This weekend, just as ballots arrive in mailboxes, a long season of election endorsements draws to a close for us with the race that will be the easiest choice many voters make.
In this year’s fraught atmosphere of midnight tweets and WikiLeaks, casting a vote for president of the United States has turned into a cut-and-dried exercise for many citizens, a deeply cynical and visceral act, driven more by contempt for the other party’s nominee than by confidence in their own.
A closed-loop culture of antagonism has metastasized before our eyes and should alarm all Americans of goodwill. It must be added to the list of daunting challenges facing our next generation of leaders.
It all starts at the top. For the News Tribune Editorial Board, the only responsible recommendation we can offer is that Hillary Clinton be elected the 45th U.S. president.
Though far from a perfect candidate, Clinton has prepared for this moment with a tireless career of public service. She started as a lawyer fighting for children in poverty, redefined the role of first lady, served two terms as a popular and effective U.S. senator and four years as an able secretary of state under President Barack Obama.
Her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, has led a tireless career of wealth accumulation built on self-aggrandizement. He is manifestly unfit to lead the country.
Trump’s formula for winning could be drawn from “It Can’t Happen Here,” Sinclair Lewis’ semi-satirical novel published in 1935. It’s the story of a demagogue who becomes president after defeating candidates “too lacking in circus tinsel and general clownishness to succeed at this critical hour of the nation’s hysteria, when the electorate wanted a ringmaster-revolutionist.”
But while Trump stole the show in the Republican primaries, the odds are stacked against a November encore.
His P.T. Barnum-esque rhetoric has reached a new low in the last few weeks. He’s fomented blatant disregard for the rule of law by encouraging the idea that Clinton should be imprisoned. He’s shown vile disrespect for democracy by claiming the election is rigged.
His loose-cannon remarks only underscore what was already obvious: Trump lacks the temperament of a commander in chief, and has no grasp of foreign or domestic policy. Nor does he have the attention span or interest to cultivate it.
The real estate mogul has long hitched his credibility to his business prowess. But even this has been called into serious question, in light of his refusal to disclose his tax returns and his cavalier acknowledgment that he didn’t pay federal taxes after taking a nearly billion dollar loss in 1995.
Trump’s drift into unelectable waters is exacerbated by having no ideological anchor — his shifting positions over the years on issues such as abortion should give conservatives pause — and no moral compass.
Mexican immigrants, Muslim citizens, bereaved military families, people with disabilities and women who don’t meet his attractiveness standards have all felt his scorn — to say nothing of the unwanted kissing and sexual groping he was recorded bragging about and is accused of doing by several women.
If voters want a president with potential to inspire their daughters and sons, Clinton possesses more of the requisite qualities.
The Democratic nominee has proven she can play well with others; in the Senate, two-thirds of her bills were co-sponsored by Republicans.
She’s whip smart but understands there’s always more homework to do if you want to be a better leader. Former Virginia Sen. John Warner — one of the myriad Republicans, military leaders and senators who have endorsed Clinton — said the junior senator from New York would come to committee meetings with papers “stuffed under arms and dribbling onto the floor.” Her debate performances against the shoot-from-the-hip Trump also show Clinton doesn’t take preparation lightly.
She is equal parts compassionate and tough, whether fighting for 9/11 first responders or standing up for Chinese women during a famous speech in Beijing. She’s ruthless when circumstances demand, such as her role in helping plan the Special Forces raid that took out Osama Bin Laden.
Clinton is also in step with progressive Puget Sound values. She advocates for diversity in all forms, a higher minimum wage (she supports $12), sensible gun control, a cleaner environment and steps to combat climate change. She has built coalitions among state, congressional and tribal leaders. If Trump were to build anything in Washington, it likely would be a resort or a golf course.
That Clinton has turned to tough talk on free trade, joining Trump and Bernie Sanders in opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, doesn’t favor the U.S.’s most trade-dependent state. But we believe she ultimately would be a pragmatist in the Obama mold and wouldn’t succumb to protectionist tunnel vision.
It stands to reason that our state’s close relations with Asia, including JBLM’s post-Iraq pivot to the Pacific Rim, would be more secure under Clinton. The thought of a Trump administration, governed by his hair-trigger impulses, should unnerve American allies abroad.
For all her attributes, however, Clinton would enter the Oval Office hauling a lot of heavy baggage, inevitable after 25 years in the national spotlight. Some of it is the result of unrelenting Republican attacks. Certainly some of it is self-made.
Clinton has leaned so far to the left to reach Sanders’ supporters, she has promised a binge of federal spending that would add billions to the national debt, according to the nonprofit Committee for a Responsible Budget.
Her use of an unsecure home server while secretary of state was foolish. Her clumsy justification for deleting thousands of emails deservedly reinforced the public’s view of her as untrustworthy and aloof. Her record as chief international diplomat is tarnished by the emergence of the Islamic State in general and the collapse of Libya in particular.
Her description of disenfranchised Trump supporters as a “basket of deplorables” was, well, deplorable. Though she’s apologized, the words echo.
But in the final reckoning, Clinton’s problems are a mere sideshow compared to Trump’s three-ring circus.
We hope Hillary Clinton wins the election Nov. 8. And we pray she doesn’t gloat about the electorate’s rejection of a ringmaster-revolutionist, or misinterpret it as a mandate.
A new leadership model is needed to heal the politics and prejudices of a divided America. There can be no higher goal for the U.S.’s first female president to pursue in her first 100 days.