The case for Hillary Clinton

My task with this post is to try to persuade you to vote for Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. But before I do that, let’s talk about governors.

Right now, the citizens of several states in the US are particularly furious with their governors. In Kansas, Louisiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, governors (with the acquiescence of their legislatures), have so mismanaged their states that coffers are empty, schools are closing, basic government services are neglected, and cities are becoming unlivable. All these states have one thing in common; governors who are committed movement conservatives, who insist that tax cuts pay for themselves, that government services should be privatized for increased efficiency, and that regulations should be eliminated, as though these ideas were engraved on stone and handed down from Sinai.

This is the point at which opinion hardens into ideology, where any deviation from a core set of principles is seen as apostasy, where no evidence is ever allowed to inform governance. Those governors–Sam Brownback (Kansas), Bobby Jindal (Louisiana), Scott Walker (Wisconsin), Bruce Rauner (Illinois), Mike Pence (Indiana) and Rick Snyder (Michigan)–have all put conservative theory into practice in their states, and have doubled-down when those ideas didn’t work. Snyder’s the most famous of these, because of the Flint water disaster, but they’re all pretty loathed in their own states. You’ll note that I have not included the governor of my state, Utah, Gary Herbert. He’s a conservative, but I don’t believe him to be a conservative ideologue. He’s displayed a most welcome and helpful flexibility on a number of issues, and I think Utah is, as a result, reasonably well governed.

Governance is hard. And very few problems come with simple, easy solutions. What we should be looking for in a chief executive is someone open-minded to new evidence, willing to listen to views from a variety of sources, someone, above all, willing to compromise. Of course, we want our leaders to ground their ideas in deeply felt moral principles. But I think our best Presidents (or governors), have been those willing to embrace a kind of . . . ideological flexibility. I never mind when a politician changes his/her mind on an issue. I don’t care for the ‘flip-flopper’ label. I think it can be admirable when someone, confronted with better evidence, changes his/her mind. Ideological rigidity, whether displayed by conservatives or liberals, can be dangerous, and I think makes effective governance unlikely. As we have seen in the states listed above.

The two Democratic contenders for President are both, in my view, admirable people, well worth my support. But I enthusiastically will vote for Secretary Clinton. The argument against her, of course, is that she’s unprincipled; that she’s slippery. I don’t think this is fair. She’s certainly a progressive, liberal in approach and temperment. She believes that government can improve the lives of people who are struggling. She wants government to provide a safety net, so that the poorest, unluckiest among us don’t slip through the cracks. But she’s, well, flexible. Pragmatic.

When she ran for the US Senate in New York, my brother lived in Ithaca. He was worried about her, because she hadn’t lived in the state for long; how could she know much about New York issues. Once she was elected, though, he had an opportunity to work with her, and was astonished at how informed she was. She’s smart, disciplined, hard working and effective.

I will confess this: one of her flip-flops drives me crazy. She worked for the passage of the Trans Pacific Partnership, a free trade agreement similar, in some respects, to NAFTA. Right now, though, the American electorate is pretty protectionist, especially in Rust Belt states like Michigan. So she announced that she had rethought her support of the TPP. She’s the only candidate running who has demonstrated a commitment to free trade, and I suspect that that will continue. Frankly, I discount her change of heart; I think she’ll govern as a free trade advocate. In other words, I’m counting on her notorious flexibility on this issue, which is an important one for me. And, frankly, one on which Bernie Sanders is wrong.

Right now, there’s a hilarious series of ads for Direct TV, in which people with cable TV in their homes are presented as sort of 19th century, if not actually Amish. Because, you see, they’re settlers. They settle for cable TV. Well, I think that if she’s elected, Hillary Clinton will be a settler. She’ll be willing to accept partial successes. But I think that’s how progress happens, one small step at a time. For example, Bernie Sanders wants universal health care; an expanded Medicare covering everyone. That would be great. But it’s not likely to happen. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, wants to use the ACA as a starting point, revising that bill, perhaps expand it a bit, work incrementally. The goal is the same for both of them; universal coverage. But I think Hillary is more likely to move the ball forward.

I value pragmatism, flexibility, reason and evidence, leading to effectiveness. Ideology scares me. Does this mean that I actually trust Hillary Clinton? Yes. I believe that she has the mature temperment to be entrusted with the nuclear launch codes, to make life or death decisions with the men and women of our military. I trust her to name smart, decent men and women to the Supreme Court. I trust her to weigh evidence, and to make informed decisions.

I trust her . . . enough. In this crazy election cycle, that’s easily good enough.

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