Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Revisiting My Case Against Trump

In my post just before the election, "Why I'm With Her," I offered four reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton. I don't do a lot of overt politicking on this blog—my own politics are complicated anyway—but in this case, I was definitely writing to persuade. I was hoping to convert just one voter from non-Clinton to Clinton, and I was hoping to convince just one wavering Clinton voter to show up on election day. I forwarded the post to some friends and relatives, which led to some good conversations.

I wasn't enthusiastic about voting for Clinton, but I swallowed my reservations and titled the post with affirmative language, rather than more grudging language along the lines of "Why We Mustn't Elect Donald Trump." An anti-Trump title would have described my feelings better, but I didn't think that a negative message would bring a dissatisfied person out to vote or persuade a third-party voter to pull the lever for Clinton instead.

In writing the piece, I worked to craft a set of points that would be almost inarguable. I wanted there to be no good comeback to these items. I judged, for example, that even a Clinton hater would have to grant that Clinton's temperament is preferable to Donald Trump's.

After the election, I showed my list of reasons to a friend—a Republican who didn't vote for Trump or Clinton. My friend agreed with all of the points except one, the one about the alt-right vs. the Marxist Left. If my audience had been Republicans in particular, then I wouldn't have included that point.

Of course, one can agree with all of the individual points and still not believe that they add up to a yes vote for Clinton. I tried to make important points, and briefly underline their importance. Still, a person might have reasons of their own that they feel are more important. Some of the most persuasive essays I read during the campaign aired pro-Trump arguments and countered them directly. (Here was an example.)

Nobody can know how Hillary Clinton would be governing today, so there's no way to know whether my arguments were "right." Conversely, documenting the evidence against Trump in each of these categories would be a big job that I can't undertake. But below I list the reasons once again. They still seem right to me—perhaps even more than they did a hundred-odd days ago.

One writer I follow appears to be rethinking things. Andrew Sullivan recently published a thought-provoking piece titled "Maybe America Wasn't Crazy to Elect Donald Trump." Sullivan is a longtime Clinton critic who voted for her anyway and was as attuned as anybody to the downsides of Donald Trump. He argues now however that it might have been worse had Clinton been elected:
I still would never have risked putting this menacing clown into the Oval Office. But in the long run, if catastrophe doesn’t strike, it might even be better for the future health of our politics that Clinton is not president. 
Read Sullivan's case here.


1. She has a better temperament. The President's job is stressful, so I think temperament matters. Donald Trump seems excitable and impulsive, which in a President makes me nervous. Hillary Clinton seems like a calmer, more deliberate person.

2. Her base is more manageable. The alt-right is nasty enough as a fringe movement. If Trump wins, the alt-right will have a seat at the table in policy discussions.

Bad things would also happen if the Marxist left were to grow in power, but the situation isn't symmetrical. The relationship between Clinton and progressive activists isn't nearly as cozy as the relationship between Trump and the alt-right. And the Republicans in Congress won't roll over for the Marxist left the way they will for the alt-right.

3. She is more fact-based and can listen better. I don't like all of Hillary's policies, and I especially don't like her interventionist instincts. But I think she is capable of weighing the arguments of critics and capable of adjusting her plans in response to facts. Donald Trump can't take any criticism, and facts don't inform his plans at any stage.

4. Criticism of her seems overblown, while criticism of him is just. Matt Yglesias's take on the email thing is pretty much how I look at it, and for every bad trait of Hillary's, Trump has the same trait except worse (12). The record of Trump's bad character spans decades. He is a small, insecure person with a cruel streak and a terrible lusting after power for its own sake. Lots of people are trying to explain how it happened—but however it happened, this year the Republican party nominated a candidate who deserves to lose.

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