I support Hillary Clinton’s election unreservedly, and intend to work for her election, though I have no illusions about her character or her politics. My primary motivation is my absolute opposition to the candidacy of Donald Trump, who I regard as a danger to liberal democracy. Liberal democracy is a very flawed system that has in different ways been eroded by both the Bush and Obama administrations. But with Trump we are dealing with a brazen authoritarian who is hostile to civil liberties, pluralism, legality, and equal rights, and who mobilizes racism and xenophobia.

Honestly, I would have supported Clinton even if the Republican candidate had been Bush or Kasich or whoever. Because parties do matter, largely because of the constituencies they mobilize and represent, and in my view any Democratic candidate is preferable to any Republican candidate. This is “lesser evil-ism,” and I embrace it unapologetically as an approach to electoral support (all politics is not elections) especially in the waning months and weeks of a campaign when the contestants are clear.

That is not the only reason I am comfortable supporting Clinton. Although I understand the limits of “lean in” feminism, I also think it is a very progressive and principled commitment. It is a commitment that every woman I have ever befriended, collaborated with, parented, or loved has embraced. It is, indeed, a commitment that the most incisive feminist scholars who criticize it also embrace when it comes to their own tenure and promotion and professional development. I admire the way Clinton has promoted this commitment in the face of much hostility, and I believe it would be great progress for the US to finally elect a woman as President who is committed to liberal gender equality.

There are other things about Clinton that I also like, even though in general I am averse to partisan establishments and she is very much an establishment person. I believe that American society suffers from serious injustices that the Democratic establishment does not seriously oppose to my satisfaction. The party can be described as “corporate” and “neoliberal”(though I think that both of these terms are typically bandied about with little care) and I don’t like this. I welcomed the Sanders campaign. In terms of positions I lean in that direction. I know Clinton is an “insider” and she is rich, etc. But she is also a decent and indeed a pioneering liberal feminist in a world still gravely in need of this kind of feminism. She is a liberal centrist, no more nor less corrupt than most other liberal centrist politicians. She is far superior to Trump, and Trump is the only other person who could possibly be elected.

In addition, Hillary Clinton is the first woman in the history of the United States to be nominated as the Presidential candidate of a major party, and she is the first woman in the nation’s history to have a real chance at becoming President. This is major. MAJOR. I don’t agree with everything she stands for. But what she most symbolizes, and what has caused her to be the object of so much hatred, is something I emphatically support: the right of women to receive the same treatment as men, and the possibility of women achieving success and leadership in this country without facing obstacles based on their gender. Can the symbolic and real importance of this not be evident to my friends on the left, NOW? Okay, you supported Sanders. And he lost. And he has sensibly furnished his reasons for pressing his agenda and for supporting Clinton. And you still denounce Clinton (and now Sanders too)?

Right now, more than before, when I think of Hillary Clinton, I think of my mother, and my daughter, and my colleagues who still struggle, daily, against sexism. They may not be organizing janitors. How many of my friends are organizing janitors? They may not be struggling for socialism. How many of my friends here are really struggling for socialism, as opposed to talking about struggling for socialism? They are women who don’t want to be sexually harassed on the job, who prize reproductive freedom, who appreciate it (as most feminist theorists actually do) when their friends and partners “lean in” to support them. They want equal opportunity at work, whether this means opportunity to be hired or fairness in tenure and promotion or simple respect on the job. Hillary Clinton represents these things. Is it not time for such things to be given their due politically?

Okay, these things are not everything. Some of you have argued that a more “radical” politics was desirable. But this argument lost in the primary contest. It didn’t lose in a more general sense. Keep arguing. Keep struggling. But there is a time to acknowledge that your candidate lost, and has conceded, and it is time to move on. There is also a time to respect the process of the party that you supposedly sought to engage, and even to respect the actual positions of the party’s candidate, in spite of their limits. And there are always limits!.

Hillary Clinton is not Margaret Thatcher and she is not Donald Trump. You don’t like her? Fine. You disagree with her? Great! But do you really need to keep heaping scorn on her and her supporters? Do you need to be enthusiastic when a cadre of delegates chooses to be disruptive in ways that disrespect rightly respected progressive leaders trying to speak, can only weaken the campaign and strengthen Trump?

