by Elena Greco
July 17, 2016
Revised August 30, 2016
I think one of the effects that social media has had on us is to reduce our ability to see the big picture, or even to think of looking at the big picture. As a result, we tend to react instantly to what is in front of us without considering the larger consequences. That has never been more important than it is in this election.
In choosing how to cast our vote, more so than in any previous election, we have to consider not only which candidate we like the best, but what the possible outcomes would be of the election of each candidate. We also have to think about what Congress might look like after the many elections coming up. How would each candidate work with that new Congress? The last thing we need is to have a President and a Congress that are at opposite ends of the political spectrum so that we end up with the kind of gridlock we’ve had for the last eight years. We cannot afford another four years of that situation at this important time in our history. And half the Supreme Court justices will likely be replaced in the next President’s term. That will affect our country for the next few decades, so it is a major consideration. In addition, we must consider what the effect of each candidate on foreign relations would be, an urgent issue. Since, barring unforeseen circumstances, Bernie Sanders (my chosen candidate) is not going to be a candidate for President, let’s imagine the effect that each of the remaining three candidates might have on our country, our planet and our lives.
Trump. Imagine that we have Donald Trump in office. He has no experience in government and does not understand how things work in Washington. He does not work or play well with others. He has not demonstrated the ability to compromise or to weigh the views of the opposing party. He has not been successful in his dealings with foreign entities (e.g., the Scotland golf course fiasco). His choice of Vice Presidential running mate is an extreme right-wing Evangical, and his chosen campaign managers are right-wing extremists, indicating the direction he would take our country. He has not been successful in his own business profession (multiple bankruptcies). His communication style is that of bullying and name-calling, and he has left a slew of people in his wake who will testify that he is abusive and that he does not keep his word or pay his debts. How would this affect our country? He would, by his own declaration, promote a roll-back of laws supporting women, gays, minorities and pretty much anyone other than privileged white men. His reactionary views would be at odds with what might be those of the majority of Congress after the upcoming elections. He would bully and threaten Congress, resulting in gridlock in lawmaking. He would bully and threaten other countries, resulting in a rapid deterioration in our foreign relations, creating potentially dangerous situations. He would ruin our reputation with our foreign allies by showing disrespect to foreign leaders and other countries. All of these things would likely result in wars. He would likely destroy what’s left of our economy through his poor judgment and knee-jerk reactions, and his lack of careful study and long-range vision. Corruption in the government would continue. He would certainly accelerate the destruction of our environment. And in choosing an extremely far-right, religious extremist as his Vice Presidential running mate, he has set things up to take our country further to the right, to having a government run by religious extremists who govern through the laws of their particular religion instead of American law, and who are set on taking away the rights of anyone who does not practice their religion, a trend that really must stop if we are to have a truly great country again.
Stein. Imagine that we have Jill Stein in office. Stein has no absolutely experience in government or foreign affairs, and she has never run a large business. She has a background in psychology, sociology and anthropology, and she is an MD who practiced internal medicine and taught medicine at Harvard. She has run for office for various governmental positions, including Massachusetts governor and President of the US, but has never won or served in public office. She has a great interest in the environment and in public health, and has done much research and published respected papers on these subjects. She is an advocate for campaign finance reform. Her positions on virtually every issue are very close to those of Bernie Sanders, and she seems to have plans to accomplish many of the things she promotes, although I haven’t seen any analysis of her plans by others. Her personality comes across as inauthentic or patronizing at times, and this is likely off-putting to some and might prevent her from reaching agreement with those whose opinions differ from hers. Not having been in government previously, it might take her quite a while to grasp how things work in the US government and to accomplish change. I would guess that Republicans would not regard her favorably and might be disinclined to work with her, much as they have with Obama. It is unfortunate that she chose an extremist running mate, which will surely alienate a great many voters, and certainly would alienate Congress. That choice indicates poor judgment on Stein’s part. I believe she might perform reasonably well in foreign relations, but some foreign dignitaries might not take her seriously, since she is a woman who does not have government experience. She would certainly fight to save the environment and to ban fracking, to support public health issues, to reduce military spending, and to transition to renewable energy and sustainable practices. I just don’t know that as a newbie to government she could get things accomplished. If she would get herself elected to Congress first to gain some experience and insight into the process, I think she might make a reasonably good president some day. I cannot see her in that position now since she has no prior government experience, and no track record so that we can assess her potential performance, and that to me makes her candidacy a no-brainer. We can’t have a novice running the country.
