We have less than 2 weeks until the election at the time I'm writing this. Yet there still seems to be a lot of division, a lot of confusion, and quite a rift between those who support Clinton, and those who support Trump.
I'll admit it. I haven't been too excited to talk about or share the negative aspects of Hillary Clinton due to my biases; the fact that since Bernie has been out, I want her to win the election and maybe I can overestimate the influence I can have. Either way, I've seen just about as much negativity floating around the internet and the news outlets about her as I have about Trump. Not that this is a surprise, given the volatile nature of any modern presidential race, however it stands to reason that there would be a comparable level of mudslinging from either side, but that one candidate would either be such a clear choice that the smear ads are transparent and ineffective, or that both candidates have their respective skeletons in the closet so policy platforms and mere charisma become the determining factors that pushe centrists one way or the other.
Perhaps the only thing about this election cycle that bears the slightest resemblance to previous elections in what we would consider the 'modern era' politically, (defined loosely; maybe around the JFK days) would be the fact that both candidates have lied on record and are documented to have flip-flopped (or evolved considering the person and the issue) and it's completely accurate for the opposition to portray their adversary as dishonest.
But upon closer inspection, we can see that even moving past the blatant dishonesty, focusing on policy issues just is not enough to deem one candidate better than the other, at least for most voters. Taking dishonesty off the table, we're still left with two candidates whose competence to lead the nation are called into question even from the base of the parties. Certainly this is the case with Trump; a simple Google search will yield a list of base Republican politicians who do not support their party's candidate. But so is the case on the other side of the isle. While I think it's undeniable that the democratic party is a bit more unified behind Clinton, if you look at the numbers, the fact that she is not miles ahead of Trump at this point speaks volumes.
Of the People
The Bernie camp was large....very large. The opposition to 'the establishment' is very large. The population of people opposed to the two-party structure on the whole is immense. The number of eligible voters who are just plain under-informed is downright frightening. It's easy to poke fun at Trump and his supporters (and not without reason for many,) but our desire to keep him from winning this election must not blind us to the reality that the choice in this election gives a whole new meaning to 'the lesser of two evils,' or at the least pushes it to a level we've never seen before.
I came across this video today which is a montage of lies and contradicting public statements from Hillary Clinton over the past 2 decades, and it is damning. This woman is not honest. This woman will say what she needs to say to position herself in whatever way best suits her. She is undoubtedly entangled in international dealings of all kinds that should worry any rational thinking adult. It seems like Trump supporters think that those of us who would do damn near anything - including elect this woman - to avoid him winning, are in the dark about Hillary and her past. That may be true for some, but I believe I accurately speak for a significant portion of those planning to vote for Hillary in saying that we hesitate to even claim that we support her, but rather oppose Trump. To say I support this person is far from accurate. There are definitely people who are gung-ho about Hillary, but I don't think that applies to the overwhelming majority of those who plan to vote for her. And here's why:
There is just no denying the facts. Hillary Clinton is a liar. Hillary Clinton, even given the opportunity to frame her changed position as evolution (particularly on marriage equality) she is committed to putting out the proper sound bites that put her career in the best possible position, which means often her donors come before her voters.
Now, of course with any, and I mean ANY political media of any kind, from tweets to interviews to advertisements and speeches, unless you are there in person, or maybe watching on C-SPAN, you are beholden to the context in which the news source decides to put these clips. If you see something about Hillary on Fox News, you can pretty much be sure that it's going to somehow put her in a negative light, regardless of what she says or is said about her. The same goes for Trump on MSNBC, but that is why we have had not one, but two different Awe, Really Podcast episodes dedicated to cutting through the media bias bullshit around Donald Trump and his campaign. While those conversations obviously did not negate the legitimate factors that make us feel obligated to vote for a woman for whom you can make a 13 minute video documenting her dishonesty, it absolutely gave us a new perspective on how someone could support a candidate who seems to be so obviously racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and generally incompetent. It became even more obvious than it already was that the media had a very precise agenda in the way they portrayed Trump.
Any way you slice it, though, all the editing in the world can't turn a hero into a villain. Just as we saw that the media portrayed Trump a certain way, but by talking to one of his supporters who we know to be a rational, well-informed individual, we saw the other side of the story, this too is the case with Clinton.
