“I look forward to a great future for America – a future in which our country will match its military strength with our moral restraint, its wealth with our wisdom, its power with our purpose.” – John F. Kennedy
JFK said that at Amherst College less than a month before he died. He wasn’t running for reelection yet, but that quote shows how he towers over the two presidential candidates in front of us today.
We could ask: “What does wisdom have to do with being president?” And our answer should be “everything”!
Some Americans are angry. Some are mainly angry with Washington. Many are impatient, unable to keep a long complicated idea in their heads to a conclusion, saying things like: “bottom line this for me” after less than a couple of minutes of talk. People are overwhelmed with information, much of which is patently false, so they do not know what to believe. The simply angry people will not help us solve anything, and they may not even accept a solution designed to help with some of their problems.
This is the context for today’s election.
The best case for Hillary Clinton is that she represents a continuation of Obama’s policies, with a few slightly more progressive ideas forced into the mix by Bernie. If Clinton is president, she will continue to have the same fights with Republicans in Congress that Obama had, but since Trump wants to enact policies that are destructive, some of which will be enthusiastically supported by Republicans in Congress, wisdom indicates Hillary is our best option this year.
Over the next four years Clinton is unlikely to do anything domestically that makes the lives of most Americans worse, and any Supreme Court justices she picks are likely to be reliably liberal on social issues, assuming Republicans are willing to confirm any nominee offered by a Democrat.
Her foreign policy is hawkish. This is the one place where Trump seems to be to the left of Clinton. How we handle Russia, China and the Middle East will be a huge challenge to the next president, but the leader of the free world cannot be an impulsive know-it-all.
What about the arguments against Clinton?
Emails are Hillary’s quicksand. Win or lose, Congress will keep worrying on that bone for a long, long time.
What about the paid speeches, the relationships with Wall Street and foreign governments? None of that is unique to Clinton. Her neoliberal positions and affiliations are common in both Parties. Obama, both Bushes, Bill Clinton, and Reagan have all taken money from most of these same groups through the campaign finance system.
Money and influence are the business plan for all American politicians. There’s nothing particularly revelatory about that, and it doesn’t make her any more corrupt than most other Democrats and Republicans who have run for president.
Arguments for Donald Trump:
The best argument for Donald Trump doesn’t rely on any of his policy positions, some of which are unclear and many of which are completely detached from evidence-based reality. Instead, the argument for him is that he will shake things up, and possibly, change some things.
Arguments against Trump:
A Trump presidency would be risky, since his ideas and temperament could easily make things worse than the current situation. He’s been called many names, his own ghostwriter for the book “The Art of the Deal” called him a sociopath. Many words describe Donald Trump, but here are a few that do not: Thoughtful. Serious. Presidential. So, wisdom argues that we not elect Trump.
People are looking for change. For them, it’s disheartening to settle for someone like Clinton who seeks gradual improvement, but is not a change agent.
America needs change, but it has to be a positive kind of change. That means it’s better to stick with the lower risk candidate unless there is a political alternative who really might make things better.
There will be better messengers for left-driven and right-driven populism down the road. When that happens, we will have more chances to pick a workable political alternative to the neoliberalism of both establishment parties.
Be patient, while we wait for a better alternative.
And vote today, if you haven’t yet.