This is not an argument. It is an explanation. It is not a plea. People will do what they do. I am very proud to see how many friends have engaged these questions with seriousness. I am very sorry to see how many people have preferred to license or articulate a purism with decidedly anti-liberal dimensions. I do not respect this, even if I may respect some who choose to do it. I fear its consequences, and I am horrified by the indifference to consequences that seems all too common. And those who want to promote agonism, please don’t call me a liberal policeman! If politics involves agonism, then thicken your skin, take a hit, and respond if you wish.

I support Hillary Clinton. I will work hard to support her election. I will also continue to do the many other things that I do, politically and intellectually. And if she wins, I will be relieved, and even happy, and I will continue to do what I can to support serious intellectual engagement and critique. And if she loses, we are fucked. Seriously. We are fucked. Think about that. And then, perhaps, act accordingly.

7 thoughts on “Why I Support Hillary Clinton For President: A Letter to My Friends on the Left

  1. Thanks for writing this. I came to a similar conclusion along the way. I am FOR HRC and not just against Trump. She has done a lot of good work in the past twenty plus years and she has made a few mistakes. She is to the right of me but I have never voted for (or campaigned for) anyone who is not. I say thank you because as a woman, I have always been resistant to “going there.” No male HRC hater I know is consciously sexist so the conversation never got anywhere— unless I was talking to another woman, who always sees the importance of HRC’s victory even if they downplay the sexism. And she is beyond qualified for the job and that is in itself an indictor of the sexism. She has continually been held to a far higher standard.

    She has also always been a feminist. From day one. She may not be everyone’s brand of feminism but to say that she is not a feminist and will do nothing for women (which I have heard repeatedly on the left) is just plain wrong. She will have a cabinet with many women and she will work for women. She always has. If nothing else, she has always worked for women. My guess is that she will also be quite articulate about her experience as a woman in high office.

    I supported and continue to support Sanders’ platform. HRC signaled that she got the message by making the DNC’s platform 80% Bernie. She is an excellent politician and if we fight for his platform, she will listen.

    As for party, SC, reproductive rights, gay rights, minority rights— all of these Trump has promised to pummel and the overwhelming majority of his party lined up behind him. There is insufficient outrage on the left about this.

    1. I do not mean to sound too certain in the above post. Just frustrated. I think that much of the far left (and I used consider myself of that group) has mistaken outrage for politics and I have heard too much refusal to consider the sexism that HRC might elicit.

  2. This is how your piece goes:

    1. Hillary is the lesser of two evils
    2. She would be the first woman president and has progressive policies on women’s issues
    3. “Keep struggling” but still vote for Hillary
    4. Respect her policy positions as the nominee, whatever that means
    5. Hillary is the lesser of two evils

    You say that your piece isn’t an argument, but it clearly is. You clearly address non-Hillary supporters who vote Democrat, and use the imperative tone. But your arguments as above are, to me, non-arguments born of a fundamental misunderstanding of why someone who votes Democrat could not support Hillary Clinton.

    So if you are in fact trying to make an argument for why other people should vote Hillary, you are convincing only those who would otherwise have been convinced anyway.
    If I believe you and your piece isn’t an argument, then what purpose does it serve to know why some guy/non public figure is voting for a particular candidate? Poppycock.

    1. We won’t agree but who cares if there is an implicit argument.
      On what grounds do you not vote HRC if you are a Democrat.
      What is being addressed in this piece is something you have not even mentioned— sexism. And the refusal on the left to any give on this reality.

      The question at this point has to be inverted. Why would you NOT vote for her? And if you live in a relevant swing state, how does that refusal to vote for her play out in real life terms? Seriously. Are we so clueless that we don’t see the difference between Trump and Clinton?

      I am tired of all of the self-righteous indignation on the left. It is easy to be outraged and far harder to know what to do with the outrage.

      And again, part of the point of the article is sexism and you are not addressing that.

      1. There is no ‘implicit argument’ here; it’s all very explicit.

        Now to invert the question is a very dangerous, and downright weird way of thinking. Why would you NOT vote for the candidate, you ask. A million different reasons, not the least of which are the candidate’s different stances on different policies. But that’s not the discussion. This piece is very clearly talking about why Hillary should get votes/get elected despite misgivings people might have: that is, the discussion is posed as ‘Why Hillary’ and not ‘Why not Hillary’.

