Hillary Clinton is the Rodney Dangerfield of American politics—no matter how much she accomplishes, she gets no respect.
Over the past year, I have encountered one person after another who dissed Hillary for purely subjective reasons. There was the ex who said on a long-distance call that establishment candidate Hillary would be a servant of the wealthy, while Donald Trump would be independent because he was so rich that he couldn't be bought. The client who told me between puffs of his cigarette that he couldn’t stand Hillary because he hated her fake smile. The online acquaintance who dismissed how significant Hillary’s election would be to women worldwide because Hillary had stayed with a philanderer and gotten this far by simply “riding her husband’s coattails.” The feminist who said over coffee that she wanted a female president, but not Hillary, because I don’t trust her. The former co-worker who referred to Hillary's "trail of corruption" on a Facebook feed but couldn't cite any significant scandals when pressed.
And these people are all quite happy with Barack Obama, whose center-left agenda and technocratic orientation are virtually indistinguishable from Hillary’s.
Clearly, the Republican Party has done such a masterful job demonizing Hillary for the past 25 years that many otherwise intelligent people have a visceral dislike of her.
But far more relevant than surface-level perceptions is the weighty matter of how a Clinton presidency would differ from a Trump presidency. To answer this, we need to ask a few simple questions. Where have the candidates been (how much governing experience do they have)? Where are they going (what are their policy proposals)? Do they have the temperament to take on the toughest job in the world? Everything else is just noise.
The answer to the first question is a no-brainer. The presidency is not an entry level job, and when it comes to governing experience, there is no comparison between the two candidates.
Donald Trump has never held public office (1) or shown a remote interest in public service of any kind (2). Trump’s sole claim to being qualified for president is his business experience, but he is not self-made (he began with a million-dollar loan from his father), he had to be bailed out by his father in 1980 (3), he claimed losses of almost a billion dollars in 1995 alone (4) in order to dodge his taxes (5), and he has left a trail of wreckage behind him, including thousands of frivolous lawsuits (6), jilted clients (7) and contractors (8), and multiple bankruptcies (9). Even Trump’s foundation, one of the few reflections of concern for other human beings, was used as a piggy bank to fund a contribution to the Florida attorney general, in a flagrant—and illegal—attempt to make charges against Trump University go away (10).
Setting aside the fact that there is no historical correlation between business success and effectiveness in the Oval Office, if Trump is so sure he can "run government like a business," why is he the first presidential candidate in the modern era to refuse to release his tax returns (11), which would presumably reveal his business acumen? Could it be because Trump's business "performance has been mediocre compared with the stock market and property in New York," according to The Economist? We may never know.
By contrast, Hillary has a more impressive public service resume than anyone who has run for president in several decades, or perhaps ever.
As a teenager, Clinton set up a babysitting service for migrant workers (12).
During her undergraduate years, around the time future war hawk Donald Trump was
|Hillary at Wellesley|
While in law school, Hillary volunteered at Yale's Child Study Center (16), served as a state coordinator for George McGovern, arguably the most progressive general election candidate in American history (17), and went undercover to investigate discrimination in Alabama schools for the Children's Defense Fund (18).
In 1973, the same year Trump was sued for refusing to rent to blacks in his rental apartments (which would happen more than once, 19), Hillary was one of just 27 women in the Yale Law School class of 235 (20). Rather than making a money grab—as Trump did by going into real estate out of college—Hillary chose to be the only woman on the team of lawyers tasked with impeaching Richard Nixon (21).
When Bill Clinton moved back to Arkansas to pursue a political career in 1974, Hillary had a choice. She could stay in D.C. and pursue her own sizable ambitions, or go with Bill. She chose Arkansas, and marriage, but she was no simple political wife, entirely beholden to her husband's career.
While in Arkansas, Hillary taught law (22) and served as Bill’s top consultant in his two years as attorney general and 12 as governor (23). She took on the major project of reforming Arkansas' sub-par public education system (24), co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families organization (25), chaired the Arkansas Educational Standards Committee (26), and served on the boards of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital (27), Legal Services (where she was the first female to chair the board, 28), and the Children’s Defense Fund (29). Hillary also juggled a career as a lawyer at the Rose Law Firm in Little Rock, where she was the first full-time female partner (30); she excelled in this role, making the National Law Journal list of most influential lawyers in 1988 and 1991 (31).
