This article, my first back from my mid-winter hiatus, is something of a departure for me. Although I do discuss current political issues very occasionally on this blog, I’ve never flat-out endorsed one political candidate over another. On the other hand I’ve never taken any particular pains to disguise or minimize my political beliefs. This coming week (the week of February 1, 2016), voters in the U.S. will begin going to the polls in the primary process to choose party candidates for President of the United States. Though nearly every politician says that every election is “the most important election in our lifetime,” historically there’s plenty of reason to believe that, in the case of 2016, it’s actually true. Therefore the matter of who should sit in the Oval Office is even more crucial now than it usually is. To that end I thought it was fair and appropriate to break tradition on this blog and express a purely political opinion, that being the reasons why I firmly support Hillary Rodham Clinton above any other candidate running for the office–recognizing that this is an unpopular opinion among my friends and social circle, the majority of whom support her Democratic opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
Let me say, first of all, that I like Sanders and I like many of his political positions. If he is the Democratic nominee for President this summer, I’ll support him without reservation in the general election. Without any shadow of doubt, the most important single issue facing the United States and the world right now is climate change. The unfortunate fact that not a single one of the Republican presidential candidates even believes in the proven scientific reality of anthropogenic climate change automatically disqualifies all of them from serious consideration as President of the United States–to say nothing of the various other compelling reasons why each of them, and particularly the Republican frontrunner (you know who I mean), are unsuitable. Bernie Sanders, of course, does believe in climate change and if elected would make climate change issues a centerpiece of his administration. Senator Sanders could, I think, be trusted to preserve and build on the positive gains of the Obama administration, particularly the Affordable Care Act and the international commitments made by the U.S. at the Paris climate change summit. But, that said, there are a number of reasons why I think Secretary Clinton is a much better choice.
Alone among the candidates for President in either party, Hillary Clinton has proven experience in all the major realms of Presidential qualification: diplomacy, foreign policy, legislation, administration, and the political process.
First and foremost is this: no candidate running is even close to being as qualified for the office as Hillary. Indeed she’s possibly the most qualified candidate ever to seek the office in modern times. In addition to serving as Secretary of State and Senator from New York, Hillary Clinton spent eight years closely observing nearly every major decision made in the White House, both in domestic and foreign affairs, and undoubtedly participated in guiding President Bill Clinton in his decision-making process. She knows firsthand the political process, the press, international diplomacy, legislative policy, electoral politics and military policy. The only candidates in the last 50 years who can come anywhere as close to being as well-prepared for the Presidency as Hillary is would be Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, and even then I’m skeptical that their long tenures as Vice-President gave them the same hands-on training for statecraft as Hillary’s years as First Lady. The moment she takes her hand off the Bible after taking the oath of office she’ll be ready to handle anything and everything the world can throw at her. I have no such confidence in Sanders, who has long experience in the Senate but little executive experience.
Second: foreign policy. Secretary Clinton is uniquely skilled at diplomacy, having circled the world numerous times as President Obama’s Secretary of State. She understands how the world really works, she’s a tough negotiator and appreciates the give-and-take of international politics. Put her in a room with Vladimir Putin and I have no doubt she’ll represent the interests of the United States better than anyone else running for the job. Again, I don’t know how Sanders would do against Putin, or even with leaders of our ostensible allies like the UK’s David Cameron or France’s Francois Hollande. Coordinating an effective response to climate change is going to take a great deal of international cooperation, more so as time goes on. Clinton can do this. She’s also uniquely positioned to continue and strengthen Obama’s foreign policy successes, such as the entree to Cuba and the Iran nuclear deal. Sanders will require on-the-job training.
Hillary’s experience as First Lady gives her a set of qualifications and experience for the Presidency that no other candidate in American history has ever had. Here she is aboard Air Force One in 1993.
Third: terrorism. The next President is going to face serious problems from extremists and terrorists in the next four years. I’m not talking only about Islamist militants overseas like Daesh (ISIS). As the recent events at the Malheur Refuge in Oregon demonstrate, hostile anti-government elements from within American society pose as significant a threat to the rule of law as foreign terrorist groups do. Right-wing militia extremism is at an all-time high. Hillary Clinton, having observed from within the White House events like the Waco siege and the Oklahoma City bombing, knows how to (and how not to) deal with these threats wisely and judiciously. Sanders has zero experience with them. This is a strong argument for Hillary.
Fourth: the political process. The reality is that until political redistricting after the 2020 census can roll back the artificially gerrymandered Congressional districts that give Republicans an artificial advantage, Congress is likely to remain as intransigent in the next administration as it has been in Obama’s. Therefore a significant portion of the next President’s political job is going to be to find ways to act in meaningful ways without Congress, whether through executive orders, the courts, or existing agencies and bureaucracies. I trust Hillary Clinton to be more effective at this than Bernie Sanders, who, for all the hopeful promise of his ideas, is mostly an “ideas man.” While I love Sanders’s populist rhetoric, and it’s neither glamorous nor popular right now to vaunt political shrewdness as a virtue, the truth is that political shrewdness gets things done in the real world. I want a President who gets things done. Furthermore, Hillary has, for 20+ years now, become skilled at shutting down the meritless “scandals” drummed up by her and Bill’s political opponents. She’s adept at dealing with those too. Look how deftly she defused the Benghazi witch hunt in her 11 hours of testimony in front of a hostile Congressional committee. If Republicans tried to destroy President Bernie Sanders with another fake “scandal,” as will surely be tempting, how confident can we be that he can defuse it quickly and get on with the people’s business?
Let’s not forget that if Hillary goes to the White House, Bill goes with her. His wisdom and experience will complement hers–that’s a powerful asset.
Fifth: the glass ceiling. Let me be clear on this point. I don’t think we should elect a particular candidate to the Presidency solely because of her gender (nor should we decline to support another candidate solely because of his). But if the most qualified candidate in the race happens to be a woman, doesn’t the fact that electing the most qualified candidate would also happen mark a significant milestone for gender equality in American history merely strengthen the case for that candidate? Hillary’s commitment to gender equality, equal pay, reproductive freedom and health care are deep and unquestioned. While I certainly believe Bernie Sanders would advance these causes too, Hillary’s election can accomplish something for gender equality that Bernie’s couldn’t. Following the first African-American President with the first woman President would be an unmistakable mark of social change and progress. Most other Western democracies long ago elected their first female leaders. The United States has yet to do this. Since Hillary is already the best person for the job regardless of gender, we lose nothing by seizing the chance to shatter the glass ceiling once and for all.
I hope I have made a rational, logical and compelling case for why Hillary Clinton should be the next President of the United States. While I wish Bernie Sanders well (and, as I said before, I’ll support him if he’s the nominee), this vitally important election requires the wisest and most careful choice. I choose Hillary, and I’m with her.