Hillary Clinton, who looks like she now has a lock on enough delegates to win the Democratic presidential nomination, definitely doesn’t get those on the left of the political spectrum particularly excited. She’s not my favourite politician either.
She is generally regarded as a rather conservative status-quo Democrat, who embodies many of the traits that make people cynical about politics. She has championed the free trade policies many regard as disastrous for the middle class, supported the war in Iraq, and only belatedly joined the progress train on issues like same-sex marriage. She epitomizes the weather-vane politician who flaps whichever the way the wind is blowing and has engaged in some rather questionable conduct in the past.
For those who saw in her chief rival, Bernie Sanders, a principled politician who could transform America into a more caring society, with his pledges to introduce single-payer health care and tuition-free post-secondary education, the nomination process has been disillusioning.
It is disappointing, I know. But in truth, I doubt that Sanders could have accomplished a fraction of what he wished to when faced with the institutional restraints of Congress and the courts.
And those who are disappointed by the ascension of Clinton and the downfall of Sanders have to deal with the reality that the alternative to Hillary Clinton is Donald Trump – a narcissistic, xenophobic bully with a strange habit of speaking about himself in the third person. A man with scarcely coherent policies whose speeches are better described as bizarre rants.
Republicans have been putting forward nutty candidates for years during primary season before running home to comfortable “moderates” like John McCain and Mitt Romney. But it is truly testimony to how nutty that the party has become that Ted Cruz – a rather extreme conservative senator of Canadian birth who was prepared to shut down the US government several years ago in a showdown with President Barack Obama – emerged as the “moderate” alternative to Trump this year.
And this time the “moderate” lost. And lost to an anti-vaxxer who has proposed temporarily banning Muslim immigration to the United States, was pushing the Obama “birther” conspiracy after everyone else had given up on it, and wants to build a wall around Mexico.
Those progressives who are not ready to give up on the dream of a Sanders presidency and pick the lesser of evils come November have turned to minimizing the danger of a Trump presidency. They have highlighted the belief that the checks and balances inherent in the American system – namely Congress and the Supreme Court – will keep him in line.
In most circumstances this might be a compelling argument. But it is not even clear to me from reading some of Trump’s commentary on various political-legal issues that he respects or even understands the separation of powers. This is, after all, a candidate who said that the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, was “going to have to pay a big price” if the two didn’t get along, and has recently come under fire for his extreme attacks on a “Mexican” judge for being a “hater.” Of the three branches of government, the executive is by far the most frightening when unencumbered by a healthy respect for its counterparts.
I’ve never been one for scorched earth politics and find the instinct to burn the whole thing down because things don’t turn out exactly the way we want rather off-putting. Hillary Clinton has her faults, but frankly I’m far less concerned by her email habits at the State Department than I am about the type of hatred and bigotry that a Trump presidency could legitimize. The danger of Trump is not just in his policies. It’s in the tacit acceptance of the worldview that he has sought to pander to these past months.
The revolution can wait four more years. If the alternative to Clinton was a pablum conservative like Mitt Romney or someone with a degree of sanity like John McCain, progressives could safely have their little temper tantrum and stay home in November. But a Trump presidency represents a serious threat to the republic, and by refusing to swallow their disappointment and stand with Clinton against him, progressives will be betraying the vulnerable people who have been the target of his fear-mongering.
It is time to act like adults and move on.
Kyle Carruthers is a born-and-raised Yukoner who lives and practises law in Whitehorse.