In the '90s, while Donald cheated on his first model/wife, divorced her, married and
|Hillary fights the good fight for universal healthcare (1994)|
And instead of bragging about herself non-stop, as Trump did in his most famous (ghostwritten) book, The Art of the Deal, Hillary wrote about the importance of society banding together to help children reach their full potential in It Takes a Village (37), the audio version of which netted her a Grammy Award.
In the '00s, during which time Trump made and lost more money, married a trophy wife, continued to troll beauty pageants, and hosted a reality TV show, Hillary ran against Republican (and future Trump supporter) Rudy Giuliani for an open Senate seat in New York. When his poll numbers tanked in the wake of a divorce scandal, trash-talking Giuliani dropped out of the race rather than face the ignominy of losing to Hillary. Hillary beat the fallback Republican, Rick Lazio, by double digits, becoming the first woman to be elected senator of New York (38).
In 2001, the Clinton Foundation was founded. It would go on to provide AIDS medications
|Hillary sworn in as the first female senator from New York|
Halfway through her Senate career, in 2005, Hillary was named to the National Women’s Hall of Fame (44).
In 2006, Hillary received the overwhelming confidence of her New York constituents, winning re-election to the Senate by more than a 2-to-1 margin (45).
Not content to be a popular and accomplished senator, Hillary ran for president in 2007. Despite getting more votes than Barack Obama (46), she lost the primary. Rather than mope around or cast blame, she campaigned for Obama in the fall of 2008 and accepted his offer to become secretary of state (47) the following year, after first co-sponsoring
As a secretary of state, Hillary helped push the Pediatric Research Equity Act, which forced pharmaceutical companies to be more careful about the drugs they market to children (49). She was also involved in the Women in Public Service Project (50), a State Department partnership with all-female colleges geared to bringing more women into the public sector.
In 2012, just before stepping down as secretary of state, Hillary created the “Saving Mothers, Giving Life” initiative to fight infant mortality in sub-Saharan Africa (51). That same year, right after it was announced that Barack Obama had won a second term, Trump claimed that Obama's five-million-vote landslide was "rigged." (52)
To justify not voting for the Democratic candidate this fall, some on the left have peddled the
notion that there is a major policy chasm between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. In this framing, Hillary is "Republican light," closer to Trump than she is to Bernie Sanders.
As Bernie himself has said many times, this contention is wildly false. While they were both in the Senate, Hillary and Bernie voted together 93% of the time (53). Far from being "Republican light," Hillary was the 11th most liberal senator (54), placing her to the left of three-fourths of the Democratic caucus and all of the Republicans.
Clinton now leads a Democratic Party that put up its most liberal platform ever last summer (55). With some exceptions, Clinton promises an extension of the center-left direction of Barack Obama, and she might fight harder for some progressive priorities.
On the other side of the aisle, Trump heads a GOP that appears to be hurtling backward, a party further to the right on many issues than previous Republican leaders who were considered extreme at the time, such as Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush (56).
Over the course of the campaign, Clinton has released a long list of progressive proposals that offer a stark contrast to her Republican rival, including policies dealing with the reform of drug laws (57), assistance to caregivers for the elderly and disabled (58), prescription drug imports from Canada (59), autism (60), drug and alcohol addiction (61), Alzheimer's disease (62), and healthcare for veterans (63).
Clinton plans to protect and build on Obama's signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act (64), which has brought healthcare to 20 million Americans who would otherwise not have it. Trump wants to repeal the act, and with it coverage for millions of Americans (65). He promises to replace the law, but has provided few specifics about what he would replace it with.
While Clinton has rolled out workable education reform proposals for both K-12 and college students (66), Trump has offered the stale Republican orthodoxy of tax write-offs and "school choice" (privatization) which would in many instances violate the separation of church and state by using public funds for religious organizations (67).
