Why Democrats Who HATE Clinton Should Vote For Her Anyway
Americans can review their choice of President every four years. They can never review the Justices a president will appoint to the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS), the body whose political complexion will shape the future of American democracy for decades to come.
A lifetime appointment, Supreme Court Justices make and break the laws, for better or worse. They are largely unaccountable: the only way an appointee can be removed is by impeachment – which has never happened in since the court was founded in 1789.
The court’s power is hard to overstate. It not only charts the course of US democracy, but frequently holds the pen that writes the country’s history: slavery, free speech, civil rights, abortion, the death penalty – and of course the right to bear arms – are just some of the key decisions that have shaped American society.
In the near future – and depending on who wins the race to the White House – the court will likely be called to rule on socialised medicine, immigration, racial discrimination, privacy and surveillance, affirmative action, voting rights and district boundaries, climate change, energy and environment, to revisit ‘Citizens United’ and campaign finance, the death penalty, second amendment rights, and Roe v. Wade, the cornerstone abortion ruling that enshrines a woman’s right to choose. These are pressing issues of grave import, and the decisions made will define America for many decades.
The election of the next US President will determine the nature of political and constitutional arguments SCOTUS will hear. Trump’s administration would move quickly to dismantle Obama’s healthcare, limit the authority of the Environmental Protection Agency (or even dismantle it), defend current campaign finance regulations and nullify the right to choose legislation. Trump should also expect his administration to be called before the bench if he implements racial-based immigration policies, or circumvents the constitutional rights of US citizens on the basis of their religion.
Clinton meanwhile has made her immediate intentions clear were she to win: she admires and wants to build on Obama’s healthcare reforms, backs strong action on climate change, and in her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention told the delegates: “We need to appoint Supreme Court justices who will get money out of politics and expand voting rights, not restrict them. And we’ll pass a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United!”
In legislative terms there’s a lot at stake, but there’s another factor which, in terms of consequence, far outweighs the immediacy of issues currently on the table. The very complexion of the court itself could be decided by the next incumbent; once that complexion is cast, it will outlast the next president, and perhaps a few more to come. This is because the court is in the process of renewing itself, either by the passing away of existing Justices, or by retirement due to age. President Obama has already appointed two new Justices; his attempt to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia was blocked after the Republicans issued a statement insisting that they would not consider any nominee selected by Obama – a measure that has drawn considerable criticism, but also serves to demonstrate how influential both parties believe the appointments are. Opinion is divided on how many more Justices the next incumbent will appoint; one is certain – Scalia’s replacement. Two appointments are quite possible; three is not beyond the realms of possibility, but the four appointment rhetoric bandied about by both candidates to scare the voters is something of a long shot.
As extreme as Trump’s rhetoric is, it is hard to take issue with his excesses when rank and file democrats employ much the same language. It should be shocking to read comments from Dems about Clinton that are full of hatred, wild accusation and gross hyperbole, but having endured ‘Brexit’ – the UK referendum on membership of the European Union – one is quite used to it. It is the language of desperation, of incomprehension: where understanding fails, it is replaced by emotion, and the language abandons long-term reason in favour of short-term visceral satisfaction and foolish demagoguery.
That’s how the Brexit campaign was waged; nobody understood what was at stake, in part because membership necessarily embraced so many different facets of national and trans-national activity, and in part because what information was available was invariably tainted, or made to seem that way. In the end, both parties largely gave up trying to convince the electorate with sound argument and analysis. Instead, they just tried to scare people with outlandish tales of immigrants swamping our apparently fragile society or economic doom and collapse of the welfare state if we left.
As emotion replaced sense, Brexit became a proxy referendum for every disaffection held by voters. The disenfranchised discovered a way to make themselves heard, using the vote to register their anger and disillusion, but without appearing to abandon their chosen party.
This is where things get dangerous – and the point of this discussion comes into focus – for it was quite clear the morning after the referendum that many who voted to leave the E.U. never thought they would actually win. They just expected to shake up the complacent government that was ignoring them, sending a strident message from the ballot box they hoped would be heard. Far from being marginalised, they won: we must all live now with the exit from Europe that this protest has brought about, whatever that entails.
In this light, I’m both astonished and appalled at how many Dem voters are insisting they will either abstain in November, or even vote for Trump, as an expression of their extreme antipathy towards Clinton. At least a protest over Europe wasn’t going to hand the launch codes for 8000 nukes to a man driven by narcissism, a man with absolutely no political or foreign policy experience, a dog-whistling demagogue prepared to say (and perhaps do) anything that will curry favour with his key demographic – the disaffected white working class – and a penchant for taking petulant offence at the smallest slight.
I don’t understand the basis for the absolute hatred and disdain for Hilary Clinton in so many Democratic voters. As far as I can tell, it’s a product of the same disillusion and sense of betrayal that we had over Brexit here in the UK, the same incoherent rage, frustration and mute incomprehension. Each side seeks to cast blame, to shift focus away from the intransigent nature of modern adversarial politics, and direct the electorate instead to label each other with playground names. The voters are treated like children, and too many of them respond accordingly, out of anger and frustration. They cannot really believe in a new orange Santa Claus, or the loving corporate grandma from hell, yet these are the only choices they can make.
There’s a quote from Oscar Wilde that comes to mind: “When the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers”. It’s the cautionary tale: be careful what you vote for. I may not understand the horror that Clinton invokes, but I do understand the significance of making a protest vote or abstention out of disgust. Democracy is not a way to register protest; it is a way to choose how society is run and shaped. A protest vote is, in essence, an abrogation of responsibility. A protest vote is not a vote to improve or change things, it is a childish expression of a crude and immediate anger. Instead of employing thoughtful introspection on the wider issues and the way we shape our future, protesters refuse to consider the bigger picture in favour of simply throwing a tantrum.
If angry Democrats give the election to Trump, their protest will come at a terrible price. Everything that liberals value will come under sustained attack if Trump propels the Supreme Court further to the right. It is not appropriate to claim to be a patriot, all the while acting so selfishly that the country is effectively abandoned to extremists like Trump, and under the control of politicians who are willing to undo so much of the progress American society has made in the last century in order to appease those who will keep them in power, and those that supply the money that gets them there.
Demonstration is one thing. Ideological suicide is altogether something else. Vote for Clinton and endure the next four years – it probably won’t be as bad as you think; it couldn’t possibly be worse.
Alternatively, don’t vote for Clinton, and endure a lifetime watching your country abandon so many historic gains, and the chance of an equitable liberal future for all its citizens.