I want to start by saying that I am not writing this response to your post to argue; I have no intention of convincing you not to vote for Trump. I am writing in response to Kelly Quelette’s blog post on why she is voting for Donald Trump, despite the revelations of what we are all calling Pussygate. I want to share my perspective; I think that by sharing my response, we might both help America move forward. Here is the link to her full post: https://kellyquelette.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/why-im-voting-for-donald-trump/.
I’m not pro-Hillary. I’m voting for Jill Stein – Bernie Sanders was my candidate and I will never trust or respect the Democrats for fixing the primaries; for consistently picking their financial backers over the views of voters. So before any knee-jerk reactions to my politics sets in, let me make clear that I’m the guy who gets told “A vote for Jill Stein is a vote for Donald Trump.” And while I understand the reasoning behind this remark, its actually quite insane to reason this way. A vote for Jill Stein is just that – a vote for Jill Stein.
You see, Kelly, in many ways I agree with you. I agree when you say: “And it’s sad that we even have to compare the two – because NEITHER is acceptable. But we as Americans have allowed our country to get to this point, and it’s because we stopped paying attention. And we have allowed ourselves to become a product of our media and others in power.” I think that the Media caters to the lowest common denominator and are interested only in maintaining viewership and access; these are businesses after all. The media and ‘the Establishment’ was systematically biased against Bernie Sanders; the primary was decided by the proverbial ‘smoke-filled backroom.’ The record shows that Hilary and the Democrats say one thing in public and promise – and deliver – something quite different to the various corporations and special interests they actually represent.
I’m sick of it; and I reject the false binary/choice of American politics – Coke or Pepsi, Prius or Hummer – that is killing our democracy and our way of life. I see the election as – to take one topic of debate as an example – between someone who promises to do something about the environment, but almost certainly won’t take any real action and someone who completely denies climate change, and then lies about blaming climate change on the Chinese. Either way, our society will fail to take substantial action on this frankly apocalyptic situation. Like you said, one of these two will be President. That’s the real tragedy.
In this vein, I did want to address some of the claims you make in your posting. On rape culture you insist that Hillary is more to blame; she has reduced the jail time of rapists, she “helped cover up the abuses done by her husband.” You allege that this is worse than Trump’s words and actions. There is a misunderstanding here based on the phrase “rape culture.” Rape culture does not refer so much to literal acts of rape, it refers to the set of social norms or standards which contribute to either excuse, ignore and/or blame the victim (i.e. she should not have dressed so provocatively; she should not have been drinking so much; she was asking for it) in cases of rape. Has Hillary reduced the jail time of rapists and has this contributed to rape culture? I do not think this is clear. But I would observe that the idea of rape culture indicates that we do a poor job of bringing rapists to trial and fully getting justice in the first place. Rape culture means that sexual harassment, misogyny and rape are not just deeply related, they are seen to be normal or acceptable to many people. And this is why Trumps comments contribute to rape culture; he attempts to normalize it. Saying Hillary has contributed more to rape culture is frankly ridiculous.
Next you make an interesting point about race in this country. Again, in many ways, I agree. Quote: “But how are those things resolved? Movements of people coming together. Different races and religions taking time to understand each other. Men learning how to stand up for their sisters and daughters and wives. And guess what? No matter WHO is in office, we can start doing that NOW. The government is not the answer to these issues. These have been issues in our country since day 1, and the MEDIA is much more responsible than the government.” Yes, empathy and a healthy, liberal, “live and let live” perspective is crucial and I agree that each “incident” is exploited for its headline value by the Media. I do think that interest groups – on both sides – use these incidents to flog their narrative to us. But I also think that there is more going on here. First of all, our own history shows that “movements of people coming together” has not happened. If anything, our nation is as segregated now as it has ever been. You perspective subtly ignores the long, sad history of laws passed to perpetuate segregation and racism. I am thinking here of Jim Crow laws, but also of practices like using real estate taxes to fund schools; criminalization of marijuana and infamous “stop and frisk” policies. The racism here is implicit; it perpetuates existing inequalities in a truly sinister way. You have to consider that your perspective excuses existing structural injustices in our society.
National Security is one of your big concerns:”Hillary wants open borders. Are you kidding me? In our lifetime, we have been attacked by terrorists FROM OTHER COUNTRIES….Hillary, wants to allow anyone and everyone into our country, regardless of the danger she could be putting her own people in…But I don’t think it’s unfair to screen who we allow into our country. Especially when they are coming from a part of the world that is home to radical terrorist groups. Ones that openly hate our country.” Again, I think there is some confusion on terms here that desperately needs to be cleared up. ‘Open borders’ is a term that should not be taken in a literal sense; Hillary uses this phase to connote more or less the policies that are in place now. This does not mean “let everyone in.” In fact – and I speak from personal experience – American border controls are known internationally for being a bit zealous. I hasten to add that we have been attacked by terrorists from our own country too; protecting America in the 21st century is about much more than a border control that discriminates against Muslims. That would only make the problem worse; the overwhelming majority of Muslims are normal, peaceful people. I do not excuse terrorism, nor do I think Islam is blameless. My perspective is akin to not holding Christians responsible for the reprehensible actions of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas.
I would also cite an FBI report that found that a major motivating factor in terrorism is American interventions and bombings. My point is that to tackle the problem of terrorism we need to properly understand what is going on; simply tightening border controls to a truly undemocratic extent risks turing the country into a police state and not actually providing any real protection anyway. Don’t forget that Trump has endorsed torture explicitly and many times. This is disgusting, dumb and dangerous, not to mention un-American. I’m surprised that someone who self-identifies as Christian can feel comfortable supporting such a person. The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on CIA Torture is an unrelenting catalog of evidence that proves that torture does not work and was not effective in preventing a single act of terrorism. It has destroyed our moral prestige internationally and is a focus of terrorist recruitment. Torture has made America less safe. The fact that the CIA and the Bush Administration lied about it and it’s effectiveness to the American People should be ringing all sorts of alarm bells. The real world is not an episode of 24.
