising lack of awareness of the world, and even the US, bumbling questions about world leaders, Harriet Tubman, and domestic attacks.[10] As for Jill Stein, she and I are more politically compatible, but I still think she'd be a terrible president. On multiple occasions, she has fanned the flames of conspiracy theories, such as the dangers of WiFi, and she also seems to lack a grip on reality.[11] Both candidates seem like they really want to make a statement with their candidacies, but I'm not sure that either actually wants to be president.

And that brings us to Hillary Clinton. I've mentioned that I support her, but I haven't talked about how I got to this place. In the primaries, Bernie seemed like an interesting choice. I really liked some of his ideas, like taking away power from big banks, and he seemed unscathed by politics. As time passed, though, I wondered whether he'd be able to achieve any of his lofty goals, and I became more comfortable with supporting Hillary.

Plenty of people find Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to be equally concerning, but I think many of the concerns about Hillary can be addressed. The most basic, and abstract, is that she can't be trusted; she's crooked. I, too, shared some of this concern heading into the campaign season. However, as the election approached, I decided to spend some time actually confirming or refuting these concerns. After some research, I found a surprising background story. As it happens, much of this crooked/congenital liar/impropriety mythology goes all the way back to the 1990s. William Safire penned a later-discredited take-down piece which set the wheels in motion.[12] Likewise, since the 90s, Republican congressmen have propagated conspiracy theories attempting to implicate the Clintons in the deaths of dozens of people.[13] As one article put it, "it's tough to name anyone conservatives have more vigorously derided throughout the years than Hillary Clinton."[14] In my opinion, it would be irresponsible to let this type of conspiracy-mongering dictate how I vote.

One of the more recent, more fact-based arguments against Hillary has been the question of her use of a personal email server while she was Secretary of State. This is an area in which I do have some expertise, given my degree in computer science and my career in information technology. The truth is that I do find this email saga troubling. I know that my employer would not be happy were they to find that I had been forwarding company documents to my personal account. However, my concern is somewhat mitigated by the stories of Colin Powell's recommendations to do just what she did.[15] It's also relevant that FBI Director James Comey found no case to bring criminal charges against her.[16] Based on my reading of his statement, he did not find a solid case that she intentionally or grossly negligently mishandled information, and he basically found that her behavior was par for the course for the State Department. It's unfortunate that she was careless with such important information, but I don't think that this necessarily makes her a terrible person or disqualifies her presidential candidacy. So, in summary, I don't think she's a saint, but I don't think she's the villain she's often thought to be.

On a side note, I've also seen some Facebook friends who feel that their Christian values don't allow them to vote for a Democrat; in this case, Hillary Clinton. I don't have as much to personally say about that, but I have read two really good articles by Christian authors on the topic. See the links below.[17][18]

But what good has Hillary Clinton done? Last year, Carly Fiorina quipped, "If you want to stump a Democrat, ask them to name an accomplishment of Hillary Clinton." It's easy to miss her accomplishments, given the popular focus on all her negatives. If you look, though, her accomplishments are not hard to find. As a senator, she helped investigate health issues of 9/11 first responders, among many other things, and as Secretary of State, she was well-traveled and raised the bar for diplomacy.[19] She led the charge on the Lilly Ledbetter Act, negotiated a cease-fire in Gaza, and helped ramp up sanctions on Iran.[20] Finally, in my opinion, her platform for this election is an appealing one. She's pushing for affordable college, protecting and expanding access to healthcare, and rolling back Citizens United.[21] In my opinion, these are all good things.

So yes, I'm planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. I could go on and on about almost any sentence in this post, and I could get really negative about any of these candidates. However, I've done my best here to summarize my thoughts on each of the candidates, and hopefully bring a little bit more thoughtfulness to the social media climate. I hope you'll go vote this November 8, and I hope you'll spend some time to get beyond the snarky headlines and sound bites.

  1. "Here’s Donald Trump’s Presidential Announcement Speech," CNN, June 16, 2015.
  2. "Trump Trots Out Bogus San Bernardino Myth That Smears Muslim Americans," Talking Points Memo, October 9, 2016.
  3. "Donald Trump's horrifying words about Muslims," CNN, November 21, 2015.
  4. "Transcript: Donald Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech," New York Times, April 27, 2016.
  5. "This latest Trump tweetstorm is far more than petty," The Washington Post, September 30, 2016.
  6. "Trump calls NAFTA a 'disaster,'" CBS News, September 25, 2015.
  7. "The North American Free Trade Agreement," Congressional Research Service, April 16, 2015.
  8. "Paris Hilton Is Better At Business Than Donald Trump Is," The Federalist, December 10, 2015.
  9. "Donald Trump would be richer if he'd have invested in index funds," Fortune, August 20, 2015.
  10. "Both third-party candidates would be terrible presidents," The Washington Post, September 29, 2016.
  11. "Friends Don’t Let Friends Vote for Jill Stein," Tablet, August 10, 2016.
  12. "Press, lies and Hillary’s campaign: Years of smears have created a fictional version of Clinton. They’re also a disservice to voters." Salon, September 6, 2016.
  13. "Fact Check: Clinton Body Bags," Snopes, July 7, 2016.
  14. "If You're Liberal and You Think Hillary Clinton Is Corrupt and Untrustworthy, You're Rewarding 25 Years of GOP Smears," The Daily Banter, January 31, 2016.
  15. "Hillary Clinton's emails with Colin Powell released," CNN, September 8, 2016.
  16. "Statement by FBI Director James B. Comey on the Investigation of Secretary Hillary Clinton’s Use of a Personal E-Mail System," FBI National Press Office, July 5, 2016.
  17. "A Declaration by American Evangelicals Concerning Donald Trump," change.org, October 7, 2016.
  18. "So you’re thinking of voting for a pro-choice candidate..." Rachel Held Evans, August 2, 2016.
  19. "Hillary Clinton's Accomplishments Speak for Themselves," US News, February 19, 2014.
  20. "What Is Hillary’s Greatest Accomplishment?" Politico, September 17, 2015.
  21. "Hillary Clinton's top 10 campaign promises," PolitiFact, July 22, 2016.

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