The candidates' positions on taxation are radically different. Clinton would pay for her targeted social investments with tax increases on the wealthy, including a steep tax on real estate interests (68). Trump has proposed a tax plan that could add ten trillion dollars to the debt in its first decade (69) and further increase America's sky-high income inequality by slashing taxes on corporations and multi-millionaires (70), including Trump himself, who would gain a massive windfall if his proposal became a reality (71).
Clinton, who presciently advocated stronger oversight of Wall Street before the crash of 2008 (72), has vowed to enforce the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Barack Obama’s bill to reign in Big Finance (73), and proposed further regulations of financial interests, a plan endorsed by Elizabeth Warren. Trump, who routinely foams at the mouth about the evils of regulation—even food safety regulations—would follow the long-time GOP playbook of letting Wall Street police itself that gave us The Great Depression and the Great Recession of 2008 (74).
The candidates diverge sharply on environmental issues. Clinton, who has received endorsements from the Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the League of Conservation Voters (75), would continue Obama’s impressive green legacy by supporting investments in clean energy (76), strong environmental regulations (77), both national and international efforts to combat climate change (78), and the creation of national monuments (79). Trump, whose energy policies were created by extraction industry lobbyists (80), has claimed climate change was a "Chinese hoax" (81), attacked the Obama Administration repeatedly for steering the U.S. away from dirty, dirty coal (82), and said he would get rid of Obama's plan to force utilities to use cleaner fuels (83), a policy Clinton supports (84). And, like Republican predecessors Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, Trump would most likely appease GOP allies and campaign contributors by underfunding the Environmental Protection Agency, appointing staff with hostility to the environment to key posts, and gutting environmental regulations (85).
More than anything, Trump owes his candidacy to his promises to get tough on illegal immigrants, inflammatory and dishonest words which have particular resonance with
|Trump launches his campaign by scapegoating Mexicans|
Mexican-Americans aren't the only people of color who would be harmed by a Trump presidency. While Hillary has met with the mothers of black victims of police violence (89), Trump has exploited white privilege (and ignorance, 90) with constant dog whistle statements about "law and order," just as Richard Nixon did in 1968 when leveraging white Southern anger over the Civil Rights Act. Among Trump’s policy ideas to restore order is support for stop-and-risk laws (91) which were ruled unconstitutional, as they inordinately impact black and Latino Americans.
Though claiming to support law and order, and frequently referring to inner cities as hellish, Trump has offered nothing of substance to deal with America's epidemic of gun violence. Where Clinton has suggested limited, common sense gun control proposals (92), Trump has bragged about his NRA endorsement and demagogued the issue (93), at various points saying he would sign a law allowing guns in school zones on his first day in office (94), ludicrously claiming that Clinton wants to “end the Second Amendment” (95), and implying assassination by saying that “Second Amendment people could act against Hillary Clinton (96).”
And where Clinton would use her Justice Department to challenge Republican voter ID laws (97) passed with the sole intention of disenfranchising people of color (laws Clinton's lawyers have already sued to overturn in court, 98), Trump supports these bills (99), and the lies that underpin them. Trump repeatedly claims that we should be on the watch for voter fraud on November 8, when in fact the far greater (and only real) problem will be voter suppression, which may disenfranchise 1.3 million voters in the swing states alone (100). Changing the composition of the federal courts could kill these pernicious measures outright, particularly if Clinton was allowed to choose one or two Supreme Court judges.
Trump would also try to codify bigotry by treating gay and lesbian Americans as second-class citizens. While Clinton has received the endorsement of the Human Rights Campaign for supporting marriage equality and other priorities of the LGBT community (101), Trump has vowed to rescind Obama’s pro-LGBT orders (102) and sign legislation allowing discrimination against the LGBT community (103) very similar to the "religious freedom" bill his running mate Mike Pence signed as governor of Indiana (104). [Governor Pence also backed conversion therapy intended to convince LGBT individuals that they should be straight (105) and opposed needle exchange, which exacerbated an HIV outbreak that later occurred in Indiana (106).]
A Trump presidency would be a disaster for American women.