Another thing I want to address is your statement that “Donald Trump wants to protect AMERICANS – no matter what race you are. No matter what gender.” I’m sorry, I just do not know how you can actually believe this to be true. It’s not a question of either candidate whether they “want to protect Americans” – to claim in seriousness that Hillary implicitly or explicitly does care to protect Americans is comical. I do not have many kind things to say about Hillary, but to allege that she harbors some kind of ulterior motive here or is disingenuous on this point not only belongs to the realm of the conspiracy theory, but threatens the basis of how our democratic society works. Trump strikes me as profoundly ignorant on international issues; I doubt that his desire to keep Americans safe will be enough to actually be of any use at all. I suspect that his words and actions have already made America less safe. I feel comfortable saying that Trump is probably ISIS’ choice to be president too.
Lastly, you touch on economics. I think this is very important as it really gets to the core of what frustrates most Americans today. It is also a complicated, confusing topic, where again, there is very little clarity or mutual understanding. You said:
“Donald Trump is a businessman, not a politician. He did not pay taxes under legal provisions. He did not pay people who did not do good work. If he becomes President, America will be his business. He will conduct trades and make deals that benefit US. As he should. Because when you are the President – AMERICA is your job. Not the rest of the world. Hillary has made lots of promises that sound great, but they all require MORE TAXES. And yes, a lot of them are on the wealthy, which sounds fair…but guess what? MOST of those wealthy people have gotten to where they are because they worked hard and used smart business practices. And also, those wealthy people are usually successful business people who EMPLOY other people. So by penalizing them, you are not helping anyone. You are taking more money out of the hands of American people and putting more money in the hands of the government.”
What you have espoused here is the ideology known as neoliberalism, which has been this nation’s ruling ideology since Reagan. This is matter of factual record; Bill Clinton’s Administration passed major neoliberal pieces of legislation, for example, repealing the Glass-Steagall amendment that helped regulate Wall Street. The 2008 Recession is directly related to this repeal. Neoliberalism is associated with many poorly understood terms like “trickle-down economics, (which you illustrated above)” “austerity,” “globalization,” even something so hopelessly broad as to be meaningless like “capitalism.” Trickle-down economics correctly points out that rich people spending money – the typical metaphor seems to be a rich guy and his yacht – is an important source of economic activity. The problem is that there are also many other sources of economic activity as well. For example: middle class people spending money on education or cities expanding infrastructure.
The factual record shows that the explosion of income inequality (look at CEO pay for example) and the decline of the American middle class is linked. We live in the most unequal society that has ever existed. Again, the trend starts with Reagan’s Administration. The truth of modern day America is that most of our wealth is held by massive corporations, a handful of uber wealthy individuals and the government. None of these have any obligation to spend money (increase wages or create new jobs) for Americans at large. To assume that reducing taxes on the wealthy or stripping away environmental regulation will lead to a massive surge of economic growth ignores that these wealthy individuals and corporations are under no obligation spend any more than they have to. I fail to see how enriching corporations run under the principal of profit maximization is the best way to resuscitate the middle class. It’s hardly a former that leads to people “doing the right thing.” Wal-Mart is hardly the economic model to enrich Americans; I think we can all agree on this. Reality is far more complicated then “wealthy people have generally worked hard and used smart business practices.” I can say that the overwhelming majority of Americans work hard and use smart business practices.
And this leads me to your statements about Trump as a businessman. We think of Trump as a successful businessman because he literally plays one on TV. Trump at best is simply as casino magnate who got his money from his daddy. Look at the scam that was Trump University. Look at all of his failed real estate schemes. Trump Steaks? This man is no Ayn Rand hero. The reality is that the American middle class bears the tax burden; the poor and the rich have escaped their fair share. Trump not paying taxes may have been technically legal, but it is a great example of the larger crime perpetuated under the bluster about trickle-down economics and rich people being job creators – its patently not working. Hell, even The Economist thinks Trump is a fraud and a loser.
I feel obligated to respond to your point about the Supreme Court. You said: “We NEED to keep Republicans in the Supreme Court who will uphold the Constitution.” From my perspective, Clinton is highly unlikely to appoint supreme court justices who are very liberal. They will most likely be akin to her VP choice, Tim Kaine. That is: centrist and probably surprisingly amenable to conservative Americans. I resent your implication that Democrats are somehow subverting the Constitution, and I don’t even like them. The record of Republicans “upholding the Constitution” is pretty shaky. Look at Citizens United; or the fact that Republicans have blocked Obama’s Supreme Court nominee in a blatant disregard to both Constitution and historical practice. Torture? The War in Iraq? Look at what the Republicans are doing to the Voting Rights Act; look at the clearly biased voter ID laws going into place. This is a clear case of the pot calling the kettle black. Your case against Hillary rests on her being a comic-book villain, rather than what she really is: an Establishment candidate with the Democrat’s backers in mind.
Abortion has always struck me as an issue where we as a society are not talking about abortion when we talk about ‘abortion.’ Again, nobody is how you depict them: rapidly “pro-death to unborn babies.” It does not weaken your argument – indeed, it strengthens it – to admit that there are cases where abortion, while awful, is legitimate and even moral. Women do have rights over their own bodies; I’m sure you would agree. Further, it logically compromises your earlier statements about getting the government out of our lives when you imply that access to abortion should be stopped…by legislation.
I hope that you will consider what I have written with an open mind. If I’m trying to convince anyone of anything, it is to vote for a third party.