        Sexism, you say twice, I don’t mention. But look at how the author mentions sexism: on one hand, at the personal level- people may not want to vote for Hillary because she is a woman. On the other hand, more significantly, a societal argument: “Hillary Clinton represents [equal opportunity, furthering of a progressive equal rights, etc.]. The key word here is represents. I don’t find that Hillary addresses sexism or a slew of woman’s rights issues as well as she should, no matter how good of an image it may be to have a woman president.

        Finally you say that it is “easy to be outraged and far harder to know what to do with the outrage”. You’re quite correct in general. But if you think that not voting for the candidate you support constitutes “not doing anything”, then you are under a severe misapprehension.

        In the end, like the author, you come back to the same equivocation: if you’re not voting for Clinton, that means you “don’t see the difference between Trump and Clinton”. Let’s not insult people’s intelligence here. Of course they/we see the difference.

        The only argument that is left becomes voting against Trump, at which you hint in your answer. Perhaps this is just a personal difference. I don’t vote against people, I vote for people. If the point is to convince people who would not otherwise have voted for Hillary to do so, I say again, things are in a sorry state for her.

        1. A lot of people don’t see a significant difference between the candidates. I was not talking about you specifically. There are people out there who say they are pretty much the same and HRC is just as dangerous. And there are folks who think we should let Trump happen so that real change can come about. If everything falls apart, they reason, we will be better positioned to put it back together, to bring “real” change. I don’t agree with either of the above.

          I would never presume to tell you how to vote. And I can tell from your post that your mind is made up about HRC. But I think that the author’s point is that there is no way you can see the difference between Trump and HRC and still not vote, or let Trump happen. Because Trump is a danger to civilized society in a way that HRC just is not.

          We have to agree to disagree. I think the author means to say that voting against Trump is enough of a reason to vote for HRC.

  3. I disagree with your left ideology, but have to say a compelling argument for your side. I didn’t support Trump, I was a Ben Carson fan, but now that he is President elect, I have no choice but see what he does. So far, even though I may disagree with some of his policies, overall I agree with what he has done so far as President elect.
    The charge of racist, (I think) I understand of how some minorities would be concerned, “Make America Great” would make blacks think of slavery. Well that as far as I know is not what Trump is referring to. Some black old folks may believe that, but that’s just not true.
    Xenophobia. Interesting topic. If a group of people of the Muslim faith come to your country and and leaders of that faith express that America is the “Great Satin” and must be destroyed. Hmmm. That doesn’t take a lot of deep thought. Keep in mind, that parts of the world, a child is born far away from civilization, there are no records. How do you investigate these peoples backgrounds before allowing them access to this country?
    If I am not mistaken, the incidence of terrorism around the world is committed by a group of people that share the Muslim faith. Or is there something I am not seeing here?
    If I’m not mistaken,it was the Democrat FDR that put Japanese, who had done nothing illegal, in internment camps.
    I just ask that the immigration into this country be organised with through back round checks for our new citizens.
    To HRC. She really has no record of accomplishments, or did I miss something?
    She has a record of lying and incompetence. Benghazi, the video,evading sniper fire, Clinton Foundation taking money from questionable people and sources to have access to the would be President of the United States. Money for access. Then the private email server specifically so she could do illegal activity and not be caught or held accountable. And then having it professionally scrubbed. I speak from military experience, people had done hard time for much less. This rises to the level of Treason. Wow! And you want her for President?
    Sounds like you don’t have the country’s best interest in mind, but your own personal agenda.
    So appealing to the fact she would be the first female President, is sexist. Just as bad as being racist, bigot.
    The most powerful position in the world should probably have some “executive experience”.
    She has very limited and most of that showing illegal tendency and incompetence.
    HRC is a “Hater”.How many woman’s lives did she try to personally destroy because of Bill’s inappropriate behavior?
    Jennifer Flowers, Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Monica Lewinsky, and there are more, I just don’t recall them all now.
    HRC defends a man that raped a 12 year old girl and won. So she did have at least one success out of all her endeavors.
    HRC on the Watergate committee lied to convict President Richard Nixon.
    These are just a few that come to mind. Looking at a distinct pattern here, I know there is much more known AND unknown about HRC.
    HRC is toxic and exactly why I am voting for the lesser of two evils. Donald Trump

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