by Johnnie Grant
Making a Choice That Matters
Voting is a fundamental process that keeps our system of government working. As with every election the ballot box is the one place where everyone is equal, and voters render their most conscious and informed decisions. Through elections, citizens have the right to decide who represents them in government, be it a local, state, national representative, or president.
With that said, it is of paramount importance that our president have critical thinking skills and a long-term plan that brings us closer to chosen end goals. Our next president must also have the ability to formulate tactics and strategies in the short term, even at a moment’s notice, that might be at odds with long-term plans.
There will be no time for a learning curve, because the issues that the United States will face in 2017 are too important. And, given the enormous power of the office, every candidate for president must be judged rigorously in assessing whether he or she has the diplomacy, intelligence, knowledge, understanding, empathy, judgment, and temperament necessary to keep America on a safe and steady course.
Are you curious as to which U.S. presidential candidate best aligns with your personal views, values, and priorities?
Let’s take a look at some of what our presidential candidates have to offer the electorate:
Hillary Clinton has been in American politics for decades, as first lady of Arkansas and First Lady of the United States, then as a U.S. senator from New York and as Secretary of State in President Obama’s first administration. Her first job out of Yale Law School was working under Marion Wright Edelman for the Children’s Defense Fund to gather facts about unequal education opportunities for children with disabilities. Her research helped convince Massachusetts legislators to pass a law guaranteeing these children an equal right and opportunity for a public education. Clinton’s work—studying, analyzing, and collaborating with others to bring about positive results—set the pattern for her life.
Clinton now stands with progressives on a host of hot-button issues. She has long been an advocate for women, children, and the disabled. She is a supporter of action to address climate change, criminal-justice reform, LGBTQ equality, immigrant policies, debt-free higher education, expansion of Social Security, challenging health-care profiteering, and increasing the minimum wage. Clinton’s platform is the most progressive in the modern history of the Democratic Party.
Much of the progressive boldness of the platform is due to the candidacy of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who challenged Clinton’s caution in the Democratic primaries. Clinton had learned the lessons of overreach in the face of determined opposition (who can forget “Harry and Louise”), but she quickly rebounded from that loss with her signature incremental approach: working with Republicans in Congress to pass the CHIP program that now insures 8 million children from low-income families. During the primaries, Sanders advocated loudly for more liberal, less centrist positions, and Clinton listened. She moved left, and Sanders is now one of her strongest supporters.
America and the world
Clinton’s foreign policy experience includes extensive travels as First Lady, eight years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and visiting 112 countries as Secretary of State. It also reflects a muscular, even hawkish, bipartisan foreign-policy consensus that draws barbs from left and right. She’s backed regime change from Honduras to Libya to Syria, viewing America as the “indispensable nation” required to police the world. Her somewhat blinkered view of Israel and Palestine, with its accommodation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s aggression and tepid support for Palestinian President Mohammad Abbas, offers little comfort to those who long for a just peace in the Middle East.
Her most criticized choice was voting to give George Bush a free hand to pursue his Iraq War in 2002. Clinton eventually issued a mea culpa in 2014: “I thought I had acted in good faith and made the best decision I could with the information I had. And I wasn’t alone in getting it wrong. But I still got it wrong. Plain and simple.”
Later, when Obama began drawing down troops in Iraq, Secretary Clinton wanted to leave behind a residual force of 10,000-20,000 American troops.
The Middle East is not doing well these days. So, if Hillary Clinton becomes president, expect more active engagement in this region, by bringing the U.S. back in the direction of its traditional tendency toward intervention in the Middle East.
Clinton’s willingness to restore America as the “champion of freedom around the world” harks back to a struggle most of us thought we had put behind. This is something millennials will know only from history books—but frustrates those who wish for a new era of peace and prosperity.
On the other hand…
To younger voters, and others feeling caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, to not vote for Clinton may be summed up in two words: “Donald Trump.”
Trump has certainly been this election cycle’s most riveting figure; every day brings a fresh new revelation. He launched his campaign with a focus on immigration, calling for a wall to be built between Mexico and the United States, and demanding the deportation of 11 million undocumented immigrants.