Tell me how you really feel
If you were to make a pros and cons list about Hillary, this video seems to be a pretty accurate representation of what your cons side would look like - unlike some of the other anti-Clinton publications that have been put out over the course of the campaign that do exactly what we hated about some of the anti-Trump publications (things like compare him to Hitler). Yet when we look at the big picture, it seems inarguable that she is the LOTE (lesser of two evils.) While her proverbial skeleton closet is jam packed, the pros side of her list offers some real, legitimately progressive tenants and policies.
As mentioned, our podcast discussions with Born (our unofficial resident trump supporter) really shed light onto how unfair the media was at times in demonizing Trump, both from Republican and Democratic media. A lot of the cons for Trump were definitely hyperbolic, but rarely untrue. More importantly, however, it revealed that the very small list of pros were rather weak reasons to give someone a vote for leader of the free world.
That seems the be the major point, I've realized. If you follow Awe, Really, you know that it wasn't until the first Clinton/Trump debate that we officially claimed that we would be voting for Clinton, barring some insane discovery; something that neither of us could even fathom. We strongly supported Bernie for his entire race, and once he got out, we still leaned left for sure. However, we were torn.
With all the information and interviews and primary debates out there, we maintained that it was a real possibility that the media had been using a tactic that never seems to get old - fear mongering - to convince us all that a Trump presidency was as good as the end of the world. We'd been inundated daily with the message that a Trump presidency would be the absolute worst thing that could occur. And of course you know, as the mission statement goes: BELIEVE NOTHING, except that anything is possible...which lead us to question everything we thought we knew.
Would it really be that bad? With the limited power that a president has, would his incompetence really have such a huge effect on policy? Is his competence really as low as they're making it seem? Is his competence really as low as HE is making it seem? We made it through 8 years of Dubbya, how much worse could it get? Is is actually realistic to think that he could bring down the boogeyman that is the two-party system? Even if he would be a terrible president, would his out of the box/non "typical politician" approach be a benefit long term just by changing the game to the degree that he has? (That one is not even up for discussion - win or lose, he's definitely hacked the 'business as usual' politics made up of talking points, rhetoric, and question dodging.) Is Trump just playing the heel to hack the system and this is all just an act? Basically, is it worth the risk??? These all seemed like reasonable inquiries and it seemed vital to at least ask them, and there was a short time when at least personally, I was ready to just say 'fuck it, let's try something new and hope he doesn't usher in the apocalypse.' And then the debate happened.
On air, about 7 months ago, Born was quite confident that once Trump won the candidacy (this was still during the primaries) he would knock off the antics and become the presidential guy that we were all used to seeing in candidates and that so many were hoping to see once the primaries were over. Obviously that wasn't the case, and he demonstrated quite clearly that who he showed himself to be was not some persona, but his genuine character. He really is that ignorant. He really is that narcissistic. He really is that archetypal old, rich, privileged, white guy. He really sees people for their utility to him and nothing more. His remarks about being smart for evading taxes through loopholes showed that the law of the land marks his level of morality.
That remark was the clincher for me. It wasn't when he said that women should be punished for getting an abortion, because I could see that Chris Matthews' level of questioning was more than he had prepared for. It wasn't any of the racist remarks he made, because old white people often think that 'having a black friend' or employing minorities or saying things like "There's my African-American" at a rally, or equating the consumption of a taco bowl with understanding and respecting the Latino cultures absolves them of being racist. In fact, I don't think that Trump is an outright racist.
The same cannot be said for many of his supporters, but I do think there's a meaningful differentiation that should be made between people who are downright bigoted, and those who are simply beholden to the institutional norms of society, some of which undoubtedly lead to the oppression of women and/or minorities. Just look at the numbers. If you are a white person and you are not a bigot, and you know a lot of white people who are not bigots either, its easy to think that racism is an issue of previous generations, and hard to relate to the subjective experience of the average minority. That makes it harder to accept that there are privileges that come with having white skin. Socioeconomic inequalities, however, are more often shared by people of all races and genders, and more closely reflected in those who live in the same community or work in the same industry or at the same level, thus making it something from which is impossible to be disconnected simply because of race.
When you have racial issues in the news, it does not surprise me that a disenfranchised white person would feel like their problems are less important to society because they are white, which is where we get this concept of reverse-racism. Even calling it reverse signifies that white is the standard, so to be racist against white people isn't simply racism, it's reverse racism - but we'll leave that conversation for another day.
I digress - the breaking point for my entertaining of the idea of voting for Trump or abstaining was not even when he tried to withhold charity funds from the military, and not even when he mocked the disabled reporter, as horrible as that was. I was still ready to accept that maybe those were personality flaws that I found extremely off-putting (to phrase it gently) and maybe not something that would prevent him from performing the job hes running for.