Clinton. Imagine that we have Hillary Clinton in office. She is highly experienced in government. She has a reputation for crossing the aisle to communicate with parties of both sides and for compromise. She has vast experience in foreign policy and in dealing with foreign politicians of all sorts, and our reputation abroad would continue pretty much the same. She would promote laws which support women, children, gays and other minorities. She does seem to have an intention to lighten the load on the middle class and improve the economy. On the negative side, she has a strong penchant for going to war. Her deep connections with Monsanto and Wall Street will prevent her from protecting the environment and saving the planet, from doing anything positive with healthcare, and from supporting meaningful legislation to curb the negative influence of Wall Street on our economy. Corruption in the government will continue. In short, things would continue pretty much as they have been, with slight improvements for some, and with the probability of more wars. I think the most positive thing about her is that she has been in government for so long that she knows where the bodies are buried, she knows how to get Congress to work with her, she could likely get legislation through (although we might not like her proposals), and she works well with, and knows how to work with, foreign leaders. Having been an attorney, a wife of the President for two terms, a Senator and the US Secretary of State, she knows how to do the job; I doubt that anyone would dispute that. She might be corrupt, but she can certainly do the job, and things would likely not change much under her Presidency.
The reality. In this particular election, we not only have to vote for the person we think would make the best President, we must make certain that another candidate, Donald Trump, along with his religious extremist, woman-hating running mate, does NOT get elected, as that would ensure the decline and possible destruction of our country. If many of Sanders’ supporters and Independents vote for Stein, that is a vote taken away from Clinton and a vote FOR Donald Trump. To clarify, just for this example, assume 50% of voters are Democrat or Independent and the other 50% are Republican. (I have no idea of the actual percentage; this is just a hypothetical example.) We need all or most of those voters to vote for the candidate who will defeat Trump. If half of those voters (25%) vote for Stein and half (25%) vote for Clinton, Trump (50%) will not be defeated. There is the possibility that some anti-Trump Republicans are going to vote for Clinton, but we cannot count on that being a significant percentage. Pretty much any percentage of the “not-Trump” half that votes for a second candidate will reduce the percentage needed to defeat Trump. The same would hold true for a write-in vote for Bernie Sanders, as tempting as that might seem. That would not get Bernie Sanders elected, but it might well get Donald Trump elected. Making the Democrats “pay” for what they did to Sanders in the primary by voting for someone other than Clinton might feel good, but it will not serve our country; it will almost certainly get Trump elected. We need to be united around one Democratic candidate in order to defeat Trump.
If you’ve been paying attention to my myriad of negative Clinton posts on Facebook, you know that I am not a fan of hers for many reasons. However, in this particular scenario, I do believe that the best thing we can do for our country is to vote for Clinton in this election. It seems that Bernie Sanders has come to that conclusion, as well. Noam Chomsky agrees; I highly recommend the article he co-wrote, “An Eight-Point Brief for LEV (Lesser Evil Voting).”
It is heartening that Bernie Sanders ALMOST WON the Democratic nomination (and, I believe, would have had there not been corruption in the process and the Party). He proved that candidates without Super PAC money CAN successfully run for office. This is extremely important, as it destroyed a deep-seated belief in most of us that it could not be done. I fully believe that in the next election we will see a Progressive elected, whether from the Democratic Party or the Independent Party. In the mean time, we can focus on filling the MANY Congressional seats (almost 500!) that will be open this year with Progressives, which will have a major effect on the direction our country takes. Bernie Sanders has already created several organizations (listed at the bottom of this article) that will ensure that we can do this. All we have to do is participate and use them!
