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The Election: Forget the Hype, Here's How it Really Is

Elections aren’t pretty and this one is especially ugly. For starters, we have two flawed candidates. Given we’re voting for human beings and ones who have had to manipulate and compromise to become the leaders of their respective parties, that’s probably not too surprising, nor even outside the norm. But both Clinton and Trump appear to have more than the usual amount of negative baggage, and the public, which disapproves of them both, is aware of it.

One whole segment of the population has decided that neither major party candidate deserves their vote and have vowed either to skip the election entirely or to vote for a third party candidate. This is a major error in my opinion.

If there were no difference between the two major party candidates, then a vote for a third party candidate or perhaps even a non-vote, would carry a message. If there is a major difference between the two candidates, then such a move would still send a message, but might lead to a very unfortunate outcome.

There is a real difference between the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. I don’t mean to paint the kind of exaggerated picture that many Democrats are trying to paint. Hillary has problems. Forget NAFTA, that’s a bogus claim against her, since she was merely First Lady at the time and had no vote, and was expected to support her husband publicly (and some say in private she opposed the treaty). Her position on invading Iraq was a clear mistake, but one made by 40% of her Democratic colleagues in the Senate and 72% of the American public. In Libya, she favored overthrowing Gadaffi and may even have supported spreading rumors about his tactics in order to support her position. But President Obama was the one who directed and made the decisions and took the actions via the military and the CIA, to pursue an extensive “covert war” against Gadaffi, using considerable American military power (bombs and missiles launched from warships) and extensive channeling of military aid to the rebels. On the State Department level, the U.S. recognition of the rebel government (the National Transitional Council) as the official Libyan government (a long time after other NATO allies had done so), allowed the release of 30 billion dollars worth of impounded Libyan funds to the rebel forces. NATO forces, led by France, who was the most vociferous of any countries in wanting to overthrow the dictator, gave major air power assistance to rebels who finally won. With regard to the coup in Honduras, which the U.S. did not officially label a coup, allowing our government to continue sending funds to that country, Hillary did not support calling it a coup, but it was President Obama, again,  who made the decision. Vague insinuations that Clinton had a role in the coup have no basis in fact. Finally, Clinton does favor a no-fly zone in Syria, which many experts believe could lead to greater conflict with Russia in that region. She also continues to say that at some point, Assad must step down or be removed from office.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton is more hawkish on foreign policy than many Democrats and virtually all more radical left wingers (including myself). She is also suspect on issues such as the TPP and the Keystone Pipeline, both of which she supported at one time and now opposes. In contrast, her position on health care has historically been well to the left of the mainstream, advocating for universal health care during her husband’s administration. As a lawyer before she took any office, she worked for criminal justice issues, almost all involving child advocacy, she wrote important legal articles on children’s rights and set up a free legal aid fund. She supported the now- controversial criminal justice reform bill signed by her husband, but so did almost all Democrats, including Bernie Sanders, and the public at the time. She continued her support of children and health issues, early childhood education, opposition to violence against women, and women’s rights both nationally and internationally, all as First Lady. As a senator, she was indefatigable in her pursuit of funding and health care support for first responders and the city of New York following 9/11. She voted for the Iraq invasion, but was one of the few senators who opposed continued funding of the war, demanding that any funding be tied to a timetable for withdrawal of U.S. troops. She voted against confirmation of conservatives judges John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court, filibustering against the latter. She opposed the Defense of Marriage Act, which would have prohibited same-sex marriage, and she voted for an Immigration Reform bill that was defeated by Republicans. As Secretary of State, she brokered a cease fire between the Palestinians and Israelis, she led the use of sanctions against Iran to bring them to the negotiating table that would lead to our current nuclear deal with them. By almost any standard, Hillary Clinton has been a stalwart liberal and champion of justice causes and American world leadership on important issues all of her professional career, both in and out of politics.