The breaking point was when he uttered a four-word phrase that could not possibly have been part of an act, or a play for political advantage. "That makes me smart." He didn't just say it once. He has consistently maintained the position that taking advantage of laws that allowed him to pay virtually zero taxes. The Trump Train defends this by simply parroting his perspective, that the laws exist for him to be able to do something that benefited him, so he did it and because it made him money or prevented him from having to spend money, and that makes him smart.
This is where the Trump Train runs off the rails, in my opinion. For all the things that make him an attractive option to people, it was easy enough to chalk all that stuff up to a genuine hatred for the establishment; that people were just so unwilling to vote in another career politician, that even a wild card like Trump would be better than '4 more years of Obama.' They may not have liked everything he has done and said, but that principle persisted and nothing served as a deal breaker. And again, as we've seen in the video above and so many other places over the years, we know that Hillary has no issues using the laws to her advantage or even skirting the law itself, so it was still understandably a toss-up.
The second you not only admit to immoral behavior, but brag about it, you've lost me; that is my breaking point. By saying "That makes me smart," you are demonstrating that aside from the committing the immoral act itself, you don't see the immorality in your behavior. If this is the stuff he brags about, what the fuck is he doing that he's hiding?? Clinton at least has the decency to try to portray herself as a moral person and someone who actually cares about voters.
Now, you may be saying, shouldn't it be in the pros column that Trump is at least honest about his misgivings? Is not worse to behave immorally AND to lie to cover it up? And my answer is no! At least not in this specific context.
The art of lying
The reasoning behind me drawing a line in the sand with a 4-word soundbite is hopefully as easy to articulate as it is to see in my mind - let's give it a try.
When you think about what immoral things Hillary has done, and the things she's lied about, you have to keep in mind that as an average citizen, we are simply in the dark when it comes to the inner workings of government and politics and the nuances of operating in the public eye as a public servant while simultaneously having classified information, particularly about foreign affairs. Being the President is a job that comes with unrivaled pressure and scrutiny and requires a wealth of knowledge and experience in such a wide range of areas. It also requires a level of decision making that most people can not even comprehend, and often without much time to avail oneself to all the resources the decision demands.
This would call for someone who can not only be decisive, which I would say that Donald is, but also comprehensively pragmatic under pressure, which he decidedly is not. I can think of any number of situations short of the obvious nuclear race scenario (which is scary when associating with Trump on so many levels) in which we would want someone who is familiar with recent world history from a political and military standpoint. We would need someone who has a familiarity with how people like Putin or organizations like ISIS operate and what they are capable of doing.
If a country were to make some type of aggressive action towards one of our allies, the President would need to be able to understand it from a military point of view, a political point of view, an economic point of view, a public relations point of view, a diplomatic point of view, possibly an environmental point of view, and who knows what else. It takes time to analyze these decisions and time analyzing is time that is not used to take action, whatever that may mean. The more comfortable a person is with weighing all these different perspectives, they are going to have the advantage before we even begin to talk about policy. There is just a room full of knowledge that Clinton has, for better or for worse, than Trump does.
Even if the establishment is just going to continue on business as usual - people believe that Clinton's knowledge of all this is going to be used to make their lives worse; and I can't really say that I don't have similar concerns. But just generally, Clinton has a vested interest in keeping things from getting too bad because at this point it seems very unlikely that it would even be worth trying run for a second term. If she is going to have any bit of relevance after these four years which she would have worked so hard for she has to make it worth it. If she's just going to be a terrible president and then disappear into the shadows, that wouldn't be in her personal best interest nor that of the Democratic party - and she definitely has more ties to her party than Trump does to the Republican party. With him it just doesn't seem all that crazy that he would let things get really bad. But guess what? He's done that before! That is just how he does business. He lets the ship sink and takes the only life raft for himself and anyone that is of value to him. Take a look at any of his 7 bankruptcies.
He has a long list of instances in which he repeatedly screws over the little guy to benefit himself. I don't understand how people can believe Trump really cares about their well being. I don't think Trump has done anything that has even inadvertently benefited society. People say he's created jobs and he employs a lot of people, but so does the CEO of Walmart and the guys who raise the prices of their medications 7000% and that doesn't negate the fact that they are immoral assholes who might either be breaking the law or simply taking advantage of laws that permit immoral behavior.