I am surprised that some Sanders supporters were so naïve or, to be honest, selfish in their response to his endorsing Clinton. He was not “betraying” anyone. He is a bright man who looked at the big picture and did (a) what Democratic Party rules say that he had to do in order to remain in the Party (which he had given his word he would do, and he is an honorable man) and speak at the Convention (which helped our cause in the long run) and (b) what he thought was the best thing for the country. He is a person of integrity—something rare in politics—and to discard him like an old shoe because you don’t like one position he has taken is not very kind or very wise. This 74-year-old man ran a vigorous campaign (how many younger people could have managed what he did with the energy, commitment and power he exhibited?) for a year and a half trying his absolute best to turn the country around. This was not a whim, and by his own repeated statements, he never saw it as simply about getting himself elected. It was for him about creating a movement that would change and revitalize American government, and that he has done. He gave us hope, and he has not taken that hope away from us; only we can do that. That he got the percentage of the voters that he did (and we know that he actually got a larger percentage of the vote than was recorded due to election fraud and irregularities) was a testament to his commitment and conviction, and to the numbers of citizens who are tired of the oligarchy and ready to take back our country. In addition, because he demonstrated that it is possible to fund a political campaign without large corporate donors, he has paved the way for an Independent to run for President without corporate backing in the future, something that was unthinkable before he came along. Sanders has been in government for a very long time, and he knows how the game is played. I am certain that he has looked at both the big picture and the long-term picture, and that his moves are guided accordingly.
Also, please notice that his speeches have not changed one iota. His positions are exactly the same. He has not “caved,” as some disgruntled supporters cavalierly state. Even in the speech in which he endorsed Clinton, he continued to speak from his convictions. He also included in that speech statements that Clinton had joined him in support for certain issues, making it more difficult for her to go against those positions in the future. He worked hard to get the Democratic Platform changed to a much more progressive one. This was not easy work, as the Democratic Party is as corrupt as the rest of our government.
Sanders said on record when he switched to the Democratic Party and began to run his campaign that he would not run as an Independent or other party if he did not get the nomination. I believe there is also a law that would prevent him from doing so. When Bernie says something, he does not renege on his promise—something highly unusual for a politician. So, while he might like to take the support that he has gotten from this campaign as a Democrat and move to a different party, he cannot do that in this particular election.
When I saw at the beginning of his campaign what sort of person Bernie Sanders was, and what he was committed to—which was clearly demonstrated through his actions for the last five decades, not just through rhetoric—I committed to him. I trust that his vision will guide us to a better government and a better country for all of our citizens if we listen to him. Anyone could see that he was heart-sick and angry when he endorsed Clinton, but he did what he believed was the best thing for our country, which he also did when he asked for his supporters to vote for Clinton. I will do the same.
Whatever the result of this particular election, I do believe enough of us have “come out of the closet” with our disgust of our corrupt government and our support for leaders of integrity that we have a brighter future. Let’s make sure we don’t make that vision more difficult to achieve by electing an inexperienced, dangerously rash, childish fascist to rule our country by throwing our vote away on someone who cannot be elected, or watering down the vote that would otherwise go toward someone who can be elected and who would make a far better President than Donald Trump.
And if before the election Clinton has to withdraw for any other reason, Sanders will still be there, already united with her campaign, ready to make a seamless transition to being the Democratic candidate. We need to stay the course with Bernie Sanders, and we need to vote for Hillary Clinton.
Brand New Congress: This organization focuses on electing a Progressive Congress one seat at a time using the tactics utilized so successfully by Bernie Sanders’ campaign.
Our Revolution: Bernie Sanders started the Our Revolution political organization to help recruit, train and fund progressive candidates’ campaigns.
Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In: Bernie Sanders’ book, out November 15, 2016.
The Sanders Institute (link to come): The Sanders Institute will focus on elevating issues and ideas — through media and documentaries — that Sanders said the “corporate media” fails to focus on, including the disappearing middle class, “massive” income inequality, horrific levels of poverty and problems affecting seniors and children.
See Elena’s bios for more information about the author.