We’re with her: The Howler on the 2016 election
There is little doubt that the 2016 presidential election defies precedent. For the first time in American history, a major political party has nominated a woman as their candidate, but both she and her opponent, a real-estate-mogul-turned-reality-television-star-turned-politician, have historically low favorability ratings. Since this has not been a conventional election season, this will not be a conventional issue of The Howler.
The two candidates do not have equally legitimate visions for this country’s future, and they do not have equal respect for the media and American democracy. Republican nominee Donald Trump represents the antithesis of this nation’s ideals and offers voters few opportunities save for a bleak and potentially dangerous future. For this reason, and because of the Democratic nominee’s extensive qualifications, The Howler is proud to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.
It is only fitting that the Republican Party’s symbol is an elephant, because Trump’s words have been the proverbial elephant in the room for the past 16 months. His has been a campaign of insulting rhetoric that far surpasses a disregard for political correctness and borders on blatant bigotry. First, it was the mischaracterization of Mexican immigrants as “rapists,” criminals, and drug dealers. Next, he suggested that 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain did not deserve his reputation as a war hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War. In the GOP’s first presidential debate, he implied that Megyn Kelly’s menstruation impaired her ability to moderate, and at a campaign rally a few months later, he mocked the movements of a New York Times reporter with a disability. After that, he proposed that Muslims be temporarily prohibited entrance to the United States. He has retweeted the posts of white supremacists not once, not twice, but 75 times since announcing his candidacy last June, and his rallies are infamous for their violence against protesters and minorities. Then, this summer, voters witnessed his spat with the gold star parents of Humayun Khan, an American soldier killed in action in Iraq.
But, of course, the latest blow to his campaign, a 2005 Access Hollywood video leaked by The Washington Post, made more headlines than any of his previous transgressions. In the video, Trump brags about sexually assaulting women, using language that The Howler can’t conscionably repeat.
His divisive, often offensive rhetoric is the reason more than 160 Republican leaders have officially denounced the Trump campaign. A candidate who actively creates rifts within their own party cannot be expected to lead effectively in the White House.
Trump crossed another line when, in the final debate, he would not pledge to accept the results of the election should he lose. The peaceful transfer of power has always been a defining part of American democracy, and if he refuses to acknowledge its importance, can he really be president?
Trump’s lack of transparency also presents a serious problem for a presidential candidate. His company’s international dealings increase the risk of conflicts of interest, and the Trump Foundation’s unscrupulous handling of funds raises questions about the candidate’s character. His latest tax returns (from 1995) document $916 million in losses, and without more recent numbers, it is impossible to tell whether Trump has fulfilled one of the most fundamental duties of an American citizen—paying taxes—in the past 21 years.
Under normal circumstances, coherent policy positions would be a fundamental requirement of any presidential candidate, but this seems to be yet another way in which Trump defies precedent. Most Trump voters would like to think the candidate a hardliner on ISIS, for example, but that could not be further from the truth. At the start of his campaign, he suggested that the United States send troops into Iraq to combat the terrorist group, then immediately backpedaled, insisting that merely bombing their oil fields would do the trick. Then he claimed that the United States’ regional allies should intervene militarily and that the United States should formally “declare war against ISIS,” even though the government already declared a “war on terror” in 2001. And despite informing voters of his plan to ask “the generals” for their advice on the situation, he has repeatedly indicated that he believes he knows more than the most qualified military officials. Trump has also advocated for both raising and lowering the minimum wage, both increasing and cutting taxes on the wealthy, and both increasing and paying off the national debt. He has no clear stance on climate change, numerous contradictory proposals for gun-control legislation (or the removal thereof) and a new opinion about abortion every time someone asks.
Even when it comes to his signature issue, immigration, Trump has contradicted himself time and time again. At different points during the race, he has claimed that he intends to deport the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, “do the same” as past presidents (which would imply minimal deportation), deport the 11 million, but not explicitly refer to it as deportation, “work with” the 11 million instead of deporting them, end birthright citizenship, and end birthright citizenship except for those who might be deemed “dreamers.” If you are able to determine a clear stance from those statements, congratulations, because you have succeeded where most political analysts have failed.
There is no doubt that Donald Trump is the least qualified presidential candidate who has run for the job in recent memory. However, it is important to understand that The Howler does not support Clinton’s candidacy simply because she presents an alternative to Trump.
Clinton’s work during her eight years in the Senate and four years as Secretary of State more than qualify her for the position of Commander in Chief. As Secretary of State, Clinton helped produce some of the most substantive collaborative international agreements on the advancement of women’s rights and international development, and she was willing to cooperate with adversaries like Russia when it came to critical issues such as Iran’s nuclear program. As a senator, she did valuable work on domestic policy, working to give a voice to as many citizens as possible.
In stark contrast to Trump’s disrespect for the disabled, Clinton worked as a lawyer for the Children’s Defense Fund and helped children who had been denied admission to schools due to poverty or disability. From the very start of her career, she looked for ways to provide the 2 million American children not attending school with an education. Her bipartisan work after 9/11 is also indicative of how she may work to further unify American politics and reduce legislative gridlock. It is this kind of dedication that has defined Clinton’s entire political career, and given us a glimpse into the kind of president she could be.
Clinton also has a unique leadership strategy that is often mischaracterized. Politicians generally win elections by giving inspiring speeches; that’s how Bernie Sanders received devoted fans on college campuses. Clinton, however, succeeds by listening rather than talking. Those who have worked with Clinton professionally attest to her ability to create strong relationships. This trait is far more valuable than it may seem; it means that Clinton can build rapport, even with those who do not share her political views. This will enable her to work with Republicans and reduce legislative gridlock, just as she has done in the past.
Every candidate has their flaws, and Clinton has not been exempt from scrutiny. Throughout her political career, she has been involved in multiple scandals, including the incident with her private email server, the DNC email leaks and Benghazi. She has made mistakes—as one would expect of someone involved in politics for so long—but what sets Clinton apart from her opponent is how she has handled the aftermath. While Clinton has apologized for her actions, Trump doesn’t usually acknowledges wrongdoing on his part for the scandals he has been involved. And, in the rare occasions that he apologizes, he does so with insincerity as he often compares his offenses to his opponent’s wrongdoings to lessen the severity of his own scandals.
We must understand that politicians are people, and they are capable of making mistakes. Approaching the elections with a healthy sense of realism in our expectations for candidates will create a better understanding of the distinction between the mistakes made as a result of action and the mistakes allowed by inaction.