Trump has embraced an eleventh-hour pro-life stance (107), and even spoken of the need to punish women who exercise their reproductive rights (108). Clinton, on the other hand, would protect a woman’s right to choose through Justice Department enforcement of clinic
access laws (109), lawsuits against states that try to limit choice (110), and the appointment of judges—to both the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts—who would protect Roe v. Wade (111).
Trump has expressed a wish to kill funding for Planned Parenthood, an organization that Hillary has always backed 100% (112), for which she received their endorsement during the Democratic primary (113). Remarkably, Trump’s running mate Mike Pence may be even worse than Trump on women’s issues. While still in Congress, Pence introduced the first measures to de-fund Planned Parenthood (114), which he brought up on several occasions (115); as governor, his wish came true (116). Governor Pence also signed a bill that required funerals to be held for aborted fetuses (117).
In addition to appointing reactionary right-wing judges who would take us back 50 or 60 years (or more), a President Trump would appoint a host of noxious Republicans to government positions, just as George W. Bush did. Trump suggested he would name New Jersey governor Chris Christie (best known for causing a major traffic jam on the George Washington Bridge out of political spite) chief of staff (118) and Trey Gowdy, the hyperpartisan lightweight who helmed the kangaroo-court Benghazi hearings, to be the attorney general of the United States (119). As an added bonus, Trump would like to name Rudy Giuliani, the quasi-Fascist former mayor of New York City who implemented stop and frisk (see numbers 38 and 91), the head of the Homeland Security Department (120). By contrast, Hillary could be counted on to fill most appointments with seasoned professionals who would take the historic missions of their agencies seriously (121).
Amazingly, Trump may pose more danger to U.S. foreign policy than he does to American domestic policy, where he would at least be checked by Democrats in Congress.
His opponent, Hillary Clinton, spent eight years traveling abroad as first lady (122) and logged more miles than any secretary of state in U.S. history (123). As secretary of state, her diplomatic skills contributed to many successful policies, including but not limited to the
|"The worst major-party candidate|
this republic has ever produced"
Based on his steady stream of bellicose rhetoric, Trump threatens to return us to the policies of George W. Bush that eroded our alliances and lowered America’s standing in the world (131). Trump has frequently attacked the Iran peace deal in hyperbolic terms, and while Clinton has promised not to send troops to Iraq or Syria, Trump the Draft Dodger (see number 13) has delivered one saber-rattling line after another, continually referring to Barack Obama’s caution about sending other peoples' sons and daughters into harm's way as “weakness” (132). In addition to talking tough about ISIS non-stop, Trump has said he won’t protect NATO allies who don’t “pay up.” (133)
While Barack Obama, like other presidents before him—including conservative Republican Ronald Reagan—has worked to reduce nuclear stockpiles around the world, Trump suggested that Japan and South Korea should join the nuclear club (134).
Where Hillary Clinton has promised to follow the Geneva Accords with regard to captured enemy combatants, Trump said that we should go back to waterboarding (135) and even killing the families of suspected terrorists (136), and suggested that the United States should expand the prison at Guantanamo Bay which has been an international disgrace to the U.S. (137).
Trump, like many seemingly straight Republican males, has demonstrated a bizarre man crush on Russian president Vladimir Putin, denying the Russian government's hacking of
Democratic officials (138), praising Putin's leadership (139), and claiming Russia wasn't in the Ukraine, even though they had annexed Crimea (140).
Aggressive military actions, thumbing our nose at allies and international human rights norms, and palling around with Putin are unlikely to maintain the international good will Barack Obama has spent eight years patiently restoring in the wake of George W. Bush's cowboy unilateralism. The best we can hope for if Trump gets elected is that we find out he was kidding this whole time in order to appeal to his paleoconservative base.
"I don't like to analyze myself because I might not like what I see"
Years ago, Theodore Roosevelt was described as having “a second-class intellect, but a first-class temperament.” The implication was that though there had been smarter men in the
To distract the American public from the issues that matter, the Republican Party has spent tens of millions of taxpayer dollars (and hundreds of hours of taxpayer-funded
|The face of perpetual adolescence|
The allegations of corruption are brazenly hypocritical, as Clinton is a Girl Scout next to Richard Nixon (Watergate), Ronald Reagan (Iran-Contra) and George W, Bush (WMD lies), and Trump has a sizable record of corruption himself.