Of course there is the email controversy. The real truth is that James Comey of the FBI said that out of 50,000 emails, there were 7 “email chains” concerning top secret or classified topics, although the emails themselves were not classified when they were sent or received. Three emails had partial markings within their bodies, indicating that portions of them were classified at the “lowest level of classification,” which is “confidential.” The marking is a “c” in parentheses, and Comey admitted that Clinton might have not known what it meant. Two of those emails were learned to be marked inaccurately and were not classified at all. 33,000 emails were deleted by Clinton’s attorneys and Comey could “find no evidence” that she was aware of that. He said she was “extremely careless” but concluded that the FBI would not file any charges against her. Statements that she is a “criminal” are simply incorrect.

Donald Trump has no history of political office, no votes for which he can be held accountable, and a string of public positions on political issues that has swung with the wind. He claims to have been opposed to the Iraq War and to removal of Gadaffi in Libya, although with regard to the latter, there are videos of him recommending the dictator’s removal. He says that he has met Vladimir Putin and they got along well, then claimed that they have never met. He has recommended bombing Iraqi oil fields and taking the oil ourselves, protecting them with a “ring of U.S. troops.” At the same time, he says the U.S. “shouldn’t be over there at all.”

Trump’s foreign policy is muddled to say the least. He says he wants to reduce nuclear proliferation, but is in favor of both Japan and South Korea acquiring nuclear weapons. He says he can’t guarantee that, under his presidency, he would honor our NATO pledge to come to the defense to other member countries unless they pay up what they owe for their defense. NATO, anyway, he says, is “obsolete.” In a war against ISIS, Trump “won’t rule out” using nuclear weapons. Just as frightening, he is in favor of waterboarding and says, “we need to go much further” in terms of torture techniques. He has said, "We have to play the game the way they're playing the game.” He has recommended (although since walked the statement back) that we should kill the families of terrorists.

Donald Trump is not a Nazi. He may not even be a racist, although his positions and his rhetoric have garnered the support of racists, such as David Duke. But he is clearly in favor of restricting American’s freedoms on the basis of their religion. He wants to have surveillance of mosques; he wants to ban Muslims from entering the U.S. “until we can figure out what the hell is going on.” He has made numerous misguided, misinformed and insensitive comments about Muslims. He comes closest to racist language when he focuses on Mexican immigrants, claiming that they are rapists and criminals and that the Mexican government deliberately is “sending us” such immigrants. In those statements, contrary to what his supporters claim, he did not limit his words to illegal immigrants.  With regard to illegal immigrants, he wants to deport 100% of them and build a “deportation force” to do the job (though he says it will be done “humanely”). And of course he wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.

Programmatically, Trump has said little about what he actually proposes, but the following are concrete proposals he has made:

  • ·      Eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency
  • ·      Repeal the Affordable Care Act and go back pre-Obamacare health funding
  • ·      Pull out of the Paris Climate Change Agreements
  • ·      Cancel, if he can, the nuclear treaty with Iran
  • ·      At first he said eliminate the federal minimum wage, but lately he has said he will increase it to $10 per hour
  •    Cut taxes, especially on the wealthy (the non-partisan Tax Policy Center provided the following analysis:“His proposal would cut taxes at all income levels, although the largest benefits, in dollar and percentage terms, would go to the highest-income households. The plan would reduce federal revenues by $9.5 trillion over its first decade before accounting for added interest costs or considering macro economic feedback effects.”)

Then there’s climate change. Trump has called man-made climate change a “hoax.” He wants to increase our use of fossil fuels, particularly coal, and wants to rescind EPA regulations dealing with coal-fired power plants. He has vowed to “stop all payment of U.S. tax dollars to global warming programs.”


Once the exaggerated claims by supporters of either candidate and opponents of both are put aside, the real differences between the two candidates are large and stark. For those who favor the government coming to the aid of the poor, the sick, and protecting our environment, continuing to battle global warming and pursuing a coherent foreign policy, while protecting women’s rights, religious rights, efforts to achieve gun control, and criminal justice system reform, the decision to elect Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump is clear and imperative.


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Reader Comments (1)

I'm definitely with you on all of this, Casey. You present a truly balanced and nuanced view.

August 1, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAnca Vlasopolos

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