One last try

In case you haven’t heard, there’s an election next week. It’s kind of an important one. I meant to spend this last week writing about it, and would have, but for a nasty bout of bronchitis. Still, here are a few final thoughts.

The Daily Show did an entire post-apocalyptic bit, imagining a guerrilla broadcast of the show four years from now. It was grim and bleak and surprisingly unfunny, considering that the Daily Show is supposed to be, you know, comedy. The First Amendment suspended, Muslims and Mexicans deported, the economy collapsed–a Trevor Noah desperately calling for someone, anyone, to vote for underground heroine Elizabeth Warren. Still, it captured how many of us think right now about the prospect of a Trump Presidency.

Of course, our brothers and sisters on the Trump bandwagon feel just the same about the possibility of a Hillary Clinton Presidency. She’s corrupt, she’s a criminal, she’s dangerous. If she wins, she’ll take away your guns and she’ll take away your rights and she’ll pack the Supreme Court with liberal demagogues. The precipitous collapse of American power and prosperity begun by President Obama will continue under President Hillary, only she’s likely to be much much worse. Remember that a sizeable percentage of the electorate believes that Hillary Clinton has murdered or arranged for the murders of dozens of people. The Right is terrified, and furious. The Left is similarly anxious. One thing both groups can agree on; this is one scary election.

And neither Trumpists or Clintonians can even agree on something as basic as reality. We’re not operating from the same set of facts. My father, a kind and generous man if ever there was one (and no fan of Donald Trump), nonetheless believes that the Obama Presidency has been a disaster for our country, economically and internationally. I don’t think the evidence supports such conclusions. And so we find ourselves arguing–affectionately, but still.

So that’s where I want to start. I want to start by describing reality. I want to start by describing the world as I see it, with some attempt at non-partisanship. And then I want to make a fact-based case for Hillary Clinton.

In 2007, the United States (and the rest of the world) faced a major financial crisis, caused by a collapse of housing markets, leading to a major recession from which we have not yet fully recovered. Since then, the combined efforts of the Obama administration, Congress, and the Federal Reserve have led to a long period of sustained-but-tepid economic growth. Unemployment is way down, but lots of people have also stopped looking for work. Some manufacturing sectors have been hurt, while others have prospered. We face a large trade deficit; how big a problem is that? The US economy remains a colossus; we’re still the richest country in the history of the world. But income inequality is a problem–rich people are doing fine, poor people are struggling. There have been gains, there have been losses.

Put another way; we’re a rich country, and we have problems as well. We’re prosperous, but prosperity is unevenly shared. Rural Americans are really struggling; so are many in inner cities. We’re not anywhere close to where we’d like to be. But I’d still rather live here than almost anywhere else on earth.

I don’t know if global warming is a problem or not. I’m not a climate scientist. If climate change is a major problem, it hasn’t affected me yet. But I also don’t think we should risk doing nothing. Climate scientists mostly agree; there are many things we can and should start doing. Surely, wantonly burning fossil fuels is unsustainable. And alternative energy is a rapidly growing sector in our economy. And I look around the world, and I see that countries that rely on oil and gas economically tend to be the most politically and economically unstable. If in fact climate change is the threat many scientists think it is, it’s massively irresponsible for us to ignore that possibility. And I think we can address climate change without wrecking our economy. Can’t this be an issue liberals and conservatives can work together on?

Immigration seems to be a big issue this year, but I can’t see why. Immigration is a good thing. I’m the child of an immigrant. Immigrants bless our country culturally and economically. We need more immigrants, not fewer. Agree on that basic principle, and we can work out the details.

I also think that babies are wonderful. I think it’s a great blessing to any family when children arrive. And that it’s okay for government to make policies making that easier for people. So why not mandate a paid leave policy, so Moms and Dads can spend time with infants without incurring crippling financial costs? That seems fair to me, and reasonable, and I think businesses would adjust to it if they had to.

I also think that access to basic health care is a fundamental human right nowadays. The Framers of our Constitution didn’t think so, because medical practice was so atrocious in their day. But nowadays, we know so much more than they did, about disease and how to prevent it and treat it and cure it. That shouldn’t be something only rich people can afford; anyone can get sick, and everyone should have a chance to get better. And there’s got to be a reasonable, cost-effective way to make that happen. I think abortions are a tragedy, but that they should nonetheless be safe and legal but hopefully also way way less frequent, and I think we know how to make that happen, with better education for teens about human sexuality and with better access to birth control.

How do we pay for all this? Well, Americans are undertaxed in comparison to the rest of the world. We don’t like to think that that’s true, but it is. But we also spend unconscionable amounts of money on our military. We spend more than any other nation. We spend more than the next sixteen high spending countries combined. And yet, the biggest threats we seem to face as a nation all have to do with terrorism. We’re not likely to face big armies in the future, but smaller insurgencies. Surely we can cut defense spending by a substantial amount, and still have a leaner but still effective fighting force. Also, explain to me why the United States still has an Army, and a Navy, and an Air Force, and a Marine Corps? Surely it would be more efficient and more cost effective to just have one entity, the Armed Forces, with ships and planes and soldiers, working together.

In other words, we can revive our economy, and we can fix social problems in our society; we can do it all. We’re a rich and prosperous nation.

So now, in this election, we have two choices; Hillary Clinton, the Democrat, and Donald Trump, the Republican. Let’s talk about them.

Hillary Clinton has an outstanding resume; she has great credentials. She’s accused of being dishonest and corrupt, but the more you dig down into the details of those accusations, the less there seems to be. The email scandal is really nonsensical. She was a little careless with her emails; big deal. It’s worth a scolding, perhaps, and FBI director James Comey provided one. But there’s no evidence of criminal wrong-doing, and according to most sources, it wasn’t a difficult call. She certainly hasn’t gone around murdering people–that’s just silly. Hillary Clinton is likely to be an effective President, if Congress will work with her. That’s who I intend to vote for.

Donald Trump is a bomb thrower. He wants to renegotiate trade deals, even if it leads to trade wars. He wants to completely appeal the Affordable Care Act (which is a flawed piece of legislation, and does need careful revision). He wants a massive tax cut, which he insists, would stimulate the economy.

Here’s the thing about Trump; we don’t know. We know more or less what the results would be from Hillary’s policies, because they’re not all that different from President Obama’s policies, and because most of them have been tried out in other countries. We don’t know anything about Trump’s policies. What will a big trade war with China do? We don’t know. What will the effects of a wall between the US and Mexico be? We don’t know. What will happen if Trump gets his tax cut? No one knows; no one’s tried anything like that before.

Trump’s personality seems volatile. His temperment seems . . . eccentric. He doesn’t seem to be able to handle criticism. He pursues vendettas, either via Twitter or via threatened lawsuits. Do we know how that would play itself out on the Presidential stage? No, we don’t.

That’s why I think that voting for Trump is taking a risk we can’t afford. That’s why I urge you to vote for Hillary Clinton. She’s the safer choice. And safe is good. And predictable is good. So, vote. And vote wisely.

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