Hitler or Hillary? A Stark Choice

August 4th, 2016

Why we all need to stand up and be counted

The mere fact that Donald Trump has been designated the Republican nominee for President should give us all cause for concern. No one with such a clearly authoritarian personality has ever been a plausible candidate for the most powerful office in the world. The campaign that we see unfolding before us is not a reality show, but a sobering reality. It is not unreasonable that we should ask ourselves what would happen if we were to stand by and not speak out against it.

As Martin Neimoller famously said:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

If there is even a small possibility that Donald Trump will get elected, we will need to be prepared to mount every possible resistance against policies that are immoral, disreputable, and unconstitutional — all things he has said that he will do. We cannot be counted among the ones who stood by while we allowed such an individual to become the leader of the world. Can we imagine looking back in anger and despair at our failure to prevent such a travesty of history — instead of making history by electing the first woman President?

During the 1930s my mother worked under cover against the growing numbers of Americans who were Nazi sympathizers, and there was also an equally vast moral divide. We face a similar threat today. As the Washington Post has noted:

“America First” was the motto of Nazi-friendly Americans in the 1930s, and Trump has more than just a catchphrase in common with them.

The good news is that many people, and significant parts of the media, are beginning to wake up. If, in the end, America decisively repudiates Trump, it will be an indication of our maturity as a people and as a nation. But we cannot simply dismiss those who are Trump’s supporters. If we’re going to include everyone in our democracy, we need to include them also.

We also need to challenge those who routinely lump Trump and Hillary together, and presumably advocate for a third party, whether it’s Gary Johnson for the Libertarian Party or Jill Stein for the Green Party. I say this even though I agree with Jill on almost all of her policies, and with Gary on several of his.

But I believe this election is too important to relegate my vote, or yours, to the sideline. It may be unfortunate that third party candidates are shunted aside in this way, but this is the system we have right now, and many of remember Bush v. Gore in 2000, where Ralph Nader clearly siphoned off more Democratic than Republican votes. Imagine where we would be today if Gore had won (and perhaps more importantly, where we wouldn’t be, e.g., Iraq).

Robert Steele writes:

Neither Clinton nor Trump will fix America. Johnson will just be a spoiler. What WILL fix America is Electoral Reform. We need celebrities that stand up and point out that Trump and Clinton represent 30% of the eligible voters, and the two-party tyranny is blocking the other 70% from having voice, vote, or representation.

Again, fair enough. But Steele also writes, on his web site:

…I have been prepared (after trying very hard to get Bernie Sanders to focus (he blew me off eight times) and then working my way through O’Malley, Kasich, Bloomberg, and others) to support Donald Trump as a disruptor, and I remain impressed by Trump himself…

In my view, using the ideas of electoral reform (in the long run essential), a balanced budget (probably a bad idea), state funding of the federal government (ha!), and shutting down the Fed and the IRS (ridiculous) as a thinly veiled cover for promoting Trump, and equating him with Hillary, is morally bankrupt as well as intellectually dishonest. If Steele truly wants electoral reform, he needs to push for it after the election; the suggestion that we can somehow get it passed now is simply implausible.

I also don’t see the evidence for all the alleged mistrust of Hillary; I think a lot of it is just misogyny. Trump, on the other hand, has been quite explicit about what he would do (how about throwing your political rival in jail, deporting eleven million people, reinstating torture, etc., etc. What’s next, sending Muslims, Hispanics, and the disabled to concentration camps?)

I’m not saying that Hillary is perfect. She’s a human being, with a history of some poor choices. But unlike her opponent, she’s acknowledged that she’s made mistakes, and repudiated these choices. This makes her a better person, and I have no problem whatsoever supporting her. The absurd charges that the Republicans have for years thrown at her have largely proven to be fabrications. I believe that, given the chance, she will generally err on the side of doing the right thing, much as Obama has done during the past eight years.

Of course, even if what Hillary says she will do is positive, and much of it is, we need more than that: we need a way to give the majority of Americans back their aspirations, something to strive for, and a way to prosper. Without this there will almost inevitably be chaos and disruption and rebellion — a rebellion of the sort that will make the Tea Party look like, well, a tea party.

And as it has become increasingly clear, Americans will only tackle the larger challenges we’re facing — climate change, poverty, systematic racism and inequality — in more prosperous times, so we must hope for a steadily upward trend, not a massive disruption. It’s only in such a context that we can get our own public-interest work done.

(Crossposted at Dead River Journal)

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