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Flatiron Hot! News | December 9, 2017

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Dear Fellow Millennials: A Vote For Hillary Clinton is a Vote for Our Future

Dear Fellow Millennials: A Vote For Hillary Clinton is a Vote for Our Future
Eric Shapiro

The prospect of a Donald Trump presidency and a GOP Congressional majority should be a progressive’s worst nightmare. Not only would such an outcome virtually erase President Obama’s legacy; it would effectively eliminate the possibility of progress on the issues most important to the left (from moderate liberals to Greens) for a generation. And yet, I have noticed that many of my fellow millennials plan on sitting out this election or casting protest votes. I understand the impulse, although I could not disagree with it more. Many have not gotten over Bernie Sanders’ primary loss and reflexively distrust an establishment that does not seem to reflect their values or interests. While this frustration is not entirely unwarranted, giving it expression in the electoral process is exceedingly dangerous. In 2016 the “greater evil” is not just a less objectionable version of the lesser one (which I would argue isn’t in fact evil at all but merely imperfect), but rather orders of magnitudes worse. Sufficiently bad to thwart all of our generation’s massive potential before we have a chance to serve in government.

Hillary Clinton, for all of her warts, falls within the norm of democratic governance and is at least sympathetic to the left’s priorities. Her description of herself as a “progressive who likes to get things done,” while corny, actually goes a long way towards describing her approach to politics. That is, she is committed to progressive goals (clearly some more than others), but she believes the best way to achieve them is through bipartisan compromise and incremental reforms rather than sweeping transformation which, let’s face it, is not often possible in this democratic republic of ours. The worst we can expect from Hillary Clinton on domestic policy is disappointment. At best, she will maintain and perhaps expand President Obama’s executive orders on immigration and climate change while appointing left-leaning Supreme Court Justices to rework jurisprudence in a manner more conducive to progressive priorities. Or maybe she will fail in these important, yet modest, goals and we will be no worse off than we were under Obama. Either way, America endures and progressives live on to fight another day.

If Trump and the GOP win, we may spend the better part of our lives trying to end the dystopian nightmare that we allowed to come into being. And it doesn’t take much imagination to have a pretty solid idea of what that nightmare would look like: Trump has been quite clear. Yet some progressives cling to the assumption that should Trump win, it would be possible – whether through the obstruction of a Democratic minority in Congress or simply wishful thinking – to prevent Trump from enacting his agenda. If only. With majorities in Congress, statehouses and a conservative Supreme Court, Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and the House Freedom Caucus will have a blank check to ram their agenda through Congress. Paul Ryan’s economic policies combined with Trump’s xenophobic nativism should be enough to give any progressive palpitations. And given that the 2014 midterm map heavily favors the GOP, taking back the majority may be simply impossible, especially given the undemocratic effects of partisan gerrymandering. President Obama had only two years to advance his agenda before the Tea Party wave in 2010 and he managed to pass the stimulus and the Affordable Care Act; if Trump and the GOP win today, we can reasonably expect at least two and likely four or more years of governance dominated by Trump and Paul Ryan. The ideological battle in Congress will not be between some version of progressiveness and conservatism; rather, it will be between two or more comparably awful versions of conservatism. Congressional Democrats and moderate Republicans (if the latter even still exist) would be hard-pressed to defend the social safety net from complete dismemberment.

Anyone who thinks that would be no different from a Clinton administration assisted and pressured by a Democratic Senate majority and progressive justices hasn’t been paying attention. Abortion rights, immigration reform, the Affordable Care Act, the Iran deal and the fight against climate change are all at stake in this election. Even if the Democratic Party does not go as far as one might like on a given issue, rest assured that the GOP holds a diametrically opposed view and will have the power to legislate that view unconstrained by any checks and balances. Take your political revolution and imagine the exact opposite; that is what we would get under a President Trump and a GOP-dominated government.

But this election is about more than that. In addition to advocating policies that would have a demonstrably negative impact on society’s most vulnerable, Trump and the GOP have shown a disregard for the democratic norms that make activism possible: the right to vote, the right to peacefully assemble, a free press, free speech even when that speech is unflattering to Trump’s ego. The destruction of the President’s constitutional responsibility to nominate justices to the Supreme Court (which a number of Republican senators have announced their intention not to recognize even if Hillary Clinton is elected). Consider all this – the election is about so much more than feeling inspired and passionate about a presidential candidate.  It is about the survival of democracy in America.

I happen to think Hillary Clinton will make a good president, but at this point, it is unlikely that I can win over skeptics and haters. Instead, I urge my fellow millennials, whose disgust with the political system I in many ways share, to realize that now is not the time for apathy or for a protest vote. Some of us are old enough to remember how it felt to watch Al Gore have the election stolen from him by the Supreme Court, with the unintentional but no-less-damning help of Ralph Nader. Some progressives voted for Ralph Nader because they were passionate about him as a candidate, others because they considered George W. Bush and Al Gore to be two sides of the same corporatist, neo-liberal coin. The Iraq War, the Bush tax cuts, Guantanamo Bay, the bungling of the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and countless other examples demonstrate that in a country as ideologically polarized as America, the lesser of two evils argument is usually a fallacy. Even eight years of President Obama has not been enough to undo the damage of George W. Bush’s presidency. Hand over the reigns to Trump and he will dig an even deeper hole for his successor.

If policy and electoral history are not enough to sway those reluctant to vote blue, think about people. Allowing Trump and the GOP to win would condemn to a deplorable fate Latino immigrants, Syrian refugees, African Americans, Jews, journalists, women. Human lives are at stake, not just ideas, not just ideological purity. Any political theory that would throw so many Americans overboard just to make a point, just to poke a finger in the eye of “the establishment” of indeterminate composition is utterly irresponsible! That is pure, unthinking, knee-jerk populism. Progressivism is about achieving a certain outcome through a combination of activism and institutional reform, not smashing government (or being a bystander while Trump smashes government) and hoping for the best. Choosing not to vote in 2016 empowers an authoritarian thug and a cabal of anti-government zealots to impose a reactionary vision on the country, one that could not be further from the liberal views of so many millennials.

It’s a cliche, but in elections like this, the perfect truly is the enemy of the good. So vote for Hillary Clinton and Democrats down ballot, even if you’re not thrilled with them. In a way, a vote for the Democrat is a vote for your favorite progressives, and not just because Bernie Sanders himself has endorsed and campaigned for Hillary Clinton. On an institutional level, the Sanders-Warren wing of the Democratic Party will have far more power to drive an agenda in Congress if they are in the majority. In the minority and without a president receptive to their policy views, they will be forced to play defense and settle for scraps.

The choice we face is bigger than two candidates. It is about the future we want for ourselves and for our children. And if we choose wrong (or refuse to choose at all), there are no do-overs. This is it.