By Matthew E. Milliken
Nov. 7, 2016
On Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, I will vote for Hillary Clinton to become the 45th president of the United States of America. The Democratic candidate is an imperfect individual, but she is eminently qualified to serve as president, and I expect her to be an acceptable — and perhaps even an excellent — steward of the national interests as chief executive.
By contrast, knowing what I do about the character and campaign of her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, I cannot imagine myself backing him in good conscience for any position of importance.
Trump seems temperamentally unsuited for high office, as indicated by two recent news items. One is that he and adviser Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chief, have parted ways because, according to a reporter, “Trump couldn’t focus — surprise, surprise — and … advising him was a waste of time… [The] debate prep sessions weren’t going anywhere.” The other is that Trump’s campaign has managed to wrest control of his Twitter account away from the candidate. (The Trump camp disputes both reports. Instead, a surrogate has blamed Ailes for telling irrelevant war stories when he was supposed to be preparing the candidate for his encounters with Clinton, and an aide maintains that Trump still runs the account.)
All of which is to ignore numerous signs of Trump’s misogynistic attitudes and actions, which would have disqualified most candidates in previous elections.
Trump has based his campaign on his business record, but when one scratches the surface, many of his successes appear to have been wildly inflated. (For one thing, The Art of the Deal is not the best-selling business book of all time.) A serial fabulist with little regard for the truth, Trump appears to have exaggerated both his personal wealth and his philanthropic contributions. He has also refused to release tax records that would shed light on his personal and business and affairs and on any potential conflicts of interest, thereby spurning a voluntary practice that every major-party presidential candidate has observed for decades.
That’s hardly Trump’s only break with tradition. He has threatened to jail his opponent should he win. He has also suggested that he may refuse to concede the election. For weeks Trump has been claiming, without evidence, that voting is being rigged in Clinton’s favor, although many polls show her holding a lead that exceeds the margin of error.
The policy proposals put forward by Trump — there seem to have been relatively few — have been decried by experts for either being unfeasible or for lacking detail. For instance, his campaign website’s page about improving national infrastructure contains a series of bullet points without any references or links. The equivalent page on Clinton’s site is longer and links, among other things, to a detailed fact sheet. (It’s also available as a PDF with footnotes.)
Trump’s stances have also proven to be strangely pliable. The candidate and his aides have repeatedly shifted positions on whether Muslims should be banned from entering the nation or whether women should be punished for obtaining abortions.
On their own, these deficiencies in Trump’s campaign would be disturbing. But Trump’s flirtation with racism and white supremacism has made the candidate thoroughly repellent. His halting efforts to reach out to minority voters often seem half-hearted, ill-thought-out or even contemptuous; recall the infamous taco bowl tweet, or the repeated statements Trump has made about African-Americans supposedly enduring hellish circumstances in the nation’s inner cities.
It’s telling that minorities who attend Trump rallies are often subjected to violence, escorted from the venue or both. And no one who is proud to call her- or himself a member of the Republican Party should be comfortable with the fact that their candidate has been embraced by the Ku Klux Klan, including the notorious David Duke and a prominent Klan publication.
I must confess that when I contemplate the election of Hillary Clinton, I have some reservations. Although the supposed email “scandal” stemming from her work as secretary of state has been blown out of proportion, Clinton did not exhibit the best judgment in handling the matter, either when she assumed office or once it was revealed that she had breached government communications protocol.
There are other instances where she has prevaricated, engaged in ethically questionable practices or failed to be fully forthcoming. However, she has a long record of public service since leaving the White House, both as secretary of state and as a United States senator from New York. (Disclosure: If memory serves, I voted for Clinton to become senator in the 2000 election.) As a senator, she proved capable of working with members of both parties. That’s an ability Trump would seem to lack, given his rocky relationships with House Majority Leader Paul Ryan and the leadership of the Republican National Committee.
While Clinton’s service at the State Department does not seem to have resulted in any ground-breaking accomplishments, neither did she make any noteworthy gaffes. Trump, however, has suggested he may casually toss aside key international alliances and abandon key planks in the doctrine of nuclear deterrence. Trump’s tone-deaf response to the Brexit vote in June could have been easily avoided by a candidate who bothered to do his homework.
Many conservatives have accused Clinton of having numerous conflicts of interest in relation to her dual roles as a public servant and a key member of the Clinton Foundation, and some of these concerns are meritorious.
But in fact it is in comparing the two candidates’ nonprofit organizations that one gains the greatest appreciation of what distinguishes them. The Trump Foundation was a vehicle for serving Trump’s ego and for helping him avoid taxes. The Clinton Foundation has subsidized and distributed AIDS medicine, contraceptives and malaria treatments to millions of patients, along with other endeavors, such as creating housing for orphans.
Laura Seay, a Colby College scholar who witnessed some of the group’s work in Africa, says she knows people who are alive today because of the foundation. “The Clinton Foundation was the organization that took the risk on this,” Seay told The Guardian this summer. “What it showed was that in really difficult circumstances you can save a lot of lives and change the way a lot of NGOs think about conflict zones. It really was remarkable.”
Critics who accuse Hillary and Bill Clinton of working to accumulate wealth and power are correct. And yet Donald Trump and his family, friends and business allies have engaged in the same pursuits with at least as much enthusiasm. The difference is that Clinton has a credible record of using her influence to assist the less-fortunate, while Trump only ever works to pursue ever-greater wealth and glory for himself and his associates.
Yes, Clinton is indeed a flawed person. But so are we all — and Clinton is by far the best candidate standing for president in this election. I will happily mark my ballot for her.