Hillary Clinton is our unequivocal choice for President of the United States. She has been in public service for more than 40 years, especially as an advocate for health care reform and for children’s rights and as a tireless emissary for American foreign policy and diplomacy. And she is a practiced politician, drawing on her experience as Bill Clinton’s very real partner in Arkansas through to the White House in 1992, as a twice-elected senator from New York, and finally as President Obama’s Secretary of State from 2009 through 2013.
Secretary Clinton is smart, experienced, tough, and empathetic. She has the supple intellect needed to grasp and find her way through complex and often contradictory policy alternatives. She is also a consummate pragmatist, and understands that the challenges we face require inclusivity and compromise. Each of these characteristics is essential in an American president, and all need to be present in the calculus of leadership we require and are entitled to demand in exchange for our vote.
As with any experienced political leader, Secretary Clinton comes to this election with baggage. By instinct her policy inclinations can fall to the right of our own, in both foreign and domestic matters. For example, her vision for national health care reform in the early years of her husband’s presidency was too constrained by conventional provider and payer interests, and the opportunity for important change was stillborn; it was a brave effort, though, the first attempt at serious reform since Medicare was passed 20 years earlier, in a much different partisan climate. Even her most damaging 2002 Senate vote authorizing President George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq, given the lies which underpinned his administration’s case for war and her own general support for presidential latitude, seems to fall within the spectrum of reasonable judgment in the context in which it occurred.
Secretary Clinton also struggles to let down her guard in public forums and in freewheeling press conferences and interviews, a significant handicap in a campaign environment dominated by tweets, blogs, and one-liners elevated to revealed wisdom. Owing to a combination of ambition, seriousness of purpose and mission, and undoubtedly to personal predisposition, she has learned — if to a fault — to protect her privacy and latitude, and her continued leadership role, from attacks from any quarter.
As one of the most prominent Democrats in an era of intense partisan polarization, Secretary Clinton has been reviled by Republicans, bloodied more than any political figure except President Obama in the past century. In this tortured phase of Republican party malevolence, as the party of Lincoln devolves into the party of George Lincoln Rockwell and parades its Faustian bargain of support for Mr. Trump’s candidacy in exchange for the hope that he will offer them the crumbs of his administration, the figurative and now literal (courtesy of Mr. Trump’s bottomless pit of bile) target on Secretary Clinton’s back grows more and more prominent.
In continually protecting her place in American governance and her still-unmet ambitions, Secretary Clinton has made serious mistakes along the way. Preparation and stamina enabled her to beat back Republican blood lust over Benghazi, but she has been tone-deaf regarding her post-2008 relationship with bloated bankers. And her evasiveness and lack of candor in service of her preferred narrative regarding her email servers, and her handling of classified documents in particular, continue to plague her and her supporters, and allow critics and enemies to erode confidence in her candidacy.
Secretary Clinton’s verbal contortions, however inevitable in the American political stew of her ambition, her pragmatic political decision-making, and her justifiable defensiveness in the service of protecting her personal position, are not in the end disqualifying. It does make us squirm mightily when we see the compromises we the voters require of successful candidates so clearly. But in our relentless partisan environment, Secretary Clinton can’t expose herself, can’t easily admit to mistakes, and can’t become the easygoing pal we’re told we want in a president.
As our next president, Hillary Clinton will have to confront a series of enormously complicated domestic and international issues fraught with risk, and, inevitably, unintended consequences.
- We need to achieve such domestic and international security as our era of terrorism and irrational actors allows, and we need a leader who can help Americans understand that unqualified personal and national security and freedom is not possible.
- We need to share in the global responsibility for resettling the 30-plus million political refugees that international instability, in part adrift at the hands of failed Middle Eastern policy, has placed on our collective doorsteps.
- We need to reach consensus on comprehensive immigration reform to assure pathways to citizenship, remain open to all who want to join us, with policies which explicitly refrain from discriminating against Muslims or other ethnic and national groups. We are a nation of immigrants, and complex times don’t obviate our moral imperatives.
- We need a president who is committed to protecting the civil rights gains we’ve been making and expand on them, especially by zealously expanding voting rights, access to education, and job gains, and by assuring that entrepreneurial opportunities are available across the entire population. And we need on-the-ground leadership to dispel the myth that we need to choose between black and minority lives and good community policing.
- We need continued presidential leadership to ban assault rifles, end sales to people on terror watch lists, and require background checks and mandatory wait periods for gun sales. The social malignancy of the NRA as arbiter of national gun policy needs to end, and it won’t without continued presidential pressure.
- We need presidential and congressional leadership to assure continued and shared economic recovery through infrastructure, environmental, and and technology investment — and the fair tax policies required to underwrite them.
- We need to continue to count reductions in the student and family cost of higher education as a critical infrastructure investment, starting with universal access to a community college education and college loan-forgiveness programs. We all should be reminded of the rapid transformational effect free and low-cost college education provided for generations of Americans and immigrants throughout the last century.
- We need presidential and congressional leadership to enact budgets and tax policies explicitly acknowledging that the disruptions of globalism and technology have created vast wealth, but almost all for the wealthiest Americans; “trickle-down economics” doesn’t help ordinary Americans, and needs, finally, a stake through its heart.
- We need trade treaties which recognize the inevitability and cumulative benefit of mindful free trade and support for those adversely affected, and at the same time acknowledge the tremendous economic penalties of economic nationalism and protectionism.
- We need a president committed to the protection and expansion of the Affordable Healthcare Act, and the speedy establishment of a government option. Good health care and good health care insurance need to be rights in our prosperous society and not market commodities; they are also a boon to our economy, not a giveaway.
- We need a president who will lead the fight to protect and expand family, women’s, and LGBT rights. From family leave to public accommodation, the country is way ahead of the politicians, and recalcitrant legislators need to get out of the way.
- We need a president who will continue to lead the fight for investment in environmental protection focused on countering global warming. Failing to embrace the findings of responsible climate science will make us the agents of catastrophic global degradation, doing the handiwork of terrorists of the worst order.
- We need a president who will lead a reluctant Congress to pass campaign finance reform and overturn Citizens United and the corrosive effect unlimited corporate money coupled with donor secrecy has had under the protection of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Successfully engaging with each of these transcendent challenges will require the steely, informed, and disciplined intellect, the reliable and dedicated professionalism, and the natural affinity for American values and character we share that Hillary Clinton would bring to the presidency. For these reasons, Secretary Clinton’s candidacy stands on its own, and deserves a wholehearted and unequivocal endorsement, without comparison to the nihilistic, thoroughly destructive, and delegitimizing candidacy of Donald J. Trump.