The rap on Hillary's honesty is equally dubious. Clinton, a record 20-time winner of Gallup's most admired woman award (141), has high marks among fact checkers, getting the same ratings for honesty as Bernie Sanders (142), while Trump is shown to lie more often than he tells the truth (143). Trump is so dishonest that his bankruptcy lawyers met with him in pairs so that he wouldn’t be able to twist their words afterwards (144).
As to character, Hillary Clinton has consistently maintained her composure in high profile, high pressure roles as first lady, senator, secretary of state, and as a presidential candidate, where she took a scalpel to Trump in three successive debates (145). Despite decades of very personal and often unfair attacks from the left and right, Hillary has not broken (146). By contrast, Donald Trump has repeatedly blown up at the smallest personal slights (147) and revealed the personality of an adolescent who views women as little more than sex objects.
Long before Trump re-posted classy Tweets such as “mplefty67: If Hillary Clinton can’t satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?” (148), or questioned Hillary Clinton’s “stamina” (149), or had his surrogate Rudy Giuliani (see numbers 38, 91,
Long before the video revelation that a 59-year-old Trump had bragged about being able to grab womens’ pussies because he was a star (154), Trump called Miss Universe “an eating machine,” (155) said it was hard for a flat-chested woman to be a 10 (156), claimed he could have “nailed” Princess Di not long after her untimely death (157), and told an attractive contestant on his reality TV show, “That must be a pretty picture, you dropping to your knees.”
Long before 12, 13, 14, 15-and-counting women came forward with accusations against Trump of improper physical advances (158), his hostility toward women spilled over into public feuds (159) with Rosie O’Donnell (whom he called “a fat pig”) and Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
Trump’s prejudices have not been limited to women. He first dipped his toes in murky political waters when he played to the racist Republican right by questioning the location of Barack Obama’s birth (160), a conspiracy theory that had been thoroughly debunked years earlier, then later "took credit" for getting Obama to release his long-form birth certificate (161).
Trump went from a novelty candidate to the Republican frontrunner by referring to Mexicans as “rapists” (see number 86). He later extended his nativist-baiting to Muslims,
opposing the immigration of refugees from Syria’s civil war to the United States (162), even supporting an outright ban on Muslims (163). At other times he proposed an ideological litmus test for new immigrants (164) and racial profiling based on religion (165).
Lest anyone wonder if these were just short-term campaign stunts geared to stirring up the primitive emotions that dominate Republican primaries, Trump doubled down on prejudice with two of the most suicidal moves of the general election campaign: questioning the integrity of a Mexican-American judge (166) who was presiding over a case related to Trump University (see number 10) and engaging in a series of Twitter attacks on the Gold Star family of a Muslim war hero (167).
Sadly, Trump's bigotry is not limited to Mexicans, Muslims, or women.
In February, Trump refused to condemn the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke (168), an enthusiastic supporter. In July of this year, Trump tweeted an image of a six-pointed star next to a pile of money for Hillary Clinton (169), afterward denying the clear anti-Semitic intent of the Tweet (170). In September of this year, the former spouse of Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon—an accused wife-beater (171)—said that Bannon had kept his daughters out of a school because there were too many “whiny” Jewish brats there (172). Not surprisingly, Trump, who has re-tweeted posts from white power groups (173), has the backing of white supremacists (174).
And that’s not all.
In addition to insulting Mexicans, Muslims, women, and Jewish-Americans, Trump
Women, Mexicans, Muslims, Jewish-Americans, and the disabled are far from alone, as Trump has issued hundreds of petty insults on Twitter (178, see above photo).
In sum, if you want the lowest common denominator in the White House, an emotionally-stunted narcissist and braggart with serious anger management problems and racist, sexist, and Islamophobic tendencies, an entitled, right-wing demagogue with backward, mean-
If you prefer inclusion, decades of hands-on experience, a steady temperament, a first-class mind, and forward-thinking policies, pull the lever for Hillary Clinton.
For Americans who care about the future, the choice is clear.
More political writing by Dan Benbow: