A plea to progressives to beat Trump by backing Clinton

Hal Ginsberg argues that despite the temptations of third-party candidates and their more progressive stances, beating Trump and retaining a moderately progressive national administration can only be accomplished by a Clinton-Kaine victory.

/By Hal Ginsberg/ There are a number of excellent reasons progressives should vote for Hillary Clinton for President while the arguments in favor of Jill Stein or sitting out the election do not hold water.

1. If Clinton loses, the progressive cause will be set back for decades, perhaps for the foreseeable future.

George W. Bush's win in 2000 did grievous harm to our nation. W lied us into a costly destructive war in 2003, slashed taxes on the wealthy thereby ballooning the national debt, and failed to stop the financial crisis. If popular sentiment had prevailed and Ralph Nader had stayed out of the race, it is probable that America would right now be enjoying broad-based prosperity, peace, and would be leading the world towards a sustainable energy future.

The crucial value of a Democratic President can also be seen in a slew of recent destructive Supreme Court decisions which, among other things, sapped the progressive movement. Consider how Citizens United amplified the voices of billionaires while muting those of the 99%. With the Court now balanced at 4-4 and an aging set of Justices, the importance of keeping the White House blue for the future of a vibrant political left cannot be overstated.

2. Clinton may well be a better choice to govern than Jill Stein in any case.

One reason that I never got the Nader people in 2000 is I didn't see any evidence that Nader would be a better President than Al Gore. In fact, the opposite seemed far more likely. Gore had decades of experience in government and a record that demonstrated true concern for the American people. Nader was a corporate gadfly from whose work America certainly benefited but who also displayed a cynical libertarian streak that boded ill for those dependent on government for survival if he took office. His insistence that he was fully qualified to be President without ever holding any elected office or appointed position demonstrated an overweening arrogance as well.

The same arguments that Gore would be a better President than Nader apply in a head-to-head comparison between Clinton and Jill Stein albeit not to quite the same degree. Clinton has a more troubling history than Gore and Stein has been elected to political office. But if we believe, and we should, that governing a vast nation requires some measure of experience and expertise in high levels of government, doesn't Clinton's eight-year stint in the United States Senate and her term as Secretary of State count for a lot more than Stein's five years as a Town of Lexington, Mass., Representative, Precinct 2.

3) Tim Kaine does not signify anything much about how Hillary Clinton will govern.

Barack Obama's running mate was Joe from Scranton – a relatively pro-peace, pro-union Dem. Yet Obama often gave unions the cold shoulder, boosted our military presence in Afghanistan, and came down hard on public schools. From the workings of Obama's administration and those of previous Presidents, it is clear that other cabinet choices like Treasury Secretary, Secretary of State, and Education Secretary are as or more important than the Vice President. In the end, Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Sherrod Brown all may be more valuable in the Senate or possibly in another cabinet level office than they would be as Vice President.

Also, consider that some Vice Presidents, including Harry S Truman and LBJ, proved to be far more progressive Presidents than anybody expected. Former Clinton operative Terry McAuliffe as Virginia’s governor is currently in the process of restoring voting rights to thousands of Virginia felons over the strenuous objections of Republican legislators and the Virginia Supreme Court. The point is that Democrats with a moderate record sometimes surprise us by their progressivism.

4. Tim Kaine is not as regressive as some on the left are saying.

Upon close inspection, the progressive arguments against Tim Kaine are somewhat forced. His most egregious fault, in my view, was his strong support for the Trans Pacific Partnership. Clinton was for it before she was against it and many on the left - yours truly included - doubt she is a truly committed foe. But Politico reported Saturday that Kaine has now come out against the deal.

A number of Sanders supporters have also slammed Kaine for being too hawkish. Arguing that Obama has overstepped the authority Congress granted Bush to respond to 9/11, Kaine has repeatedly called for Congress to vote on the legality of America's military action against ISIS. Left-wingers claim this proves Kaine is a warmonger since he posits that Congress should grant Obama explicit authority to attack ISIS.

The leftists are wrong here. Kaine has taken a strong pro-rule of law position against a President of his own party. If Congress and Obama heeded his claim that the Commander-in-Chief cannot wage war unilaterally, our far-flung military operations would have to be pared back significantly.

5. The choice is between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Whether progressives and libertarians like it or not, whether it's fair or not, the next President will be either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. He will not be Gary Johnson or Bernie Sanders. She will not be Jill Stein. The question Hillary-hating progressives must ask themselves is who is more likely to harm America Trump or Clinton?

The answer to this question is undoubtedly Donald Trump. Trump is exploiting and exacerbating our nation's race and class divisions. Clinton is likely to do what she can to heal them. Yes Clinton is a hawk and Trump came out against the war on Iraq long before she grudgingly acknowledged her mistaken vote to authorize it. But Trump's inconsistent statements on the propriety of American military action, his bellicose rhetoric, and his obviously inchoate philosophy bespeak a manifest unfitness to lead our nation.

Trump's recognition that “free” trade has harmed America's workers and decimated our middle class is welcome but his record as businessman does not suggest he will act in the best interests of workers. His plan to slash taxes on the wealthy will reduce further the ability of government to alleviate the plight of America's non-affluent. Clinton by contrast has called for higher taxes on the wealthiest.

In a world that has experienced 14 consecutive months of record heat, Trump's global warming denialism alone should rule him out as a legitimate Presidential candidate. Clinton acknowledges the seriousness of the problem, and Tim Kaine has called for politicians to lead us to a clean green energy future.

Progressives in dark blue states like New York, California, and my home state of Maryland are arguing their state will go for Clinton regardless so they feel “free” to vote for Jill Stein or to write in Bernie Sanders. The problem with this position is the more chatter there is online and in the media about the millions of progressives who have turned their back on Clinton, the greater the likelihood that at least a few voters in true swing states like Florida and Ohio will vote along with their comrades in safe states. As we know from 2000, just a few thousand progressive defectors can be enough to allow a right-winger to take the reins of power.

Conclusion

Clinton is far from an ideal candidate but since she clinched the Democratic nomination she is the only reasonable viable option. By choosing Tim Kaine as her running, Clinton has only made this truth even more stark.