Much of the discussion surrounding the American presidential race is about ‘a choice’ – good versus bad, forward versus backward. Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, and Donald Trump, the Republican nominee, are in engaged in a bipartisan showdown. Which one is good, and who to elect, is up to voters.
Yet there is another side amidst this binary rhetoric. If you followed the race for the Democratic nomination, you will know that Clinton faces not only Trump, but parts of her own party – the primary elections left the Democratic electorate splintered. Now, a group of democrats and liberal-leaning, non-affiliated voters would rather vote Green or abstain in the election. Why? ‘The big picture’ – voting for Clinton is the ‘lesser of two evils’ for some, and an entirely immoral decision for others. For these voters her corporate backing, political ‘flip-flopping’ and hawkish foreign policy record make her untrustworthy and, yes, ‘evil’. She represents the broken political system that crushed the American dream, and her presidency would be just as destructive as Trump’s.
Yet these Americans looking at the ‘big picture’ are blind. While we can only hypothesise based on their past records, manifestos and campaigns, to me it is undebatable: President Trump would be destructive, while President Clinton would be progressive. This article is not in defense of Clinton against Trump, although these discussions apply to both debates. Rather, this is an address to the Democrats, Bernie Sanders idealists and progressive voters who claim voting for Clinton is doing a disservice to the nation and its people.
President Trump would be destructive, while President Clinton would be progressive.
Commentators from both anti-Clinton camps argue that her gender and stance on women’s rights should not matter in this election – feminism alone is not important enough to send her to the Oval Office. Perhaps these critiques come from a place of privilege, but progressive voters who cannot see the importance of women’s rights alone and in relation to the good of the nation are ignorant.
Women’s rights and gender equality matter and should be a central point in this election. Anyone who claims voting because of gender issues is unnecessary are blind to the harsh reality American women face every day. Gender inequality is a national problem. Women earn 78 per cent of what men earn in the same professions, 4,000 women die every year due to domestic abuse and one in five American women have been victims of rape or attempted rape. Choosing to stand with a historic female candidate who has “women’s rights and opportunity” and “[ending] campus sex assault” as key manifesto points is proactive and progressive. We cannot ignore the danger of electing Trump, who calls women pigs and dogs, belittles women for having periods, and who was recently revealed to have said in 2005 that he could “grab [women] by the pussy” just because he is a celebrity. There is a lot to lose from electing a misogynist who perpetuates female objectification and gender inequality.
Furthermore, women’s rights actually fit into the ‘big picture’ rhetoric. Trump, in an attempt to appeal to the fragmented Republican Party, Tea Party movement, and religious conservatives, has come out as anti-‘big government’ and pro-life. He seeks to defund Planned Parenthood “because of the abortion factor” and will abolish the Affordable Health Care Act. The problem is that these policies would not only affect individuals seeking abortions but would remove the capacity for Americans of lower socioeconomic backgrounds to take action and look after their sexual and reproductive health.
Institutions like Planned Parenthood break down socio-economic barriers in the United States by allowing women and men from all economic and racial backgrounds to take proactive control of their health and bodies. 79 per cent of Planned Parenthood patients have incomes in or below the federal poverty level – defunding the program would not hurt the rich, but the poor, and further perpetuate inequality. Not only that, but in 2013-2014, Planned Parenthood had 2.7 million clients and provided 10.6 million services: 42 per cent were STI/STD testing and treatment, 34 per cent were contraception, 9 per cent were cancer screening and prevention and only 3 per cent were for ‘Abortion services’. If Planned Parenthood were defunded on the basis of 8,100 patients, that would leave over 2.6 million people left out in the cold without general sexual health and gender-related services. Even if you are pro-life, the statistics do not justify defunding Plan Parenthood as a whole.
Studies have shown that disparities in healthcare perpetuates social immobility. Strip those of lower economic backgrounds from access to gynecologists, contraception, cancer screenings and yes, abortions, and watch as the USA’s level of inequality grows even further. Clinton has said she will continue to fund Planned Parenthood. She is pro-choice. She wants to help the Affordable Health Care Act grow. These policies matter not just because they help women, but because tacking gender inequality also means tacking socioeconomic inequality as a whole. We cannot lift up the country without lifting up women, and progressive voters who agree need to remember how much there is to lose from a Trump presidency.
Then there are guns, a truly American problem that is easy for outsiders to brush over or make jokes about due to their illogical ties to American patriotism. When 90 people die a day because of gun violence, it becomes a statistic, not a problem. Yet it is truly difficult to find an American who has not, to some degree, been impacted by gun violence. My cousin was shot and killed, my friend was in a school shooting and there are regular news of gun-deaths in my home neighborhood. Guns let people turn their opinions and emotions into acts of violence, making it almost impossible to feel safe in the USA.
While the pro-gun/anti-gun argument is another debate in itself, there is a simple truth: voters who are searching for gun control would be naïve to ignore the importance of electing Clinton. She has an F rating from the National Rifle Association, asserts “guns, in and of themselves, will not make Americans safer” and has “gun violence prevention” as a key manifesto point. You cannot deny her staunch attitude towards guns: she actively supported Bill Clinton’s Federal Assault Weapons ban and pursued a similar policy after George W. Bush did not renew the ban in 2004. She aims to expand background checks and fight against the gun lobby, and her record of voting in favor of gun control and safety is in line with this.
Anyone who is anti-gun or pro-gun control has much to gain from Clinton and much to lose from Trump. Trump has unanimous support from the NRA. His manifesto says he supports the “national right to carry [guns]” and also that “the government has no business dictating what types of firearms good, honest people are allowed to own”. Furthermore, it is evident from debates and his website that he does not see gun violence as a problem. Instead of focusing on guns, Trump wants to “fix our broken mental health system . . . all of the tragic mass murders that occurred in the past several years have something in common [mental health]”. After the Orlando shootings, he refused to acknowledge that the attack was homophobic and made more destructive by lax gun control – it was all ISIS, nothing more. This level of ignorance about guns and attacks like Orlando is not just stupid, but dangerous. Why risk going miles backwards when the alternative wants to take us forward on this issue?
Yet despite these clear-cut progressive domestic stances, some claim voting for Clinton is immoral regardless. However, many of the problems projected onto her are systematic problems with American democracy, capitalism, neoliberal institutionalism and the power elite. Obama too was funded by corporations like Goldman Sachs, as are most politicians in the House of Representatives and Congress. Much of the controversy surrounding the DNC’s favouritism of Clinton over Sanders focuses not on Clinton, but the organisation itself.
Furthermore, Clinton’s changes in political views over decades are not something she should be burned at the stake for – the views of the public change, and we want our politicians to represent that. As for foreign policy, her ideas are larger symptoms of the historical standing of American hegemony and international structures: we need to hold her accountable for any action she takes, but also recognise that aggressive neoliberalism is a symptom of a larger global philosophy and tackle that. No, she is not perfect, and we should hold her accountable for her past and future actions. However, blaming her individually for problems inherent in American democracy is ignorant. If we wish to change the USA’s broken democracy, she is a better vehicle for change than Trump.
Trump’s leadership would take the remnants of the American dream and burn them to the ground, and we would burn too.
The ‘big picture’ matters, but so do people. A Trump presidency would threaten my ability, as a woman, to govern my own body. It would perpetuate racial stereotypes, gun violence, and socio-economic disparities. It would be destructive to the LGBT community, immigrants, and all minorities. Trump’s leadership would take the remnants of the American dream and burn them to the ground, and we would burn too.
From my eyes, the ‘big picture’ is not the failing American economic or political system, but my ability to live my life. It is for that reason that I unapologetically stand with Hillary Clinton.