The American Action Forum, a right-leaning policy institute based in Washington, D.C., estimates that immediately and fully enforcing current immigration laws, as Trump has suggested, would cost the federal government between $400 billion and $600 billion. This would also shrink the labor force by 11 million workers, reduce the real GDP by $1.6 trillion, and take 20 years to complete (Trump has said he could do it in 18 months).
Trump has wavered on that point, and since moved on to the question of Muslim immigration, beginning with his well-known accusations against the Muslim-American Gold Star family of a soldier killed in Iraq.
Then he insulted African Americans with a “stop-and-frisk” policy, already ruled unconstitutional, as a way of “keeping black communities safe.” And, a day after his first-ever visit to a black church congregation, in Detroit, he insulted the pastor who had invited him to speak.
This type of behavior is not new: in 1989 Trump called for the execution of the Central Park Five, a group of four black and one Hispanic teenagers who were arrested, coerced into making false confessions (without attorneys), and convicted of gang-raping a white jogger. They were exonerated in 2002 by DNA evidence and another man’s confession, and received $41 million in compensation for false arrest and imprisonment. Yet this month Trump insisted, “the men were not innocent. They admitted they were guilty. The fact that the case was settled with so much evidence against them is outrageous.”
According to Allan Lichtman of American University, “These type statements by Trump have raised the worst and most dangerous elements—like David Duke who has said, ‘Trump has made this my time.’ “It does not strain credulity to assume how some people might interpret what Trump says,” added Lichtman.
What are Trump’s economic policies, other than trickle-down economics?
Well, yes, Donald Trump is very rich. He claims he’s worth between $4.5 billion and $10 billion (though many independent analysts mention $450 million as a maximum net worth). The businessman amassed his wealth as a New York real estate developer before turning to reality television.
Now, Trump promises to use his deal-making prowess to enrich America, yet the question remains: how would that work? If we pretend major legislative hurdles didn’t exist, so that he could enact his plan, what would the U.S. economy and markets look like under a President Trump? The idea that he can make the rest of America rich with trickle-down economics is the fallacy that some Americans actually believe.
His bleak assessment of the thriving U.S. economy is at odds with the views of every other analyst. “We’re in a bubble,” he said. “And, frankly, if there’s going to be a bubble popping, I hope they pop before I become president, because I don’t want to inherit all this stuff. I’d rather it be the day before rather than the day after, I will tell you that. But, I can fix it pretty quickly,” said Trump.
In fact, unemployment is at 4.7% nationally, economic growth has averaged just under 3% annually in the past five years (with no inflation), and working Americans earned a 2.5% increase in compensation this past year—their first since the recovery began in 2010. It’s hard to tell what part of this slow, steady recovery he deems a bubble. And, while he says “I can fix it,” he has yet to offer any plans for doing so.
He has called for ending NAFTA and imposing tariffs up to 35% on the goods of nations that trade with us—a step most serious economists say would lead to a recession and then to a worldwide depression, as punitive tariffs did in 19th- and 20th-century trade wars. He has also, with no evidence, accused the Federal Reserve of creating what he says is a “false economy” to help Clinton.
Trump has said he will implement a major tax code overhaul; “repeal and replace” Obamacare; stop hedge fund managers from “getting away with murder” on taxes (though he seemingly paid no federal taxes himself for 18 years or more); and partially privatize the Veteran’s Administration. All this while keeping the deficit in check, growing the economy, and leaving entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security untouched.
Over the past eight years, many have learned the hard way that voting for hope and change doesn’t always deliver either hope or change. This is especially true with divided government, as we’ve seen with a Republican Congress that set out to sabotage Obama’s presidency, partly by obstructing even the most minor change, and in part by pushing the narrative that his hopes were “hopeless”—and then working to make them so.
North Carolina is a crucial swing state that Obama won in 2008. Romney carried it four years later in 2012, with his whipping coattails helping to elect Pat McCrory as governor. This year, we’ve got a triple-decker: our presidential, U.S. Senate, and governor’s races are among the most highly contested in the nation. What matters in North Carolina could determine what happens in the United States: the occupancy of the Oval Office and control of the U.S. Senate might rest on Clinton v. Trump and Ross v. Burr. Every voter who cares about the country needs to get out and make their voices heard.
November 8th will probably be a long and sleepless night in The Old North State.