The Trump Train loves to defend his tax evasion and his 'smart' remark by saying that he didn't break any laws, and then will turn around and be outraged by people who work full time on minimum wage but still on welfare, calling them freeloaders for taking their tax dollars. The irony is sickening. I've also heard the argument that this is just how business works and all the big guys are doing it, and Clinton does business with all of them. That's not really fair to say but even if we are to entertain that, it's not like the president can control what private corporations do (like Trump's.) He so angrily speaks about how China is taking our jobs, meanwhile all of his brands' clothes are made in China, and as Clinton said in the Final debate, it was recently put out there that the steel and some of the other materials that were used to make his beloved Trump Tower that is supposedly a symbol of his success, also came from China. Similarly, the President can't just change these laws as he suggests when pressed on it. He'll say something along the lines of, 'Well why don't you change the laws?' as if the republican Congress hasn't literally shut the government down to avoid doing what the President wants. The question is, why don't you just not be so fucking greedy, Trump?
Clinton may not be any less greedy, but when you bring in her policies, the American economy undoubtedly would be better. What would improve under Donny would be the Trump economy. He wants to implement trickle down economics which has already been proven ineffective. The middle class has to be stable in order for the economy to be stable, and if we are going to have a greedy thief for a president either way, it's worth having the one that at least stands for not actively destroying the economy. The same thing goes for law enforcement. We've talked about that ad nauseum so all I'll say about that is that this dude honestly wants to implement Stop And Frisk laws again, and just like with his taxes, he doesn't even hide the fact that he wants to use abusive, racist law enforcement tactics. He doesn't even see anything wrong with it, and that's another product of the fundamental difference between him and Clinton that just makes the choice an easy one.
Much of the heat that both Clintons catch (politically speaking) has to do with decisions that were made and policies that were enacted that lead to unrest of this country or another. Whether it was the fall of certain regimes that lead to power vacuums, or the email scandal, the major problem people have is, simply put, that shit hit the fan because of Obama or the Clintons (there seems to be no difference in the minds of base Republicans.) We talk about her ties to corporations that fuck up the economy, or the '94 crime bill and the 'super predator' term that was racist and lead to the oppression of all poor people but specifically poor black people, many of whom ended up in prison, exacerbating the mass incarceration problem that has grown into nothing less than a clusterfuck. Then we have the Clinton Foundation, which takes money from illicit sources and a good amount of funds are used ambiguously, which most likely means it's for something illegal or just going right into the pockets of Bill and Hillary - but who knows, because they're unaccounted for.
How do you choose?
These are ALL legitimate reasons to distrust a person and seriously question whether they're qualified to become President of the United States of America. Republicans and Democrats alike are well aware of all of this and many people feel about Hillary the way I feel about Trump because of it, and even those who don't actively hate her rarely have a very high opinion of her. It is precisely why it took me so long to fully commit (granted a lot can happen in a couple weeks) to voting for Clinton. But when you weigh the options; when you look at the where the candidates are flawed and how those flaws are likely to affect the world at large, the country and our society, and our own lives individually, it leaves only one safe choice. Neither of the candidates are who I wanted to see in office by any means, but we're past that. We are past the primaries, and we are past the point where we can reasonably hope for a third party candidate to come save the day or even where we could have gotten Gary Johnson into the debates to at least thrown a more independent voice in the mix.
The next President is either going to be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, barring some crazy freak accident or something. The one most important thing I learned from Bernie's campaign can not be said any better than he did. He said, "The political revolution does not end with me, it has only just begun."
The bottom line
Hillary may not be anyone's favorite person, but her winning the election would allow people to continue what Bernie started by staying involved. We can affect who is in lower offices and in Congress and in any position that has power and can serve the People. Political change is typically incremental and Donald Trump will tear down what we've built immediately without a plan for how to replace it. (If he had a plan to rebuild the government from the ground up, it would be a very different conversation.) Hillary may maintain the system we hate, but that allows us to know what we're dealing with and simply get in there and make change one election, one community, one bill, one law at a time.
It sounds pie in the sky, but think about marriage equality as an example. It took a long time for people to personally accept the normalcy of homosexuality, but eventually enough people in the political realm with the power to make decisions made it the law of the land. That's how it will work with anything else. If we continue talking about important issues and voting both in government elections as well as voting with our dollar by being conscious and mindful of where we spend our money and what we are supporting by buying something, things can and will change.
That's why I'm voting for Hillary Clinton. Not because I support her, but because we can't afford to let Donald Trump to be the leader of the Free World.